ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Social Work as Immigration Enforcement? A dispositional analysis of how British welfare workers become involved in the control and removal of irregular migrants

Social Welfare
Immigration
Policy Implementation
Reinhard Schweitzer
University of Sussex
Reinhard Schweitzer
University of Sussex

Abstract

Contemporary immigration regimes increasingly rely on the participation of many different actors across society. In this article we focus on the role that British social workers have come to play in this context and analyse how official policy and rhetoric contribute to turning them into immigration officers. Drawing on original qualitative data collected in London, we show that such reconstitution of their professional role and everyday practice requires a substantial transformation of how they understand their own work and the aims of their organisation. By linking problems of destitution to migrant irregularity, shifting the financial burden to local authorities, and framing return as a solution that is in the migrants’ best interest, the government successfully fostered social workers’ involvement in two crucial aspects of its enforcement strategy: the creation of a ‘hostile environment’ for irregular residents; and the implementation of so-called ‘voluntary return’ policies. At a theoretical level, we link these transformations to the complex interplay of three “dispositional logics” identified by Foucault – law, discipline, and security – and show that it is precisely their interplay that reshapes institutions and (re)conditions organisational practices and individual subjectivities within them. Together, the logics of law, discipline and security help to resolve or overcome some of the ethical and practical contradictions that otherwise hamper social workers’ collaboration with the migration regime. We argue that Foucauldian dispositional analysis provides a useful perspective on the often surprisingly smooth internalisation of immigration control into public welfare institutions and other spheres of everyday life and social interaction.