At our 20th Birthday celebration, Charles Leddy-Owen, Lecturer at the University of Portsmouth and volunteer visitor at Haslar Immigration and Removal Centre presented the findings of his recent research project in a presentation titled: "Living outside the fence: migration and nation in the vicinity of Haslar IRC".
He started by emphasising the contrast between both sides of the fence and then explained how he came to undertake 25 qualitative interviews with those living on the free side of the fence.
Charles noted that these interviews reveal a contrast between how people think about where they live and who belongs within the nation. He set out some of the local demographics, for example the fact that the Gosport area has experienced relatively low levels of immigration.
He noted that the views expressed by many of his interviewees were drawn from perceptions and anecdotal evidence and that overall immigration was perceived to be a national problem even if it was not affecting their own lives directly.
Charles also noted that the Immigration and Removal Centre was not in the consciousness of those he interviewed. Aspects of the centre that relate to the control and surveillance of detainees became obscured by comfort, e.g. CCTV making one interviewee feel secure.
The detainees did not feature in his conversations, until they were brought into view by asking whether the interviewees would be interested in hearing their stories - this made many feel uncomfortable.
Charles concluded his talk by arguing that we need to link arguments about immigration to people's lives to highlight the disconnect between perception and reality.
He argued that we need to unsettle people's imagined perceptions, to try and get hold of individuality to gain a shared commonality. In this way we might raise awareness of the fact that normal people are being put in unacceptable situations by the UK government.
Thank you Charles for a fascinating talk that stimulated much debate and discussion.
The News have written a story about detention, based on interviews with a detainee inside Haslar Immigration and Removal Centre, our Co-ordinator and one of our visitors and Lecturer Charles Leddy-Owen
Click here to read the story.