Young people subject to immigration control in London: Precarious lives

Hughes, Vanessa. 2020. Young people subject to immigration control in London: Precarious lives. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

In this thesis I argue that the immigration and citizenship regimes cruelly shape the everyday lives of certain young migrants in London. Based on a hierarchical system with roots in empire, multiple temporary immigration statuses offer various degrees of rights and entitlements. As a result, young migrants are growing up in precarious situations prohibiting them from pursuing their futures as they transition to adulthood and are fixed in place on the ‘hierarchy of belonging’ within the UK (Back et al., 2012). Long waits on their immigration status applications keeps young people cruelly waiting indefinitely while their life and transitions to adulthood are on hold. As citizenship becomes seemingly unattainable for young people through increasing costs and an extended pathway, the existing social order is maintained (Anderson, 2012). By illegalizing their migration and questioning their continued presence in the UK, the state is demonstrating how their mobility is less wanted than that of the international investor in the ‘hierarchy of global mobilities’ (McNevin, 2013).

These lived experiences have multiple implications for young people. Long-term exclusions produce feelings of shame, stigma and isolation, which have significant mental health implications. Their being immobilised in London through their immigration status, fosters a strong sense of belonging to their locality, based on their everyday life and embeddedness in the community, especially through school. In a long and costly process of multiple immigration applications in a hostile immigration system, young people are highly scrutinised and often rejected before they are accepted. Unable to access citizenship for at least ten years, young migrants have no long-term certainty to live in the UK despite having grown up here and calling this their home. Collectively the young people formed a campaign group to contest these restrictions and exclusions.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Migration, citizenship, life course, belonging, precariousness, everyday life, temporality, race, emotions, activism, collaborative ethnography

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



31 August 2020

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

07 Jun 2021 16:01

Last Modified:

31 Aug 2023 01:26


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