Holding space: friendship, care and carcerality in the UK immigration detention system
Friendship and care are important as ideas and practices for people navigating the asylum and immigration system in Britain, but are conditioned by the carceral space of the Immigration Removal Centre (IRC). Detention, as it most commonly known, operates here as a legal, temporal, and social ‘holding space’ that is manifested in the physical walls of the IRC, but points to wider experiences of liminality and carcerality. Based on 12 months’ of fieldwork with people going through the asylum system in Glasgow, along with several years of campaigning and organising, this thesis explores how people work through their ‘detainability’ and the relationships they form and maintain during this time, moving from the IRC itself, through people’s homes and into the wider ‘asylum dispersal’ city. Here, friendship and care are drawn upon as vital, if contested, categories for understanding relatedness, solidarity, and political action, ranging from the codified ‘humanitarian kinship’ of detention visiting groups, to the informal support practices people enact every day. Such processes are interwoven with deeply racialized and colonial histories of immigration law and border enforcement, which produce particular categories and spaces of ‘inside’ and ‘out’. Moving between the thresholds of such spaces can involve trying to discern what or who the Home Office and state are in ways that are charged with the threat of complicity, along with navigating medicalised notions of vulnerability and complex ideas of work and labour. Throughout, people ‘hold space’ for each other in different ways, finding collective ways to resist, refuse and live, beyond the crushing embrace of the UK immigration system.