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Sanctuary or sanctions: children, social worth and social control in the UK asylum process

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Abstract

This chapter examines how discourses on asylum and childhood intersect in policy and practice in the UK asylum process, exploring the role of judgements on 'social worth' and mechanisms of social control. In May 2010 the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition government declared that they would end the detention of children for immigration purposes. This followed campaigns that had highlighted the psychological and physical health impacts on children being held in immigration detention. This initial Coalition declaration was later modified by Immigration Minister Damien Green who said the intention was now to 'minimise' child detention. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had described concerns for the welfare of children as the 'starting point' of the Coalition's approach to this issue. However, with a commitment to maintaining the restrictive asylum system that currently operates in the UK, the end point of government policies appears more complex. This chapter explores how claims for recognition in the asylum process are formed around notions of 'social worth' and vulnerability, and examines how these are identified, ordered and regulated through the asylum process.