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Reducing the damaging impact of everyday bordering on society

Through legislation such as the 2014 and 2016 Immigration Acts, UK residents are increasingly being asked to prove their immigration status in a wide range of everyday settings, from accessing healthcare to renting a flat. The effects of these changes are clear: citizens feel mounting pressure to ‘police’ the immigration status of others, even though many feel unqualified to do so, while those from Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee (BAMER) communities feel increasingly alienated. At a critical point in time where communities feel particularly fragmented, Dr Kathryn Cassidy is researching how borders and internal state bordering processes affect both citizens and immigrants in the UK and across Europe – work that is challenging decision makers to adopt a more inclusive approach.

A critical human geographer, Dr Cassidy looks beyond minority and migrant groups to understand the wider societal impact of borders and bordering processes, which are increasingly encroaching on people’s lives. Specifically, her research highlights the effects of recent immigration legislation changes on all sections of society – even those who assume that the legislation is irrelevant to them – and her advocacy work with policy makers and third sector organisations is leading to change on a national scale.

Together with Professor Nira Yuval-Davis and Dr Georgie Wemyss of the University of East London, Dr Cassidy recently completed research for EUBorderscapes, a large-scale EU project divided into 15 Work Packages, and their investigations for Work Package 9: Borders, Intersectionality and the Everyday led to four key discoveries. The findings resulted in Dr Cassidy making several policy recommendations to the UK Government on helping migrants, refugees and asylum seekers stranded on the border (e.g. in Calais), and reversing economic decline in border towns such as Dover.

Through the research project Where Can I Get Free?, Dr Cassidy discovered that many BAMER women escaping domestic violence situations feel incarcerated by everyday bordering, or checks on their immigration status, equating it to the control they experienced in a violent relationship.

Dr Cassidy works with third sector organisations such as RAMFEL, Southall Black Sisters, Migrants Rights Network, the Angelou Centre and Doctors of the World to directly support BAMER communities, and mitigate the impacts of immigration legislation on them through open conversations with policymakers.

In Newcastle, Dr Cassidy co-founded a local activist organisation – the Migration and Asylum Justice Forum – which seeks to raise the public profile of issues affecting migrants, refugees and asylum seekers on Tyneside. The Forum has made significant strides with Newcastle City Council in improving housing conditions for asylum seekers housed by Jomast and G4S. Through the Forum, Dr Cassidy and her collaborators have also joined national actions to challenge immigration checks in the NHS with organisations such as Docs not Cops.

Policymaking forms a large part of the work that Dr Cassidy is involved with across all of her projects. For example, she has helped produce a film called Everyday Borders. The film has been screened more than 30 times across the UK, Finland, Netherlands and Spain, and was featured as the centrepiece in a debate on everyday borders at the Houses of Parliament.

Dr Cassidy has also presented her research directly to policymakers at many cross-party events and is the author of numerous policy recommendation papers. For example, in March 2016, she was invited by the European Green Party to speak to the Catalan Parliament. She has since been working with them to develop their immigration and border securitisation policies in Europe.

Dr Cassidy is using her findings to push for improved relationships between different communities in Europe and changes to immigration legislation that remove the everyday policing of borders; the impact of which can only serve to contribute to a more cohesive and caring society.

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