Why symbolise control? Irregular migration to the UK and symbolic policy-making in the 1960s

Slaven, Mike and Boswell, Christina (2018) Why symbolise control? Irregular migration to the UK and symbolic policy-making in the 1960s. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies . pp. 1-19. ISSN 1369-183X

Full content URL: http://doi.org/10.1080/1369183X.2018.1459522

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It has frequently been observed that irregular migration is a common object of symbolic policy-making: the use of cosmetic adjustments to signal action, rather than substantive measures that achieve stated goals. Yet there is little research analysing the considerations driving policy actors to adopt such approaches. Drawing on existing literature, we distinguish three theoretical accounts of symbolic policy-making: manipulation, compensation, and adaptation. We explore these accounts through examining the emergence of symbolic policies in UK immigration control in the 1960s. Through detailed archival research, we reconstruct the deliberations leading to a series of Home Office decisions to crack down on irregular entry – decisions which officials felt were not operationally sensible, but which were based on popular political narratives of the problem. We conclude that the UK’s adoption of symbolic policy was a clear case of adaptation: a series of concessions to simplistic notions of control that did not chime with official views of what would work, and which were reluctantly embraced for reasons of political expediency. In conclusion, we suggest the need for more fine-grained analysis of the deliberations underpinning decision-making in bureaucracies, in order to produce more nuanced accounts of political rationalities in the area of immigration policy.

Keywords:irregular migration, UK immigration policy, symbolic policy-making
Subjects:L Social studies > L230 UK Government/Parliamentary Studies
L Social studies > L240 International Politics
L Social studies > L200 Politics
L Social studies > L242 Commonwealth Politics
L Social studies > L231 Public Administration
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Social & Political Sciences
ID Code:31643
Deposited On:11 Apr 2018 08:58

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