On 7 March 2023, UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman, escalating the rhetoric on and punitive approach to migration, asylum and refugees, announced the ‘Illegal Migration Bill’ and strategy to stop migrants crossing the Channel in small boats by arresting, detaining, deporting and banning those caught. In response, former football player and BBC Match of the Day (MOTD) Presenter Gary Lineker tweeted that it is ‘an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s’. The tweet led to a backlash in which responses ranged from the claim that he was operating beyond his remit as a sport presenter (as if they have not had to discuss racism and nationalism before), that he was in breach of the BBC’s impartiality rules, and that the comparison was unhelpful. Keir Starmer, Leader of the opposition Labour Party stated: ‘I think comparisons with Germany in the 1930s aren’t always the best way to make one’s argument’. Others took offense and expressed shock that anyone could associate Britain and the current government with the lead up and precursors to Nazism and the Holocaust. Some claimed that Lineker actually referred to these explicitly in his tweet, which he did not. Former Conservative MP for Stoke-on-Trent Jonathan Gullis claimed that Lineker was calling ‘people up here’, referring to Northern ‘Red Wall’ voters, which Starmer and Labour are also targeting with anti-immigration rhetoric, ‘racist bigots, Nazis’. According to Matthew Goodwin, Lineker’s comments are an example of how out of touch the ‘new elite are from the majority of the ‘people’ from the ‘Red Wall’ to ‘Tory Shires’, and particularly those at ‘the bottom’: ‘the white working class, straight men, non-graduates, and those who cling to more traditionalist views, such as supporting Brexit’.
From the institutions to the streets: the role of emotions in Barcelona’s migration control
In her essay The Cultural Politics of Emotions, Sara Ahmed raises the question: ‘What do emotions do?’, implying the social circulation of emotions. Even if felt by each individual in a unique way, emotions are addressed collectively, creating affective connections which in turn craft social realities.
There is a diverse range of institutions and practices that make up migration control in Barcelona. Despite the claim that it is governed by the rule of law, where there is no room for subjective or accidental decisions, emotions play a key role. What do a practitioner employed by a municipal institution in charge of migrant inclusion and a person categorized as a migrant with precarious legal status share, when they meet face to face? They do not know each other and they have never met before, but a bond is assumed to be created between them. They find themselves in an unequal power relationship, since the institutional practitioner has the power to decide through their intervention on the fate of their interlocutor.
What is left in this connection which is not direct or spontaneous, but rather mediated by protocols and paperwork, and in which each person already has an assigned role which he/she plays or contests? I tried to answer these questions in my Identities article, ‘Back in order’: the role of gatekeepers in erecting internal borders in Barcelona’, exposing the role of emotions in migrants’ control in urban space, what I understood as a bordering practice.