From the Aliens Act to the 'hostile environment': The making of the British border control system

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter outlines the history of the British border control system from the time of the Aliens Act in 1905, which put in place some of the border control mechanisms that have existed throughout the twentieth century and into the present, with the development of the ‘hostile environment’ policy under the Conservatives. This chapter explores how the border control system was used as a filter, to allow the intake of migrants from the British Empire/Commonwealth and elsewhere according to the (often competing) desires of the nation-state. Fixated on maintaining ‘good race relations’, this meant that border control policy was often driven by attempts to restrict migration in order to keep the non-white population as a ‘manageable’ minority. This also meant the expansion of the border control system beyond the physical border, with significant pre-entry and post-entry controls intended to prevent attempted entry by ‘undesirable’ migrants and the expulsion of those ‘undesirables’ who had been detected within the domestic sphere. Through this historical overview, a critical analysis of the colonial imaginaries on which the UK border regime is built is provided, and the interconnections between migration criminalisation and control are highlighted.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUK Borderscapes
Subtitle of host publicationSites of Enforcement and Resistance
EditorsKahina Le Louvier, Karen Latricia Hough
Place of PublicationOxon, UK
PublisherTaylor and Francis - Balkema
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781000934236, 978100335025
ISBN (Print)9781032395487, 9781032395500
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Migration
  • British border control
  • Aliens Act
  • Migration criminalisation
  • Migration control

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