The Use of Detention as a Defence Against Intolerable Social Anxiety Towards Asylum Seekers

The Use of Detention as a Defence Against Intolerable Social Anxiety Towards Asylum Seekers

Dr David Lawlor & Dr Mannie Sher. Paper published in Socioanalysis: Special Issue - Seeking Asylum 18: 2016 (40 - 52)

Dr David Lawlor & Dr Mannie Sher

Paper published in Socioanalysis: Special Issue – Seeking Asylum
18: 2016 (40 – 52)

The movements of peoples across the world are causing grave concern for politicians, government agencies, humanitarian organisations and individual citizens. The immigrants fleeing poverty, war and tyrannical regimes are seen every day on our televisions. We see immigrants crossing the Mediterranean in broken-down boats. In South East Asia Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia are turning back boatloads of refugees fleeing Burma, leaving 6,000 people stranded at sea. At Calais thousands of people are living in destitute conditions whilst risking their lives to stow away in lorries. In London a man fell to his death onto a roof being stowed away in an aircraft from South Africa. These scenes of human desperation are now every day occurrences. At the same time more overt political conflict is emerging from the European countries that take in the immigrants. Italy and Greece want a sharing out of the migrants known as ‘compulsory burden sharing’ but other European countries are not willing to participate.

This paper focuses on an aspect of the immigration crisis namely the asylum seeking and detention centers of the UK. The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations was commissioned to review the mental health care of detainees in Immigration Removal Centers. This paper makes use of the concepts of system psychodynamics, open systems and boundary management, and social systems as a defence against anxiety. We examine the organisational culture of IRCs where people are detained. Our paper focuses on how asylum seekers are treated in removal centres, particularly in relation to their mental health needs. We suggest that there is confusion in the conscious and unconscious understanding of the primary task. We propose that there is a task conflict that manifests in the socio-technical system itself in the organisation of the centres. At the same time we examine the casework system that is engaged in processing asylum applications.

The full paper can be download here with kind permission from
Group Relations Australia. To purchase a printed copy of the paper or an electronic copy of the special issue of Socioanalysis please see here.

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