Christian’s mobile phone vibrated as he settled into his seat for the flight to Croatia. Two weeks ago the UK Border Agency (UKBA) informed him that he no longer had leave to remain in Britain and asked him to provide flight details of when he planned to leave the country. On Facebook, he informed his friends in Croatia that he was coming home. Before turning his phone off for the flight, Christian looked down and checked a new text message. To his surprise it was from UKBA. It read: “have a pleasant journey.” The politeness of the British Immigration Officials that had questioned and scrutinized him was somehow the hardest thing to take.
Christian’s story is emblematic of the new realities of border control. Their technologies are as mobile as the migrants. In a hyper-connected world, the regulation of movement is more complex and technologically sophisticated. It is not just that migrants face institutionalised forms of marginalisation – without leave to remain they cannot work or have recourse to public funds – they also have to live with a sense of insecurity enhanced by the mobile phone in the palm of their hands.
In 2010, it was estimated that there were 214 million international migrants in the world, representing an increase of almost 40 million in the first decade of the 21st century. One in three of these migrants is a young adult. The regulation of youth migration is producing new hierarchies of exclusion and belonging that order and rank the life chances of this globally mobile generation.