Finding We, MA Inclusive Arts Practice, 2023
US / THEM, the ‘Hostile Environment’

US / THEM, the ‘Hostile Environment’

A map of England's South Coast and the English Channel. The southern border is marked with thick red marker. Above the line, US is written in capitals in the same red marker, below the line the word THEM is written.

This work was influenced by an exhibition I visited at Dublin’s Photo Museum Ireland (then called Gallery of Photography) during border negotiations triggered by Brexit. Ireland-based photographers had captured the Irish border in a way that emphasised its simultaneous existence and nonexistence. Images included photographs of fields and abandoned lookout towers.

I have been struck by the seeming reality and unreality of borders. Land borders shift and are redrawn. National borders along a coastline seem less negotiable, yet stretches along the South Coast are made of soft chalk which is vulnerable to erosion. Natural forces are changing the border.

The term “hostile environment” describes all government policies which make life difficult for migrants living in the UK. Specifically, it is a set of policies introduced by then-Home Secretary Theresa May, with the intention of making life in the UK unbearably difficult for those who cannot show the right paperwork. As she said at the time, “The aim is to create, here in Britain, a really hostile environment for illegal immigrants” (JCWI, accessed June 2023)

For more about these policies and their impacts at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) website:

To learn about the ongoing Reframing the Border project: