Blowing the dust off the grubby past

Textbook on Immigration and Asylum Law
February 10, 2006

As Gina Clayton observes, "immigration considerations, in other words political positions on immigration matters, have... had a restrictive effect on human rights law". This highly readable and comprehensive text demonstrates that human rights wear out as immigration law takes effect.

The entire purpose of immigration and asylum law is exclusion and thus a fundamental denial of human rights - being human is simply not enough.

Clayton negotiates this contradiction well as she tells the story of the law from application to removal. The mass of legal material is made easier to digest as she lightly dusts it in social and political context, thus linking the student audience to the public "immigration debate".

The logical order of the book is accompanied by useful further reading lists and pertinent questions that will prove a boon to the busy tutor. The text is impressive in the way the academic literature is well integrated into the doctrinal account. Even if they read nothing else, students will at least get a flavour of the rich debate that is taking place.

Clayton does not shy away from the link between race and immigration and asylum law. The recurrent arguments about foreign threats to British identity are subtly discussed, from the appropriately named Aliens Act 1905 onwards. The changing nature of the alien is well demonstrated by the fact that Britain joined the European Community (complete with free movement) on the day the 1971 Immigration Act, aimed at keeping out (non-patrial) immigrants from Asia and Africa, came into effect. Among the details of the Acts, orders and rules, the grubby picture of law's complicity with racism is hard to ignore.

John Strawson is reader in law, University of East London.

Textbook on Immigration and Asylum Law

Author - Gina Clayton
Publisher - Oxford University Press
Pages - 530
Price - £24.99
ISBN - 1 84174 188 4

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