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Dec 8, 2011

''The dangerous migrant and criminology of the other''

Discussions of the criminal nature of immigrants inevitably accompany large movements of people, when old patterns of settlement are dramatically disturbed by the flows of newcomers, the image of the ‘deviant immigrant’.

Representations of crime and deviance are deeply embedded in social structures and relationships within given societies. These representations mirror the inclusive and exclusive tendencies of the societies in which they emerge.

"They are dangerous others who threaten our safety and have no call on our fellow feeling. The appropriate reaction for society is one of social defence: we should defend ourselves against these dangerous enemies rather than concern ourselves with their welfare and prospects for rehabilitation."(Garland, 2001a: 184)

The deviant immigrant thus represents the polluting element, the quintessential other, which accompanies global transformations. Loader and Sparks (2002:104) point out that :

"It is also precisely under globalizing conditions that people’s sense of place – and of differences between ‘here/there’, ‘inside/outside’, ‘us/them’ – takes on renewed force as a structuring feature of social relations and culture; questions of crime, danger, safety, and order often today figuring pivotally in how the quotidian life of particular neighbourhoods, towns, cities, and nations is experienced, imagined, and defended."

Furthermore, in the context of the European Union, the talk about immigrant crime and cultural deviance serves as a vehicle for a debate about the contested nature of European identity
(Melossi, 2003). Discussions about terrorism, about unscrupulous trafficking networks and honour killings, play a central role in everyday police work, as well as, on the broader level, in the resurgence of the politics of xenophobia and in renewed debates on the fate of multiculturalism.

The discourse about the deviant immigrant therefore needs to be situated within a broader context of growing global divisions and insecurities. It clearly exemplifies how globalization is not only an ‘out there’ phenomenon’ but simultaneously an ‘in here’ development’ (Giddens, 1998). While influenced by profound global movements and transformations, the immigrant also finds himself or herself situated at the heart of local struggles for safety and security.

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