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Family Life

In recent years there is an increasing tendency for counterterrorism to be dealt with, not only through immigration courts, but also family courts.

On arrest Aaliyah’s children were placed under a care order and even after charges against her were dropped and she was informed by the police that no further action would be taken, her children remain in care (looked after by family members). She has severe restrictions on visiting rights and is struggling now to regain custody of her children.  The police passed information they had collected about her over to Social Services who used the information to argue there was a risk she would radicalise her children.  The restrictions against her state that any future children she might bear would also be taken into care.

For Aaliyah and other participants, the impact of criminalisation had effects on their mental health. Most interviewees expressed feeling very upset and worried about their future. Mohammed has been in long-term therapy after his experiences and Ayesha described her situation as ‘a mental torture’.

There were broader feelings of estrangement and isolation expressed, not just in relation to the state, but also from within one’s own community where suspicion had led to increasing experiences of alienation with neighbours and some family members fearful of being seen as ‘guilty by association’.

People get scared not because they think you did anything but because they are scared. Because we all know each other. Extended family, they don’t phone to the house… Lots of people try to keep it hidden, myself I haven’t spoken to many people. A lot of people are scared so they don’t want that headache. (Shamim)

What they did to us has ostracised us in the community… Women that I used to hang out with, go to dinner, movie with… the parents at the school. I have no friends (Ayesha)

The implications for our respondents of having their passports removed or being refused citizenship far exceeded restrictions on travel, it had implications for their relationships, employment, housing, mental health and family life.

Since most of the interviewees’ had relatives abroad, their ability to connect with extended family was restricted. Others spoke of the negative implications for their marriage prospects and on their ability to work (interviews with Shamim and Karim). Amir spoke about the impossibility of applying for jobs, ‘if you don’t have a passport, they suspect you are a migrant’, highlighting the merging of anti-terrorism and anti-immigration legislation.  The consequences, he felt, were that people were being ‘pushed underground’.

For Ayesha, passport removal put her in a precarious housing situation: ‘It was difficult to get a flat without the passport… I found a landlord and spoke to him privately’.

In another case Shamim reported that on applying for a job for which he had been required to undertake a DBS check, the record came back reporting that he was suspected of funding terrorism, even though he had faced no such charges. Others who had employment were worried about what would happen if their employers found out that their passport had been removed: ‘People at work don’t know, but I’m worried the police will come and tell them’ (interview with Ayesha).

Bilal expressed similar anxiety. Despite being the only one of our participants who had his passport returned to him he has been criminalised in other ways including having his bank account frozen.