Doing research in immigration removal centres: Ethics, emotions and impact

Mary Bosworth, Blerina Kellezi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs) are deeply contested institutions that rarely open their doors to independent research. In this article we discuss some of the complications we faced in conducting the first national British study of everyday life in them. As we will set out, research relationships were difficult to forge due to low levels of trust and unfamiliarity with academic research. At the same time, many participants had unrealistic expectations about our capacity to assist while most exhibited high levels of distress. We were not immune from the emotional burden of the field sites. Such matters were compounded by the limited amount of published information about life in IRCs and a lack of ethical guidelines addressing such places. Drawing on related literature from prison sociology, we use our experiences in IRCs to set out a methodological account of understanding, ethics, and impact within these complex sites.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-137
Number of pages17
JournalCriminology & Criminal Justice
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Emotions
  • ethics
  • immigration removal centres
  • impact
  • research methods
  • trust

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