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Deportation has traditionally been seen as a secondary instrument of migration control, one used by liberal democratic states relatively infrequently and with some trepidation. This secondary status has been assured by the fact that deportation is both a complicated and a controversial power. It is complicated because tracking individuals down and returning them home are time-consuming and resource-intense activities; it is controversial because deportation is a cruel power, one that sometimes seems incompatible with respect for human rights. In the light of these constraints, how can one explain the fact that since 2000 the United Kingdom has radically increased the number of failed asylum seekers deported from its territory? I argue in the article that this increase has been achieved through a conscious and careful process of policy innovation that has enabled state officials to engage in large-scale expulsions without directly violating liberal norms.

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Journal article



Publication Date



43 (2)


146 - 167