Examining and challenging immigration detention: what role for community psychology?

Webinar with Francesca Esposito, September 23, 5 pm (CET). Discussant: Regina Langhout.

If you would like to join us please register here

Cinzia Albanesi (ECPA president) and Susan Wolfe (SCRA president) invite you to a joint ECPA and SCRA webinar with the winner of ECPA and SCRA dissertation award Francesca Esposito.

About the webinar

During the past few decades, the detention of illegalised non-citizens has become a common practice in a world increasingly characterised by concerns for homeland security and the criminalization of human mobility. In this context, immigration detention centres have become new total institutions used to confine ‘unwanted’ non-citizens, especially coming from the so-called global South, and achieve immigration-related aims such as deportation. This measure, and border control more broadly, is strongly affecting the lives of individuals, their families and communities at large.

Within the quite limited body of empirical research produced on immigration detention, the majority of contributions in the medical and psychological fields have been dedicated to assessing the clinical consequences of detention, detailing the long-term psychological distress that it causes on those subject to it (detainees). Notwithstanding the importance of this research, there is currently a need to adopt an ecological perspective from which to study these sites as well as the experiences of those within them as context-dependent and influenced by power inequalities.

Drawing upon advances in community psychology, I will illustrate an ecological framework for the study of immigration detention settings and their multi-level effects on those inside them. This framework focuses on justice as a key dimension of analysis. Taking the largest Italian detention centre as a case study – the Ponte Galeria detention centre in Rome – I will also present a concrete example of application of this same framework in a research aimed at examining the life and lived experiences of both people detained and practitioners working with them.

Findings highlight the oppressive qualities of immigration detention and its detrimental effects on all people coming into direct or indirect contact with it. Scarcity of resources, activities and information created a very distressing environment for detained people, while also enhancing feelings of powerlessness and frustration in practitioners willing to assist them. Bound in a different space and time, detained people were turned into dispossessed subjects, completely estranged from the outside community. Despite the hostile environment surrounding them, however, people languishing in Ponte Galeria displayed an extraordinary ability to cope with, resist and challenge the persisting conditions of injustice they endured.

I will conclude by discussing the broader implications of these findings for transformative research, politics and action, with a particular focus on the role of community psychologists.


About the presenter

Dr. Francesca Esposito completed her PhD in Community Psychology in 2019, at the ISPA-University Institute of Lisbon, Portugal. From 2019 to 2020 she was a British Academy Newton International Fellow at the Centre for Criminology at the University of Oxford, then a researcher at the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon and more recently a Lecturer at the University of Westminster in London. Francesca’s research focuses primarily on immigration detention, in Portugal, Italy and the UK. Mixing qualitative/quantitative interviews and ethnographic observations, she critically examines the life and lived experiences of people inside detention centres. Particularly, her recent project, entitled “Making Gender Visible in Immigration Detention”, looks at the gendered and racialised experiences of detained women and at their strategies of survival and resistance. Francesca is interested in participatory methodologies and feminist community psychology approaches, and in her work she combines scholarly research, community-based intervention and activism. Since 2020, she has been a member of the Executive Board of the European Community Psychology Association (ECPA).


About the discussant

Professor Langhout’s primary research takes place in elementary schools and neighborhoods that serve working class and working poor African American, Latina/o, and white students. She uses a paradigm called participatory action research (PAR) to critically examine schools and neighborhoods. With PAR, stakeholder groups collaborate to determine problems and interventions. Her empirical research includes determining recess interventions though playground observations and focus groups, surveying teachers, parents, and students to assess their perceptions of school context, and working with young people to develop and paint a mural on school grounds in order to create a more welcoming atmosphere for students and their families.

Lockdown Spirit Lives On as Neighbour Groups Become Swap Shops

During the pandemic, community members in south London began communicating via WhatsApp. They were able to fulfill requests in the community at no cost to those in need. A year and a half later, rather than go back to traditional means of selling items through on-line garage sales, these south Londoners were still using the app to swap and share services at no cost.

This spirit of swapping was happening in other communities as well. The Freecycle Network, a platform where people share items for free, saw a 50% increase during the pandemic. People discovered they were finding connection through generosity and wanted it to continue.

Photo share from the Guardian.com

A retired school teacher learned she could use Freecycle to ask for items needed by asylum seekers. She received an overwhelming response and spread the generosity of the Freecycle community to other groups. They raised money and swapped things that may have otherwise ended up in landfills.

One of the lessons learned by this community was that making connections and helping one another for no personal gain is contagious. What started as a way to help during a global pandemic proved to be a sustainable way to funnel items in the hands of those who need them. In addition, they were able to work toward the broader goal of keeping usable items out of landfills.

For more information, click here.

Story shared by, Bradley Olson, PhD, USA

Unexpected Death Sparks Community Unity

The unexpected death of a Lake County, Illinois man sparked community unity. On August 2, 2021, Clyde Lewis Jr. was fatally injured in a car accident while he was on his way to help a friend “save” her son from being under-sheltered. The friend also suffered fatal injuries in the crash. This young man was a beloved member of this community. Three of his friends felt the need to “do something” to honor him.

Three of his friends felt the need to “do something” to honor him. On August 3, 2021 within a 3-hour time period these three friends, Rayon Edwards (Ray Ray), Trina Friar (Trixi), and Ronald McCarthy (momma), called out the community to meet at “King Park” for a balloon release and candlelight vigil. The gathering was scheduled for three hours. Within the three hours over 400 people showed up to honor this young man. Community members brought food to grill, games for kids, alcohol to “pour out” (by tradition -honoring a fallen homie).

People do not have to be conventional by society’s standards, educated, well-mannered, and the like, they just have to have a caring heart and the spirit of community building to make it happen. Rayon Edwards (Ray Ray), Trina Friar (Trixi), and Ronald McCarthy (momma) three of this communities marginalized and oppressed by stereotypes and labels that, as shown by the events of August 3, 2021, do not define who they are or what they are capable of doing in their community.

Story shared by, MoDena Stinette, USA

Project Taillight

Project Taillight seeks to connect low-income residents with proactive headlight, taillight, license plate light, and/or turn signal repair services for free. Students of the Columbus State Automotive Technology program provide labor for this innovative public safety and crime prevention program. Because non-violent crimes are more often linked to poverty and lack of opportunity, this program reduces the need for residents and police to interact over minor violations.

Photo retrieved from columbusunderground.com

The goal of the program is to reduce minor traffic violations, allowing police to focus on more violent crime, while also reducing the number of times residents are pulled over along the side of the road for non-violent crimes. Additionally, it is a way for Columbus State students to give back to the community.

Some repairs have proven greater than the students can manage, but they work to coordinate assistance. They have interactions with the residents and learn how to provide customer service. The program has a $50,000 budget and also received a $25,000 contribution from the Columbus Department of Public Safety general fund. They hope to grow and expand.

For more information, please click here.

Story shared by Leslie Hatch Gail, USA

Young Ethiopian Tech Genius Teaches Others

Betelhem Dessie, is a young tech tutor in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Dessie has been a tech tutor for three years. Using iCog, Dessie has partnered with two projects. One is iCog Anyone Can Code, teaches children between ages eight to eighteen the basics of coding and robotics. The second is Solve It, a democratized technology on solving community problems by the local people. The aim of the projects is to educate and build human capital in Ethiopia and Africa. Importantly, to address technology biased where less women and people of color are represented in technology.

Young people, male and female in Ethiopia are learning to use technology to address community challenges.

Betelhem Dessie Photo retrieved from unicef.org

This social start up uses technology tutoring to address technology inequities, or technological bias against women and people of color.

For more information, please click here.

Story shared by Margaret Sergon, USA

The Village That Built its Own Wi-Fi Network

The community of Mankosi, South Africa, in collaboration with researchers from the university of Western Cape, build their own stable and affordable wi-fi. The system is a low-energy, using scattered nodes instead of a central mast or beacons that are used by traditional telecom networks. The system is powered by solar.

Photo retrieved from theconversation.com

The outcomes included affordable wi-fi in the village; the WIFI helped students to do research; it became a source of income for those selling wi-fi vouchers, as well as for the technician; money from the sale of wi-fi is channeled to other community projects, and it brings the community together in monthly meetings to discuss wi-fi related matters.

For more information, please click here.

Story shared by Margaret Sergon, USA

Middleton’s Village to Village: Making “Junkers” Run Again

Eliot Middleton donated his first vehicle in January of 2020. Since then, he has given away 90 more to people that need cars. Eliot worked on the cars during his off days and donated his first car to a mother of a disabled child who needed the car for regular hospital visits. According to Eliot, the woman decided to pay it forward. She got a job, bought a new car, and will donate the car given to her by Eliot back to him.

Photo retrieved from goodlivingguide.com

In November of 2020, a foundation was started called Middleton’s Village to Village. The foundation is run via the foundations’ Facebook page with support from friends and family.

A lesson that learned from Eliot’s story is that good deeds inspire more good deeds.

For more information, please click here.

Story shared by Tressa Greer, USA

21 Days of Peace: Pilot Program to Deter Crime

A grieving Minneapolis community is asking for information that will lead to the gunmen who killed two children and seriously injured another. KG Wilson’s 6-year-old granddaughter, Aniya Allen, was the last of the three children shot in the head and the first to die. KG Wilson is on his bullhorn and passing out flyers, looking for justice and closure for his family and the others impacted by gun violence in the community. Nine-year-old Trinity Ottoson-Smith took her last breath Thursday night. Ladavionne Garrett Jr. was shot 29 days ago and is still fighting to recover.

Photo retrieved from minnesota.cbslocal.com

21 Days of Peace” officially kicks off Friday night. Church and community members are combining efforts to patrol high-crime areas to be a presence, as well as to offer resources for those in need.

A community that has issues with poverty and oppression are able to mobilize for a common cause and able to gain support or organizations.

For more information, please click here.

Story shared by, MoDena Stinette, USA

ActionAid Initiative Trains Cambodian Women to Adapt to Climate Change

ActionAid set up floating gardens in the village of Oakol, Cambodia, and trained women to tend to them. The women grow vegetables, and their sales from them are more than the proceeds from fishing. The floating gardens are an alternative to fishing because livelihoods through fishing were made nearly impossible by frequent storms and prolonged dry spells. The ActionAid initiative chose women for this initiative because studies show that women are disproportionately affected by the climate crisis.

Photo retrieved from OptimistDaily.com

The income per day from the vegetables is between 10,000 to 15,000 Cambodian riels, which is more income than income from fishing. Also, there is a health benefit because the community is consuming more vegetables. Besides, as one woman put it, the women have more skills to maximize opportunities and mentor others.

This initiative addressed gender inequality by empowering women to respond to the climate crisis that threatens their livelihoods.

For more information, please click here.

Story submitted by Margaret Sergon, USA

Front Lawns Feed Neighborhoods

Crop Swap La is an organization based in Los Angeles replacing traditional front lawns with vegetable gardens to feed entire neighborhoods. According to Jamia Hargins, founder of Crop Swap, his company partners with homeowners who have front yards and are interested in turning them into something positive. Crop Swaps establishes micro-farms where neighborhoods pay a monthly subscription to ultra-local food. In addition, homeowners get the share of the produce and a part of the profit. With a monthly subscription of $36, residents get a three-pound mix of fresh organic greens.

Photo retrieved from cropswapla.com/about

Homeowners use their front yards for something more meaningful. Neighborhoods have access to organic greens and vegetables at an affordable price and get some profit from the sale of the vegetables. There is less water wastage because the vegetable growing uses only 8% of the water needed to maintain traditional lawns.

This enterprise uses less water to produce more positive results that impact health, the economy, and the environment.

For more information, please click here.

Story shared by Margaret Sergon, USA