Inequalities connected to offending and victimisation

We developed some of the first studies on youth gangs in the UK and more recently, the European funded PROMISE project.

The PROMISE project focuses on the experience of young people participating in society, particularly those who find themselves in conflict with authority.

With expertise in criminalisation, social fairness and social justice, our work has a longstanding interest in issues around youth crime, the experiences of young ethnic minorities, and policies that affect the inclusion of these groups.

Research projects

Criminalisation and victimisation of undocumented migrants

The experience of criminalisation and victimisation of undocumented migrants

Funder: The University of Manchester (UMRI) 
Principal Investigator: Claire Fox 
During the summer of 2015, Europe was said to be in the midst of a ‘migrant crisis'.

Various media outlets in the UK and elsewhere documented the journeys and arrival of thousands of people who had left their country of origin and in many cases, had risked their lives to try and reach Europe. The discourse offered by politicians and some of the media used dehumanising language to depict these migrants as a threat, something to be feared and invoked military terms such as ‘invasion’ or referred to as a ‘swarm’ coming to the UK.

This belied the variations in experiences of those involved.  

This collection of photographs draws together images that document the experiences of migrants without leave to remain in the UK, which formed part of a project exploring the experiences of being criminalised or victimised.

Whilst migration may present new opportunities, life in the UK is not without its own challenges.

This project set out to investigate what the lived reality is for undocumented migrants living in Manchester and the photographs included in this collection reflect the everyday experiences of life for those who participated in this project. 

Conversations about radicalisation

The dangers of young people becoming radicalised are discussed in schools as part of the curriculum guided by the government’s Prevent strategy.

These lessons, however, have been accused of being more damaging than enabling; acting as mechanisms of exclusion that repress rather than encourage conversations. Using a series of interactive drama-based workshops this project provides students and teachers with a space to explore the problems and tensions, as well as positive elements, of the current approach.

Conversations about radicalisation is a collaboration between young people, school staff, interdisciplinary researchers, and creative artists, that focuses on developing an inclusive and open discussion about how schools approach extremism that speaks to and is led by, young people. The outputs of this project, including narrative art, video, lyrics and posters, co-produced by the participants, will challenge current approaches.


The project has been funded by The University of Manchester - Faculty of Humanities - Strategic Investment Fund Proposal and Approval form: Social Responsibility - Impact (H-SIF).

Our research team

The multi-disciplinary team working on the radicalisation project consists of academics, artists, and experts in this field.

  • Jo Deakin (Principal Investigator)
  • Necla Acik (Co-Investigator)
  • Graham Smith (Co-Investigator)
  • Peter Fahy (Advisor)
  • Bethan Harries
  • Kate Sapin
  • Zahra Alijah
  • Simon Ruding
  • Rachel Scott
  • Paul Gent
  • Aidan Jolly
  • Sai Murray
  • Saffa Mir

Research outputs

Listen to the first poem from this project:

The outputs of this project will include narrative art, video, and posters.

Extremely Safe Radical Preventions

Migrant men's well-being in diversity (MiMen)

In public debates, young migrant men (YMM) frequently feature as a problematic group, failing in the education system, potentially upholding sexist attitudes, and exhibiting violent and criminal behaviour.

Research has pointed out that the experiences of YMM are influenced by negative stereotyping and they face discrimination significantly more often than their female counterparts. At the same time, YMM have to cope with the high expectations of their families to succeed. These various expectations and preconceptions contribute to gender-specific risks of marginalisation of YMM. Counteracting the discrimination and marginalisation of YMM from non-European countries and implementing policies to support their well-being constitute significant European challenges.

The MiMen Project seeks to evaluate the experiences of YMM in different domains such as at school, at work, in the neighbourhood/community, with the authorities/families/peers as well as identify their notions of well-being through in-depth interviews and focus groups in seven European countries. In each country, approximately 50 young migrant men aged 16-27 from non-EU countries, will be included in the study resulting in 350 diverse accounts.

Our stakeholders

In each country stakeholders from representatives of national and local government, NGO’s and community organisations working with young migrant men will be consulted and relevant policy recommendations will be drafted.


This project continues to have relevance to ongoing discussions about impact.

MiMen was co-financed by the European Commission in the European Fund for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals (EIF).

Aims and objectives

This project is innovative in that it aims to translate qualitative research into an index that describes the well-being of YMM from non-EU countries and provide a tool for the evaluation of integration policies.

This has the potential for significant impact on policies across a number of sectors; e.g. health (especially where young males are prone to mental illness), criminal justice (especially in relation to victimisation and state responses), employment and education (especially where education and employment practices can appear exclusionary) and in the public provision of targeted services for young male non-EU migrants.

The objectives of these projects are:

  • To identify how integration and diversity policies can support the well-being of YMM at a local, national, and EU level; and
  • To identify the factors which are relevant to the well-being of YMM and develop a well-being index that reflects their experiences.


The project is co-funded by the European Commission in partnership with six other European partner organisations. The project commenced in January 2014 and is due to finish at the end of June 2015.

Research methods

The research team has been keen to involve young migrant men and work in close cooperation with their gatekeepers, migrant groups and stakeholders dealing with migrants and/or well-being.

The first focus group was carried out with young migrant men on 1 October 2014 at the Methodist Central Building in Manchester. The focus group convenor was Simon Ruding, who also wrote a summary of the group discussion. Artist Paul Gent made drawings of the focus group.

Peer researchers

We are using a Peer Research approach to ensure an interactive and participatory research process, which empowers members of the target group and enables them to shape the research process.  In collaboration with Migrants Supporting Migrants (MSM), the research team have recruited young migrants from the target group and have trained them to conduct interviews with their peers in their communities. During the fieldwork period, these peer researchers are supervised and involved in the analysis of the interviews. At the end of the fieldwork, they will receive a training certificate and a letter of recommendation.

Focus group findings

Focus group summary by Simon Ruding (Director of TiPP):

Focus group, 1 October 2014

“Jo Blagg” the fictive character

We utilised the TiPP group working model, Jo Blagg. The process encourages participants to compare life narratives and to project personal experiences onto a fictive character that inhabits a real-world very much like their own. Each participant is, therefore, able to personally invest in the narrative, as it is partly generated by them and they will share common experiences with the final character. Blagg operates at one step removed, so we were able to present the men with a series of challenging experiences for Jo and consider asking them to consider how he may respond to them – in so doing, real-life experiences were played out and discussed at a safe distance.

I asked the group to begin by telling me the story of their shoes – the standard opener that encourages laughter and connection. The participants can disclose as much or as little as they choose, although the facilitator is tasked with gently probing the responses in order to establish a tone for the session. I then moved on to ask them to – in pairs – discuss their favourite film or TV programme, asking why they liked it, what it was that they liked about the programme and if they identified in any level with the characters and narratives. Here the goal was to get them thinking about film story, character, narrative, etc. before introducing the idea of the Blagg process and asking them to build the character. We considered how stories are made – how scripts are written, characters created. Then I introduced Jo. There were a few givens – he had to be a missing group member - a migrant worker, male, between 18 and twenty-five and arrived in the UK at least a year ago. Then they collectively devised a narrative for his history and arrival in the UK. These were loosely written up and then we investigated Jo a little further using questions based upon the research questions.

Journey to the UK

I began by asking them to consider the character’s backstory – how and why Jo came to be in the UK. They described a solo journey, leaving family and friends behind, seeking freedom, education, less political chaos. They described him as most likely to be in his mid-twenties, having been in the UK for two and a half years and having left behind his family who he hoped he would be reunited with in the UK at some time in the future.  He was described as being the eldest son, with two younger siblings. The preference was for the siblings to be male. His move to the UK was occasioned by a desire to find a better life, earn money, become educated and escape the political chaos of his homeland. This was the first time that members of the group used the term “safety”. He has been living in Manchester for two years after arriving spending a few months in London (the only UK city he knew by name before he came to the UK). 

Feelings of “home”

When asked directly what constituted “home” (moving to a level of abstraction, reflecting on what constitutes a sense of “home”), they struggled to respond. In concrete terms they were able to describe typical “home” conditions as being a medium-sized house, living with several (up to six) “friends” with whom Jo shared the rent, typically paid to a private landlord. Jo may only have known one or two of his housemates before moving in. The description of the level of rent was that it was about half of what he earns/receives a week. The only space that was private was their own room – this was the space that they described as “home” and as being “safe”, although this was said with some caveats – he has to be constantly conscious of his neighbours, who may well not show the same degree of courtesy to him. They described Jo finding the property via the internet.

Food and belonging

Food was described as being highly significant to well-being and belonging. If the nearest shops sold food from Jo’s home country then he would feel more at home and more secure. Taste is the lifeblood of memory, and so provides a solid connection with the family from whom Jo was separated and this, in turn, was associated with an idea of home.


The idea that Jo may be faced with discrimination was met with confusion. “Charles”*, one of MSM’s older volunteers proffered an explanation: he suggested that the recognition of subtle institutional discrimination and cultural racism is only really recognised when a migrant is able to fluently speak and understand English. He went further, and suggested that the recognition of it is a perverse marker that you have “arrived”.  As the discussion developed a further interpretation of the group members’ silence offered itself for consideration – that they were so used to facing it they perceived it as a social norm.  When discrimination was linked with ideas of safety the men could clearly identify where in the city they felt safe and where they would avoid for fear of robbery or assault. Salford was considered an area that they would avoid because of its reputation as being unwelcoming and dangerous for migrants and members of minority racial, ethnic and/or religious groups. Other specific parts of the city were described as unsafe – specific parts of Longsight were identified as crime-ridden and particularly unsafe.


The group were highly reluctant to talk about girlfriends, even at one step removed. They described areas of the city/places/situations where they would suggest that Jo did not take any prospective girlfriend and these largely mirrored their descriptions of unsafe places in the city. Their descriptions and advice for Jo hinted at a sense of wishing to keep partners “safe” and away from (largely unarticulated) situations of danger.

Jo’s friends and peer group were largely drawn from migrant community groups who had shared similar experiences and lived within the immediate geographical locale. Whilst they suggested that friendships were important, they hinted at them being transitory (this may have been the manifestation of youthful masculine bravado).

Employment experiences

They described Jo as having had a range of jobs – mostly manual labour and in the hospitality industry or flyer distribution. They described them as “fast jobs” that required little experience and paid cash. The men considered that the biggest barrier to gainful employment was Jo’s lack of fluency in English, which would lead him into situations where employers could easily exploit him. One of the men described the level of exploitation along curry mile as “extreme”, with employers expecting fourteen-hour shifts, six days per week. If Jo were to get trapped in his form of employment he probably wouldn’t venture out of Rusholme, even on a rest day, because he would be too fatigued. Others suggested that Jo could quickly get caught in a spiral of rejection and demotivation, particularly if he came to the UK with a reasonable level of education and expectations that he could easily pick up work.

Jo’s life ambitions were mixed - the group were equally split between having a job that pays well and being self-employed / running a successful business. Success was described as having a comfortable amount of cash, with sufficient funds to bring his parents and brothers to the UK and provide for a spouse and several children.

*Pseudo name

Our research team

Below are the biographies of the research team working on this project:

Jon Spencer, Principal Investigator - Senior Lecturer in Criminal Justice

Jon Spencer has a research interest in the process of how migrant groups are criminalised and victimised. Jon has a particular interest in how these processes are integrated into the discourse of criminal justice policy-making. He has undertaken European Union funded research on the movement of people across borders and he is currently developing work that explores the structure of organised illegal employment practices and the employment of migrant workers. The issue of status and how irregular migrants are exploited within the employment market and how they are criminalised both by their status and their lack of access to civil society is a developing research direction. Jon is also involved in a European project that investigates the well-being of migrant young men and this research.

Jo Deakin - Senior Lecturer in Criminology

Jo Deakin is a lecturer and researcher in the Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice at The University of Manchester. Her research is focused around the integration/reintegration of specific groups addressing themes of social capital, fear of crime, public attitudes, criminal justice engagement and victimisation.

Jo has expertise in engaging with vulnerable groups and hard-to-reach populations.

Claire Fox - Senior Lecturer in Criminology

Claire Fox joined The University of Manchester in July 2010 as a Lecturer in Criminology. Prior to this, Claire was a Teaching Fellow in Criminology at Keele University. Claire also completed her MA and PhD at Keele University, funded by an ESRC 1+3 award. Claire has previously worked in learning support and in 2009 co-authored a series of on-line study guides for higher education students, which were cited as an example of good practice by the HEA-funded LliDA project (Learning literacies in a digital age). Claire has taught on a wide variety of course units and in 2010 gained a post-graduate certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.

Necla Acik - Research Associate

Necla Acik joined the MiMen project in November 2014 as a Research Associate. She has an interdisciplinary background and an expertise in qualitative and quantitative research methods and holds a PhD in Social Statistics and an MSc in Social Research Methods and Statistics from the Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research (CMIST) at The University of Manchester. Her PhD thesis provides a comparative study on civic engagement in Europe, analysing the European Social Survey. In Germany, she completed her studies in Islamic Studies, Sociology and Politics at the Free University in Berlin and wrote her dissertation on gender and nationalism in Kurdistan, on which she continues working to date. Necla has worked on numerous research projects on ethnic inequalities in employment and health at Centre for Transnational Studies at Regent’s University London, CMIST, the Working Lives Research Institute at London Metropolitan University, and the Policy Studies Institute. 

She has taught introductory quantitative research method courses and workshops on large scale surveys at CMIST and was a teaching assistant in Politics and Sociology at The University of Manchester. Her research interests are in ethnic inequalities, migration, political consumerism, participative democracy, civic engagement, comparative European studies, gender and nationalism in the Middle East, and radicalisation of Muslim youth.

Our partner organisations

The organisations we've been working with on our MiMen project:

Manchester Partners

Researchers work in partnership with Migrants Supporting Migrants (MSM) and Theatre in Prison and Probation (TiPP) to carry out the UK part of the project. MSM has been involved in training peer researchers and recruiting for the first focus group. TiPP has been involved in carrying out the focus groups.

Migrants Supporting Migrants

A non-profit organisation based in Manchester, working to ensure migrants are aware of their rights and know how to access local services. MSM also run language workshops, clubs and research projects in collaboration with organisations such as Oxfam, Migrants Rights Network and local universities and councils.

Theatre in Prison and Probation (TiPP)

TiPP work with groups including adult prisoners, young offenders or those at risk, and criminal justice professionals. They develop and deliver training courses and projects to encourage access to creative arts and act as a hub for knowledge and research.

European partners

This Europe-wide project includes the following European partners:

PROMISE: Youth involvement and social engagement

Funder: H2020  

Promoting Youth Involvement and Social Engagement (PROMISE) was a major EU funded research project, which explored young people’s role in shaping society; past, present and future. 

The project brought together twelve collaborating centres in Estonia, Finland, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, the Russian Federation, Croatia and the UK. 

Young people are often at the forefront of social, cultural and political change, often driven by their energy and creativity, but also by their frustration at the challenges they face.

PROMISE investigated young people’s responses to these challenges and sought ways to transform this into positive social achievement. Through an understanding of the experiences, values and attitudes of European youth, PROMISE was able to get to the heart of barriers and opportunities for social engagement. 

This project was funded under the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme; it ran for three years from May 2016 to April 2019. 

Find out more


News and highlights

Violent crime: decades of research shows punishing ‘risky’ young people does not work – here’s what does  - Jo Deakin and Laura Bui discuss how to understand youth violence and justice in The Conversation. 
Mayor Andy Burnham joined us for the PROMISE final conference in April 2019 to deliver the keynote speech. 

Find out more about what happened at our final conference, following three years of the PROMISE project.