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Paying the Price of War

Narratives of Trauma of Iraqi Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Jordan

Laure Bjawi-Levine

The occupation of Iraq and the ensuing sectarian violence have created an Iraqi refugee community, estimated at 700,000 to 1 million, which Jordan has hosted for several years. Residing for the most part in Amman's low-rent neighbourhoods, many Iraqis have overstayed their visas and live in fear of deportation. Marginalised both economically and socially, and forgotten by the U.S. and the international community, poverty-stricken Iraqi refugees and asylum seekers suffer not only from the traumatic experience of sectarian persecution and their escape from Iraq, but also from the stress and fatigue of their long-lasting transit to nowhere. Their narratives show a profound distress and a struggle for survival that is both psychological and economical, since their (il)legal status as 'guests' denies them the possibility of obtaining work permits.

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Barak Kalir

Each year the Dutch authorities categorize scores of people as being “out of procedure” (uitgeprocedeerd). These are mostly “failed asylum seekers” who have exhausted all legal appeals in search of regularizing their status in the Netherlands. Out-of-procedure subjects, or OOPSs, have no formal rights and receive no state provision. They must leave the country voluntarily within one month or risk deportation. Many OOPSs who spent weeks or even months in Dutch detention centers are eventually released onto the streets, as the authorities cannot manage to deport them. This article interrogates the production and treatment of OOPSs as nonexistent human beings who are no longer considered by the state as “aliens” but merely as illegalized bodies. This intriguing case of the state deserting certain people within its sovereign territory is realized through a process of derecording OOPSs and formally pretending that they are not part of the governed population.

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Re/Making Immigration Policy through Practice

How Social Workers Influence What It Means to Be a Refused Asylum Seeker

Kathryn Tomko Dennler

Refused asylum seekers living in the UK face hostility and legal restrictions on the basis of immigration status that limit access to statutory support, employment, and social goods. Working at a non-profit organization that offered an advice service for refused asylum seekers, I observed how the experiences of refused asylum seekers are constituted not simply by restrictions within immigration law, but rather by the ways in which laws are perceived and implemented by a wide range of actors. I argue that the legal consciousness of social workers hostile to refused asylum seekers plays an important role in making policy through practice. I show that social workers prioritized immigration enforcement over other legal obligations, thereby amplifying the meaning of immigration status and deepening the marginalization of refused asylum seekers.

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Carol Bohmer and Amy Shuman

For immigration authorities, the goal of asylum hearings is to differentiate between economic migrants and legitimate political asylum seekers. However, in the stories asylum seekers tell, these categories often blur. Nevertheless, the asylum process uses this differentiation to conceal inequities in the system, and to justify denials. This article examines political asylum as a transnational and culturally local process and argues that contradictions between protection and control underlie some of the seemingly absurd denials of asylum applications.

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Over Under Sideways Down

An Interview with Karrie Fransman

Ann Miller

In this interview Karrie Fransman discusses some of the aesthetic choices that she made in creating her comic book Over Under Sideways Down, the story of a young asylum seeker, which deals with a series of harrowing events: exile, journey and displacement, and then the struggle to attain the right to remain in the UK. Fransman considers the ethical and artistic issues raised by the telling of Ebrahim's story, which includes episodes of pain and loss and which, moreover, he had already recounted many times over to disbelieving interviewers, who had the power to grant or refuse him refugee status. Fransman expresses her pleasure in discovering that the rendering of his story into comics form has helped Ebrahim to feel that he has gained control over it. She reflects on the process of condensing the narrative and heightening key moments, her concern to avoid turning violence into spectacle, and her use of resources of the medium, such as symbolism and metonymy, to convey the intensity of emotion.

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Kingsley Garbett

On 4 July 2003, a one-day “Cultural Research and Refugee Studies” workshop was held in Sydney. Greg Gow and Amanda Wise organized the workshop, a cooperative venture between the cultural research centers of the University of Western Sydney and the Australian National University. It brought together a large group of researchers, practitioners, and community representatives to exchange ideas about cultural research among refugees and asylum seekers in Australia. The three articles that follow, by Gow, Wise, and Glazebrook, present a particular perspective on the methodology of studying and analyzing refugee behavior in Cultural Studies, stressing the significance of considering the emotive and affective aspects of their status and position. Wise’s material considers East Timorese refugees, many of whom now have residence in Australia, while Gow and Glazebrook examine more recent refugees and asylum seekers from Iraq and Central Afghanistan, respectively, many of whom still have uncertain futures. Comments from a panel discussion by Khalid Koser, Pnina Werbner, and Ien Ang complete this thematic section.

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Refugee Hospitality Encounters in Northern Portugal

“Cultural Orientations” and “Contextual Protection”

Elizabeth Challinor

This article discusses the legal and institutional framework of refugee hospitality in Portugal. This sets the context for an analysis of how hospitality encounters take place in northern towns between asylum seekers, refugees, voluntary hosting institutions, public services, and volunteers. The aim is to enquire into the conflicting expectations, morals, and values of these different people and institutions, and into how they are managed and negotiated in practice. Through focusing on the “moral subjectivities” of individuals, the data elucidates the tensions that arise between charity- based and rights-based approaches, how misunderstandings arise and are avoided through engaging in “contextual protection,” and how linear transitions from hospitality to hostility cannot be presumed.

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Governing through Uncertainty

Experiences of Being a Refugee in Turkey as a Country for Temporary Asylum

Kristen Sarah Biehl

This article addresses the question of how to theorize the relation between uncertainty and governmentality with regard to displacement and its consequences. It explores the experiences of asylum seekers in Turkey and the bureaucratic processes of refugee status determination, local dispersal, and third country resettlement, illustrating two main points throughout. First, 'protracted uncertainty', characterized by indefinite waiting, limited knowledge, and unpredictable legal status, is a central element of the experience of being an asylum seeker in Turkey. Second, this uncertainty serves to demobilize, contain, and criminalize asylum seekers through the production of protracted uncertainty, which in turn is normalized as a necessity of bureaucracy and/or security. The article invites readers to question the governmentalities of asylum and border regimes that not only discipline refugees' everyday movements but also determine the uncertainty of 'refugeeness'.

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‘Refugees Are Welcome Here!’

How Public Opinion Got Ahead of Government in Summer 2015 and Stayed There

Maurice Wren

In the summer of 2015, UK public attitudes towards refugees shifted significantly in the face of a substantial and sustained increase in the number of people entering Europe from the Middle East and North Africa in search of refugee protection. Contrary to what might have been expected, given that the prevailing public mood on refugees had up to this point been, at best, guarded and wary, this change in attitudes was not only overwhelmingly positive, but it also forced the UK government into a dramatic and significant policy change. This article considers whether this shift in opinion represented a real sea change in public attitudes, or was a fleeting and unsustainable compassion spasm.

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Roger Karapin

Many writers have argued that anti-immigration politics in Germany

and other West European countries have been driven by radical-right

parties or the electoral maneuvering of national politicians

from established parties. Others have argued that waves of violence

against immigrants and ethnic minorities have spurred anti-immigration

politics, or that racist ideologies and socioeconomic inequality

are the root causes. By comparison, authors have paid relatively little

attention to anti-immigration mobilization at subnational levels,

including the public positions taken by subnational politicians and

the activities of movement groups, or “challengers.” Nonetheless,

research has shown that subnational politicians are often important

in pressing national campaigns for immigration controls. Moreover,

as I have argued elsewhere, anti-immigration politicians in Britain

and Germany have responded in large part to local challengers, who

were aided by political elites at local and regional levels.