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.