Asylum seeker 'vulnerability': The official explanation of service providers and the emotive responses of asylum seekers

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Abstract

This paper explores the way in which service providers in East Anglia, a region of the United Kingdom, in 2002-2003 represent asylum seekers as problematic, isolated, and largely vulnerable dependents. In doing so, support organizations assume an exclusive position of expertise and knowledge of asylum seekers' predicaments. This exclusivity can be understood as the 'official explanation' [Spivak, G. C. (1987) In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics, Methuen, New York/London, p. 114] put forth by organizations in order to ensure that they maintain a degree of influence in government policy, as well as to ensure a competitive edge in the arena of service provision, and to lobby and advocate the needs of asylum seekers. This paper explores the paradox of an organized system of support that works to assist asylum seekers to be independent and yet in doing so represents asylum seekers as dependent and excludes them from decision-making processes. However, by considering asylum seekers' speech-acts, we can recognize that what they talk about is in itself a strategy employed to push the boundaries of their predicament and to negotiate a possible future. In doing so, the development of an active dialogue between asylum seekers and the services that assist them can be considered.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberbsr044
Pages (from-to)405-422
Number of pages18
JournalCommunity Development Journal
Volume47
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development

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