Skip to main content

Über dieses Buch

This book is an interdisciplinary attempt to understand the contemporaneous human condition of asylum seekers through analysis of their entrapment and the resultant new forms of resistance that have emerged to combat it. Based on qualitative research data, the chapters support the claim that asylum seekers are entrapped in social, legal and economic precariousness amidst the complex relationship between individual agency and social structure.
By exploring the practices and lived experiences of asylum seekers and other parties involved in their migration and reception, the authors explore the structural and individual agency factors that entrap asylum seekers in precarious livelihoods and lead to marginalization and social exclusion. A bold and timely study, this edited collection will be essential reading for academics and students of criminology, sociology, anthropology, urban studies and social policy.



1. Entrapping Asylum Seekers: Introduction

Asylum seekers are immediately recognizable as a population that faces increasing levels of legal, social and economic precariousness, inherited from their home countries and exacerbated by widespread hostility in host or destination countries that feel anxious, if not outright threatened, by the risk asylum seekers are perceived to pose. This book conceptualizes the precarity endured by asylum seekers as entrapment, and seeks to identify the agents and processes that contribute to this cycle and produce the lived experience of immiseration that has been brought to bear on asylum seekers. This chapter introduces the conceptual framework that forms the genesis of this book evaluating the entrapment of asylum seekers. The case is made for a strident analysis of agency so that asylum seekers are not represented as passive victims. And yet this chapter reveals how asylum seeker responses to their environment may further their precarity and criminalization, reinforcing the policies, practices and discourses of the securitization of migration.
Alison Gerard, Francesco Vecchio

2. Unmasking the Cultural Construction of Asylum Screening at the Border

The asylum screening process at borders is largely perceived as a legislative, administrative and political action, detached from personal inference, exempted from prejudice and disengaged from its historic-cultural background. Thus, immigration officers are seen as mere enforcers, unaccountable for their decisions but responsible for the enaction of a rule. This chapter questions this assumption to argue that beyond the implementation of rules, asylum screening responds to profound cultural constructions articulated through the actions and interactions of immigration officers. Stemming from the phenomenological understanding that subjective meanings give rise to an apparently objective social world, this chapter reveals that asylum screening is a complex categorizing and labelling process guided by the assembly of certain ‘truths as knowledge’ about social acceptance and rejection. Grounded on an unprecedented ethnography of immigration officials’ training routines in the UK, the analysis evidences how asylum screening is forged within an immigration subculture, which remains largely unaffected by legal and policy regulations but is saturated by the meta-messages of disbelief, denial and moral panics.
Olga Jubany

3. Beyond the Border Spectacle: Migration Across the Mediterranean Sea

Focusing on the fight against irregular migration and its compassionate spectacularization, this chapter aims to bridge some of the gaps between media and migration research, investigating the crisis narrative depicted by different actors in the context of Mediterranean migrant tragedies. Through a critical analysis of discursive practices enacted by the European border control agency Frontex, the Italian Navy and the Italian Coast Guard, during the military–humanitarian operation Mare Nostrum, the chapter explores the contrasting, yet at times mutually influencing, representations of migrants, within the context of both humanitarian aid and border control. Drawing upon the ‘military–humanitarian border spectacle’ as a dispositif that is physically and symbolically enacted to legitimize the narrative of cosmopolitan solidarity—and to manage the moral panic surrounding migration—light is shed on how it contributes towards creating a ‘moral geography of the world’. The chapter concludes with remarks on how the dynamics between humanitarian protection and border control are central in legitimizing policies that filter human mobility, by categorizing humanitarian subjects as worthy or unworthy, desirable or undesirable, deserving or undeserving.
Pierluigi Musarò

4. Seeking Asylum in Neoliberal Cairo: Refugee Protests and the Securitization of Humanitarianism

The spatialities and materialities of humanitarianism are important sites in which the politics of refugee protection and refugee aid are contested and re-negotiated. As such, they are emerging as a significant field of research in development and international studies. Following this body of work, and drawing on extensive fieldwork in Cairo, Egypt, this chapter explores how the spatial practices of international humanitarian organizations influence their relations with asylum seekers and refugees, and how these relations intersect with broader urban dynamics of social exclusion. Located in a ‘satellite city’ and guarded by United Nations (UN) security and CCTV cameras, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Cairo office provides an interesting example of the impact of securitization on both asylum seekers and humanitarians. The chapter shows how asylum seekers contest the growing contradictions of the local system of urban refugee governance through sit-ins and daily acts of ‘encroachment’ and spatialized resistance.
Elisa Pascucci

5. Contesting Entrapment: Women Asylum Seekers in Hong Kong

This chapter draws on qualitative research with a diverse sample of female asylum seekers in Hong Kong to reveal the gendered consequences of entrapment and the politico-legal forces that influence women’s asylum seeking. The chapter outlines how women perceive their own legal categorization and how they manage the precarious livelihoods that ensue from ‘doing time’ in this global city. Complex structural economic, social and political factors influence the arrival of women asylum seekers in Hong Kong. These factors give rise to both dynamic and blurred legal categories that the government’s recently established ‘unified screening mechanism’ for all humanitarian protection claimants has sought to disentangle. Processes aimed at sorting women into palatable legal categories permeate the daily lives of asylum seekers and govern their interactions with government and non-government organizations alike. The chapter extends the analysis of entrapment to actors beyond police and state agencies by examining the role of non-government organizations, companionship and employment as dimensions in which entrapment and its resistance occurs, elucidating the varied contradictions that women’s resistance to entrapment may produce.
Alison Gerard

6. ‘This Time I Am Going to Cross!’: Fighting Entrapment Processes Through the Provision of Human Smuggling Services on the US–Mexico Border

Human smuggling is often monolithically described as a practice conducted by evil and exploitative smugglers who prey on the naiveté of those on the move. This depiction does not just point at the role of the state for the deployment of mechanisms that entrap migrants and asylum seekers in transit. It also hides the ways migrants and asylum seekers circumvent the risks posed by migration and border enforcement controls. Drawing from data collected in 2015 on the experience of a Mexican migrant family who crossed the US–Mexico border with the assistance of smuggling facilitators, this chapter provides an account of the efforts of undocumented migrants at avoiding the entrapment put in place by the state to curtail their mobility. By engaging the services of smugglers, migrants attempt to reduce the risks inherent to their journeys, which indicates a continued reliance on smugglers—despite the growing criminalization of clandestine flows—as an effective tool to reduce risk and ensuring safe journeys.
Gabriella E. Sanchez

7. Asylum Seekers and Strategic Litigation

Asylum seekers and migrants and their support organizations in the UK have become increasingly involved in strategic litigation as a complement to direct action and political campaigning, to defend and secure basic rights. The test cases are important in themselves, challenging policies which violate fundamental rights in various ways, including through enforced destitution, detention of torture and trafficking survivors, long-term detention of mentally ill migrants, and forced removal to danger. They also ensure that the voices of asylum seekers and migrants are heard, and can instil confidence and a sense of agency among asylum seekers and migrants. But strategic litigation cannot replace political campaigning; without a popular movement, the gains of test cases are vulnerable to reversal through further litigation or legislation, and the British Government has also acted to restrict the possibilities of intervention for asylum seekers, migrants and their support organizations.
Frances Webber

8. ‘Hostile’ UK Immigration Policy and Asylum Seekers’ Susceptibility to Forced Labour

This chapter discusses how recent changes in UK immigration policy to create an intentionally ‘hostile environment’ for irregular migrants relate to susceptibility to forced labour. The key changes in the Immigration Act 2014 and Immigration Act 2016 target spaces of everyday life by restricting access to housing, healthcare services, banking and legal representation, and increasing penalties for unauthorized working. Drawing on our research on experiences of forced labour among refugees and asylum seekers, we highlight how such policies could operate to increase labour exploitation among people seeking asylum and other irregular migrants. This outcome is quite contradictory with government claims that it wishes to tackle ‘modern slavery’ in the UK through the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
Hannah Lewis, Louise Waite, Stuart Hodkinson

9. Funding Precarity: Non-profit Organization and Refugee Negotiation of Italian and European Asylum Policies

This chapter condenses some of the results that were collected from a long ethnographic study conducted in Piedmont, Italy, between late 2007 and early 2011. The main objective was to analyse one of the most common misrepresentations about refugees; that is, they are offered preferential support and opportunities by the institutional reception system that a ‘normal’ economic migrant does not receive. The main results challenge this assumption and demonstrate that refugees face huge difficulties in achieving a level of social recognition that would make them hearable by the host country’s citizens and by the reception system more broadly, and that, in this context, the practices of resistance undertaken by refugees turn into dramatic situations in which refugees’ physical and mental integrity is jeopardized. The result is a system that does not support refugees in achieving autonomy and, actually, increases their vulnerability, trapping them at a lower level of the Italian social ladder.
Michele Manocchi

10. Asylum Seeker Materiality and Identity-Building: Shapers of Socio-legal Incarceration

This chapter draws on participatory observation conducted as an outsider with two groups of about ten male asylum seekers each to explain why many asylum seekers in Hong Kong choose to live in spaces that can be defined as ‘slums’. An argument is made that asylum seekers’ choice of dwelling is a consequence of their socio-legal incarceration or confinement within a condition akin to detention, which limits and structures their identity and agency. Given structural factors that produce asylum seeker estrangement and marginalization, identity-based claims are made upon which asylum seekers act to ensure their survival. In so doing, however, they are responsible for shaping the exclusionary context that fashions their struggle to survive and gain a measure of control over their lives. A process of entrapment is thereby evinced, one in which asylum seekers are ensnared for political and economic reasons.
Francesco Vecchio


Weitere Informationen