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Asylum in austere times : instability, privatization and experimentation within the UK asylum dispersal system.

Darling, Jonathan (2016) 'Asylum in austere times : instability, privatization and experimentation within the UK asylum dispersal system.', Journal of refugee studies., 29 (4). pp. 483-505.


In 2010, the UK government passed contracts for the provision of dispersal accommodation and reception services for asylum seekers to three private providers. This article explores the causes and consequences of this process, arguing that dispersal has been reshaped through a confluence of ‘austerity urbanism’ and privatization. The article draws on fieldwork in four cities (Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow and Sunderland), including interviews with local authority representatives, politicians, and asylum and refugee support services. The article highlights the production of instability within asylum dispersal as an effect of austerity and privatization. As a result, we witness a narrative of political neglect, shrinking accountability and the slow recession of support services and expertise. Whilst instability has often been a common facet of asylum policy in the UK, austerity and privatization have meant that a limited concern with the social needs of asylum seekers has been replaced with an increasingly revanchist agenda.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:© The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Date accepted:01 September 2016
Date deposited:29 May 2018
Date of first online publication:26 December 2016
Date first made open access:29 May 2018

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