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Privatising asylum : neoliberalisation, depoliticisation and the governance of forced migration.

Darling, Jonathan (2016) 'Privatising asylum : neoliberalisation, depoliticisation and the governance of forced migration.', Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers., 41 (3). pp. 230-243.


This paper critically examines the political geography of asylum accommodation in the UK, arguing that in the regulation of housing and support services we witness the depoliticisation of asylum. In 2010, the UK Home Office announced that it would be passing contracts to provide accommodation and reception services for asylum seekers to a series of private providers, meaning the end of local authority control over asylum housing. This paper explores the impact of this shift and argues that the result is the production of an asylum market, in which neoliberal norms of market competition, economic efficiency and dispersed responsibility are central. In drawing on interviews with local authorities, politicians and asylum support services in four cities, the paper argues that the privatisation of accommodation has seen the emergence of new assemblages of authority, policy and governance. When combined with a market‐oriented transfer of responsibilities, depoliticisation acts to constrain the possibilities of political debate and to predetermine the contours of those policy discussions that do take place. In making this case, the paper challenges the closures of work on post‐politics, and argues for an exploration of the situated modalities of practice through which forms of depoliticisation interact with, and are constituted by, processes of neoliberalisation. In this context, the framing of asylum seekers as a ‘burden’ emerges as a discursive and symbolic achievement of the neoliberal politics of asylum accommodation. Framing asylum seekers as a burden represents both a move to position asylum as a specific and managerial issue, and at the same time reiterates an economic account of asylum as a question of resource allocation, cost and productivity.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:© 2016 The Authors. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Geographical Society (with The Institute of British Geographers). This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Date accepted:06 January 2016
Date deposited:29 May 2018
Date of first online publication:23 March 2016
Date first made open access:29 May 2018

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