2010-12 Asylum Support and Advocacy ESRC project

Making Asylum Seekers Legible and Visible: An Analysis of the Dilemmas and Mitigating Strategies of Asylum Advocacy in the UK and US


This research project took place 2010-1012 and compared the approaches of different asylum advocacy organisations in Britain and America using questionnaires and interviews. An eighteen month research project focused on the challenges faced by asylum support groups in the United States and the United Kingdom, and different ways of responding to those challenges. The research was been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council of the UK and was carried out by Nick Gill, Deirdre Conlon, Ceri Oeppen and Imogen Tyler.

It aimed to: facilitate dialogue between different types of asylum activist organisations in order to promote best practice and the mitigation of risks;
to provide a means by which asylum advocacy organisations can share their concerns and their proposed solutions about the challenges they face;
to examine the different dilemmas that different asylum advocacy organisations, including advisory/legal, religious-affiliated, health-focused activist groups and campaign/awareness raising groups face either side of the Atlantic.

What we found out:

Our research project uncovered a range of organisations that offer practical assistance to asylum seekers in a variety of ways: for example by visiting asylum seekers in detention, helping to prepare their legal cases, providing creative, artistic, spiritual, health-related, political and practical support, advocating on their behalf with authorities and policy makers and by raising the profile of asylum-seekers in news media and other public forums. We began by mapping the kinds of organisations that exist in two national settings—the US and UK—and then used a questionnaire to capture as much information as possible about them. The questionnaire was undertaken by over 130 organisations. We then conducted 35 in-depth interviews with individuals working in asylum support organisations, as well as 3 focus groups. Over the course of collecting the data, the size, scale and diversity of the asylum support sector became apparent. Though there were many differences there was a uniting theme in the data we collected: an enduring sense of injustice at the treatment of asylum seekers and widespread recognition of the need to do more to change the social, legal and political situations which lead
to inequalities and discrimination. Further, all of the organisations we interviewed expressed their desire to persist with difficult support work
in the face of deepening economic crises and hardening border-policy contexts, and to find ways of galvanising others to assist this often isolated
and marginalised migrant population.

Please see our website asylum-network where you can read our final report.

This project was peer-reviewed and determined ‘oustanding’ in terms of meeting its objectives and its impact.


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