Exercising ‘bad faith’ in the asylum policy arena

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    This article uses a ‘scoping’ methodology to identify the different ways in which asylum policy and practice fall short of policymakers’ stated aims, are counter-evidential and are inhumane in their effects. It highlights how asylum seekers, commonly constructed as undeserving economic migrants, are impacted by these powerful ‘othering’ narratives, before drawing on a breadth of research evidence to challenge dominant claims and expose the particular weaknesses of the asylum system. In doing so, it asks why, if asylum policy is not informed by the evidence, does not achieve its stated objectives and yet causes suffering for those seeking asylum, such an approach persists. The article then develops the concept of ‘bad faith’ as an exercise of power, in order to theorise the actions of powerful agents in the shaping of asylum policy and practice with reference to hidden collective interests. It contends that the asylum policymaking community, in failing to acknowledge the suffering resulting from the diminishment of asylum seekers into a ‘typified other’, are engaging in an oppressive power operation, concealed by the political narratives underpinning policy reforms from the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act to the 2016 Immigration Act.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)289-307
    Number of pages19
    JournalSociological Research Online
    Issue number2
    Early online date8 Feb 2018
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


    • Agency
    • asylum seekers
    • bad faith
    • collective action
    • power
    • Lukes
    • Bourdieu
    • Barnes
    • othering


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