Seeking safety beyond refuge : the impact of immigration and citizenship policy upon refugees in the UK

Stewart, Emma and Mulvey, Gareth (2014) Seeking safety beyond refuge : the impact of immigration and citizenship policy upon refugees in the UK. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 40 (7). pp. 1023-1039. ISSN 1369-183X

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    Abstract

    Western states are concerned about maintaining and securing national borders. Across Europe, one response has been to implement restrictive asylum regimes that prevent ‘bogus’ applicants and grant refuge only to the ‘deserving’. Alongside these concerns, states are eager to encourage socially cohesive communities. One recent tool adopted by the UK government has been citizenship policy, including English language/life in the UK tests and citizenship ceremonies. By drawing upon in-depth interviews with refugees in Scotland (UK), this paper explores the impact of the current asylum regime and citizenship policies from the perspective of individual voices that are often absent from wider debates. It explores how temporary refugee status impacts upon individuals’ everyday lives including employment and education, and impacts upon children. The data also question the reasons for refugees deciding to become British citizens (or not) and highlight instrumental reasons alongside less tangible factors such as gaining a sense of security. Taking the discussion forward, the study explores some unintended consequences of immigration and citizenship policies in the UK. The research suggests that not only do restrictive asylum policies negatively impact upon refugees and their integration but also serve to elevate fear and uncertainty, which can unintentionally spur individuals to seek naturalisation.