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What ‘Work’ Does Precarity Do? Understanding the Stigmatisation and Commodification of Asylum Seekers in Temporary Housing

Maclean, Gavin; Guma, Taulant; Macleod, Kirsten; Sharapov, Kiril; Blake, Yvonne; Makutsa, Robert


Yvonne Blake

Robert Makutsa


News coverage and public policy over the past 20 years portrays asylum seekers as a burden that must be shared across the country. Through policy choices over this time originating in the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, asylum accommodation operates through a ‘dispersal’ policy where ‘destitute’ asylum seekers who require accommodation are offered it on a ‘no choice’ basis and relocated across the country. Coupled with this policy, the accommodation of destitute asylum seekers has been progressively outsourced over the past decade with successive contracts placing people seeking asylum in the care of private companies. This system of dispersal has been linked to processes of gentrification and rent seeking behaviour in private companies with asylum accommodation being introduced in low-rent areas where greater profitability can be found for private companies.

The key argument of this paper is that, rather than a burden, outsourcing necessarily makes asylum a source of potential profit that requires members of the public to consent to and labour for an increasingly outsourced system. Building on other recent studies of the housing and treatment of asylum seekers in the UK, this paper draws on theoretical approaches to stigma, bordering, precarity and neoliberalisation to explore the interconnections between processes of stigmatisation of migrants, bordering and the commodification of asylum accommodation. Drawing on media analysis and findings from year-long digital ethnography, this paper explores the processes of commodification and sourcing of unpaid labour through the development of an ‘antiasylum commonsense’ which ties into previous literature on the welfare system.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name BSA Annual Conference 2023: Sociological Voices in Public Discourse
Start Date Apr 12, 2023
End Date Apr 14, 2023
Deposit Date May 10, 2023
Publisher URL