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The central concern of this book is to find answers to fundamental questions about the British asylum system and how it operates. Based on ethnographic research over a two year period, the work follows and analyses numerous asylum appeals through the British courts. It draws on myriad interviews with individuals and a thorough examination of many state and non-state organizations to understand how the system works. While the organization of the book reflects the formal asylum process, a focus on specific legal appeals reveals the ‘political’ factors at play as different institutions and actors seek to influence judicial decision-making and overturn/uphold official asylum policy. The final chapter draws on the author’s ethnographic findings of the UK’s ‘asylum field’ to re-examine research on the Refugee Determination System in the U.S., Canada and Australia which has narrowly focused on judicial decision-making. It argues that analysis of Refugee Determination Systems must be situated and studied as part of a wider, political, semi-autonomous ‘asylum field’ which needs to be better understood.
Providing an in-depth ethnographic study of a national asylum system and of immigration law and practice, the book will be an invaluable resource for academics, researchers and policy-makers in the UK and beyond working in this highly topical area.