'Hanging in-between': experiences of waiting among asylum seekers living in Glasgow
Rotter, Rebecca Victoria Elizabeth
This thesis explores the experiences of applicants for Refugee Status in the United Kingdom who had, at the time of the research, waited for between two and nine years for the conclusion of the asylum process. Despite extensive lamentation of the delays endured by asylum applicants in having their claims assessed, little social scientific scholarship has substantively and critically engaged with this phenomenon, or even with waiting as a universal condition. The present study fills this gap in knowledge, conceptualising waiting as an informative, consequential phase in the quest for protection, hope and security. The study is based on twelve months of participant observation among asylum seekers living in Glasgow under the dispersal regime. Narratives and tacit aspects of everyday life are presented to both draw a multi-dimensional ethnographic picture and acknowledge the asylum seekers’ agency. Their waiting entails a focus on negative and positive, concrete and symbolic objects, which are located in the future. However, their inability to affect or predict the arrival of these objects produces uncertainty and passivity. Asylum seekers narrate overwhelmingly negative experiences of asylum policies, such as dishonouring encounters with immigration authorities; social dislocation; enforced poverty; interrupted life cycles; and an inability to settle and belong in the UK. Yet despite the mutually reinforcing effects of UK policy and of waiting, asylum seekers have benefited from formal support structures provided under Scottish policy. Individuals have been able to re-construct social ties; pursue educational opportunities; enhance personal security; gain greater control over their ‘cases’; and undertake selective socio-cultural adaptation. They have also utilised a discourse of ‘integration’ circulating in Scotland to garner public support for their struggles for recognition and the right to remain. The thesis concludes by reflecting on changes occurring after a form of Leave to Remain was granted, and assesses the extent to which people were able to realise the ‘normal lives’ for which they had been waiting.