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Asylum Seekers and the Labour Market: Spaces of Discomfort and Hostility

  • Louise Waite (a1)

This article examines the relationship in the UK between asylum-seeking and the labour market. Since 2002, asylum-seekers have not been allowed to work unless they have waited over twelve months for an initial decision on their asylum claim. This policy change occurred as employment was considered a ‘pull factor’ encouraging unfounded asylum claims. Despite not having the right to work, asylum-seekers – and especially those whose applications for refugee status have been refused by the UK government – interact with the labour market in manifold ways. Drawing on an ESRC-funded study in the UK's Yorkshire and Humber region and related studies, this article argues that both asylum-seekers and refused asylum-seekers form a hyper-exploitable pool of ‘illegalised’ and unprotected workers. As a vital part of their survival terrain, work is largely experienced as for-cash labouring in low-paid labour market sectors where the spectre of exploitation and even ‘modern slavery’ are perpetual threats. Recent policy shifts are deepening such threats through creating increasingly ‘uncomfortable’ and ‘hostile’ environments for certain categories of migrants.

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Social Policy and Society
  • ISSN: 1474-7464
  • EISSN: 1475-3073
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