Working Paper examines why UK asylum advocacy should take citizens’ complaints seriously
The frustration of tabloid readers with the cost of asylum to the UK’s welfare system is often dismissed as bigotry among the pro-asylum lobby. In fact, there are compelling moral arguments for taking this frustration seriously, writes Sam Ray in a new Working Paper.
Ray argues that engaging citizens’ frustration should be of higher importance for asylum advocacy organisations. The prioritisation of UK citizens and inclusion of newcomers are in fact not always at odds with one another. Citizens who feel under-prioritised are more likely to threaten asylum seekers’ interests: first, through their overt hostility; and second, through their election of governments that support more exclusionist asylum policies. Citizens who feel that they matter to the community are more accommodating towards newcomers and dampen the threat of harsher asylum policies.
On the launch of the paper, Ray said ‘I became frustrated with seeing asylum advocates dismissively rolling their eyes at some of the language coming out of East London council estates like mine. There seemed to be little recognition that such language is rooted in real feelings of neglect that need to be engaged with. I wanted to challenge people to stop narrow-mindedly ignoring such perspectives – which can only exacerbate anti-asylum sentiment – and get to grips with the powerlessness behind these views.’
Observing that most large asylum advocacy organisations have no meaningful agenda for engaging citizens, Ray provides several examples of organisations that better model the practice. He argues that movements fostering new kinds of community around a common concern of citizens and asylum seekers demonstrate the most sustainable forms of engagement.