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In January 2014, The Guardian newspaper reported that UK Border Agency (UKBA) staff received financial rewards for winning appeals against asylum seekers challenging negative decisions. This generated public controversy, because it suggested that the Home Office had a systematic bias against individuals being granted refugee status. No one who has followed asylum’s travails in western states could have been surprised. Academics have long described a ‘culture of disbelief’ pervading the UK government’s asylum decision-making processes, in which asylum claims are met with incredulity and cynicism. This culture seems merely an extension of the battery of measures and mechanisms – including visa regimes, carrier sanctions, and interdiction – that western states have put in place over the last three decades to stop forced migrants from places like Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria arriving to access asylum. If the UKBA’s offer was remarkable, it was only as the reductio ad absurdum of states’ current restrictive responses.

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Centre on Migration Policy and Society

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