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In Britain, the dispersal system for asylum-seekers, introduced in April 2000, has been widely criticised for its negative impacts, upon both asylum-seekers and the regions to which they were dispersed. This article addresses the effects of dispersal on refugee community organisations (RCOs) through two principal aims, the first of which is to outline the effects of dispersal upon RCOs in selected fieldwork locations. Three themes are examined: the growth in refugee communities outside London, the constraints of funding regimes and the politics of community representation in the local policy environment. The second aim, developed through the presentation of our fieldwork material, is to establish a critical perspective on the role and function of RCOs. We question the assumed integrative role of RCOs as interpreted in the policy and academic literature, and we underline the importance to the integration process of informal networks in refugee communities. A central strand of our argument is that the analysis of RCOs needs to be firmly anchored within the broader context of migrant incorporation operating in Britain. We conclude that the dispersal arrangements serve as a model of inclusion and representation for RCOs which is heavily conditioned by the broader race relations and multicultural framework. Far from promoting the integration of refugees, this framework may rather perpetuate a condition of institutionalised marginality for refugee groups.

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Taylor & Francis

Publication Date



32 (5)


881 - 898