This report represents the findings of an eighteen month research project that examines the challenges faced by asylum support groups in the United States and the United Kingdom, and different ways of responding to those challenges. The research has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council of the UK1. The research has been carried out by four people: Drs Nick Gill, Deirdre Conlon, Ceri Oeppen and Imogen Tyler.The purpose of this report is to provide information to the asylum support sector by disseminating our findings about the common challenges faced by those working with this vulnerable population in two different national settings, and the strategies being engaged by asylum support organisations to confront these common challenges.
Our research project uncovered a range of organisations that offer practical assistance to asylum seekers in a variety of ways: for example by visiting asylum seekers in detention, helping to prepare their legal cases, providing creative, artistic, spiritual, health-related, political and practical support, advocating on their behalf with authorities and policy makers and by raising the profile of asylum-seekers in news media and other public forums. We began by mapping the kinds of organisations that exist in two national settings—the US and UK—and then used a questionnaire to capture as much information as possible about them. The questionnaire was undertaken by over 130 organisations.
We then conducted 35 in-depth interviews with individuals working in asylum support organisations, as well as 3 focus groups. Over the course of collecting the data, the size, scale and diversity of the asylum support sector became apparent. Though there were many differences there was a uniting theme in the data we collected: an enduring sense of injustice at the treatment of asylum seekers and widespread recognition of the needto do more to change the social, legal and political situations which lead to inequalities and discrimination. Further, all of the organisations we interviewed expressed their desire to persist with difficult support work in the face of deepening economic crises and hardening border-policy contexts, and to find ways of galvanising others to assist this often isolated
and marginalised migrant population.
We hope this report makes a contribution to the critical work of the asylum-advocacy sector by sharing ideas and best practice between what are sometimes large national organisations with paid and unpaid workers, but are more often small local and isolated groups of volunteers. We hope this research project will facilitate further collaboration between asylum advocacy groups, and between this sector and academic researchers.