AbstractDiscourses surrounding the debate on asylum-seekers and refugees continue to be a polemical and topical issue in the UK and other Western democracies. This thesis investigates the meaning of home and belonging from the perspective of refugees and asylum-seekers in Belfast. Individuals who seek asylum in a place of safety leave their homes and homelands for a variety of reasons. I focus on the experiential challenges faced by local refugees and asylum-seekers following their arrival in a new and unfamiliar environment. By examining a range of comparative subjective narratives, I seek to establish what the asylum- seekers and refugees I was in contact with hope to achieve as they readjust to new ways of life. An asylum-seeker is required to register his or her intentions with the relevant authorities within a specified time limit. Following an initial screening interview, an individual seeking asylum is provided with emergency accommodation, and shortly afterward attends a substantive interview with UK Border Agency immigration specialists.
My research follows the lives of a number of asylum-seekers as they progress through the asylum system. Some of them receive their 'papers' and are accepted as refugees with an initial five year Limited Leave to Remain status. Becoming a refugee comes as a great relief but concurrently brings a whole new set of challenges. A plethora of forms are required to be filled out as they move into the mainstream social benefits system where new accommodation is found and registration with the local Jobseekers agency completed. On the other hand, for the many asylum-seekers who are refused refugee status, there is the uncertainty of the appeals process, fresh claims, further meetings with solicitors and other advisors, and occasionally a descent into destitution with no recourse to funds. I look at some of the coping strategies employed by this heterogeneous group of displaced individuals as they seek to establish a measure of emotional equilibrium in the social milieu of Belfast. There exists a lack of well-established diasporic communities in Northern Ireland. However, nascent social groupings are in the processes of being formed which compliment other modes of integrating into local society. What is it that makes a person 'feel at home?' My thesis explores the meaning of displacement and emplacement by focussing on asylum- seekers and refugees as they negotiate and perform the long process of belonging to something tangible in local society.
|Date of Award||Jun 2014|
|Supervisor||Lisette Josephides (Supervisor)|