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Title: Who is who now? : truth, trust and identification in the British asylum and immigration detention system
Author: Griffiths , Melanie Bethan Elaine
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis examines the role of identity and practices of identification in the British asylum system. Identity has become a 'keyword' (Shore and Wright 1997a) of asylum policy, despite its absence from the Refugee Convention and most international refugee protection guidance. The 'problem' and 'solution' of asylum have been reconceptualised as issues of identification. Ascertaining 'true' identities has become pivotal to the asylum system: from a claimant's arrival to the deciding of their claim and removal of those refused refugee status. Subtly differing models of identity are employed by the UK Border Agency to these ends. Over the course of an asylum claim, an initial emphasis on a bureaucratised identity shifts towards a bodycentred model. Drawing on 18 months of anthropological research with asylum seekers living in Oxford or incarcerated in a near-by Immigration Removal Centre, the thesis considers how the policy-level emphasis on identification feeds into tensions within the asylum system. For multiple reasons, asylum seekers and immigration detainees often struggle to have their identities accepted by the authorities. Reasons include their absence from identity databases, ignprance of 'key' identifiers, fabrication, withholding of information and a paucity of identity documents. Claimant's identities are also critically examined as part of refugee determination. As a result, asylum seekers often have disputed identities, lack bureaucratically-recognised identities or have multiple identities. An examination of the disjuncture between having one identity disputed and another officially confirmed, shows that people become 'stuck' in the system, are susceptible to criminalisation and are subject to exceptional treatment such as indefinite detention. Although being beyond identification techniques can provide opportunities and means for resistance, it also disempowers and marginalises non-citizens. As identity verification requirements continue to infiltrate the wider British society, those people beyond such techniques become increasingly bureaucratically problematic, and are simultaneously threatening and vulnerable to the state apparatus. By reconfiguring asylum and removal as matters of identification, the political dimension of the system is masked Qya veneer of administrative neutrality, and any incidents of illegibility or anonymity are portrayed as the responsibility and choice of the individual rather than matters of technology, power, bureaucracy or cultural difference.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available