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Book : Bureaucracy, Law and Dystopia in the United Kingdom’s Asylum System

Bureaucracy, Law and Dystopia in the United Kingdom’s Asylum System

John R. Campbell

Routledge, 2017

Bureaucracy, Law and Dystopia in the United Kingdom's Asylum System

The central concern of this book is to find answers to fundamental questions about the British asylum system and how it operates. Based on ethnographic research over a two-year period, the work follows and analyses numerous asylum appeals through the British courts. It draws on myriad interviews with individuals and a thorough examination of many state and non-state organizations to understand how the system works. While the organization of the book reflects the formal asylum process, a focus on specific legal appeals reveals the ‘political’ factors at play as different institutions and actors seek to influence judicial decision-making and overturn/uphold official asylum policy. The final chapter draws on the author’s ethnographic findings of the UK’s ‘asylum field’ to re-examine research on the Refugee Determination System in the US, Canada and Australia which has narrowly focused on judicial decision-making. It argues that analysis of Refugee Determination Systems must be situated and studied as part of a wider, political, semi-autonomous ‘asylum field’ which needs to be better understood.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. An anthropological approach to studying the asylum field

Chapter 2. The evolution of the British Asylum System

Chapter 3. The work of the British Home Office and UK Border Agency

Chapter 4. Taking and making refugee claims: The work of immigration caseworkers, interpeters and barristers

Chapter 5. The Immigration and Asylum Tribunal and the work of Immigration Judges

Chapter 6. The politics of ‘permission’ and the Court of Appeal

Chapter 7. The Kafkaesque experience of asylum seekers

Chapter 8. Interest groups, asylum policy and Home Office intransigence

Conclusion and Postscript

About the Author

Dr John R. Campbell is a Reader in the Anthropology of Africa and Law at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. He has undertaken fieldwork in Ghana, Tanzania, Ethiopia and the UK, and has undertaken development-related consultancies in Kenya, Ethiopia and Botswana. In addition to teaching the anthropology of development and the ethnography of Eastern Africa, he teaches courses on legal anthropology. His most recent book is Nationalism, Law and Stateless: Grand Illusions in the Horn of Africa (Routledge, 2013).