Manufacturing Realities: Power Imbalance in Lesbian Asylum-seeker Appeals

Studenteropgave: Kandidatspeciale og HD afgangsprojekt

  • Rhianwen Sian Charlton
4. semester, Global Refugee Studies, Kandidat (Kandidatuddannelse)
The process of applying for asylum can be a long and complicated one. With a wide range of individuals seeking safety from a variety of countries and for a plethora of different reasons, all agents in the process must make meanings with any information they are able to discover in order to ascertain who will be granted asylum. As part of the process, if asylum is denied, applicants can appeal, and it is selected appeals from this group which form the data set for this thesis.
Whilst it can be stated that all asylum seekers have less power than the officials who are judging them, it is suggested in this work that lesbians have less power than most. Due to their intersectionality, they leak power on many levels – as asylum seekers, as women, as homosexuals, and as homosexual women in a system which is more suited to male political activists, leaving them at a power deficit in comparison to those who are assessing the veracity of their claims.
As human beings, it is difficult to escape preconceptions, and some officials involved in these asylum interviews appear to have preconceived ideas about what constitutes a lesbian, the attitude to lesbianism in the given country as well as an individual’s rights to live a full and open life. When these individuals are in a position of greater power the narratives are coloured by their preconceptions sometimes leading to denial of asylum.
In the following pages, the cases of eight women are examined. Their cases are tabulated and patterning is drawn out. The information is examined under the theoretical lens of “Asylum as construction work” as this clarifies the power relationships in the asylum process.
In all cases there is an appellant who is attempting to create a credible reality for their claim and an official who is attempting to manufacture an official reality as documentation for a claim. This thesis explores the role power has to play in the construction of reality.
Ideas are suggested as to how this power imbalance may be addressed from the inside – making the process a clearer, fairer and more equitable experience for all involved and helping to ensure the UK’s reputation as a fair and inclusive country reaches beyond LGBT citizens to LGBT asylum-seekers.
Amongst the conclusions drawn are: many actors within the system were proven to have the power to present their versions of reality and construct facts, although power relations were shown to be asymmetric; lesbian asylum seekers were found to hold very little power in the UK asylum system; records were found to be a result of the construction of facts yet are also involved in constructing them and structures such as the asylum system are able to be changed by the actions within them.
Udgivelsesdato31 maj 2018
Antal sider53
ID: 280193127