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The politics of discretion: authority and influence in asylum dispersal

Darling, J.



This paper considers how discretion, understood as both a capacity to make decisions and a form of influence that is often hidden, operates within the accommodation and support of asylum seekers. Combining critical discussions of discretion with accounts of a ‘local turn’ in migration policy, I argue that discretion plays a key role in shaping how policy is implemented and offers insight into the changing governance of asylum at national and local levels. Drawing on empirical material examining the development of the UK's asylum dispersal system, the paper extends accounts of discretion beyond ‘street-level’ to argue for a focus on how discretion reflects different claims to institutional authority. Addressing four accounts of discretion in dispersal, I argue that tracing discretion can offer insights into how ‘implementation gaps’ in asylum policy are negotiated and how tensions between national and local governments are contained. Tracing discretion in this way may advance critical interrogations of power relations in welfare bureaucracies and develop understandings of institutional agency and influence within liberal democracies.


Darling, J. (2022). The politics of discretion: authority and influence in asylum dispersal. Political Geography, 94, Article 102560.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 7, 2021
Online Publication Date Dec 23, 2021
Publication Date 2022-04
Deposit Date Feb 15, 2022
Publicly Available Date Dec 24, 2023
Journal Political Geography
Print ISSN 0962-6298
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 94
Article Number 102560


This file is under embargo until Dec 24, 2023 due to copyright restrictions.

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