Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Privatising asylum: neoliberalisation, depoliticisation and the governance of forced migration

Darling, Jonathan

Privatising asylum: neoliberalisation, depoliticisation and the governance of forced migration Thumbnail



This paper critically examines the political geography of asylum accommodation in the UK, arguing that in the regulation of housing and support services we witness the depoliticisation of asylum. In 2010, the UK Home Office announced that it would be passing contracts to provide accommodation and reception services for asylum seekers to a series of private providers, meaning the end of local authority control over asylum housing. This paper explores the impact of this shift and argues that the result is the production of an asylum market, in which neoliberal norms of market competition, economic efficiency and dispersed responsibility are central. In drawing on interviews with local authorities, politicians and asylum support services in four cities, the paper argues that the privatisation of accommodation has seen the emergence of new assemblages of authority, policy and governance. When combined with a market‐oriented transfer of responsibilities, depoliticisation acts to constrain the possibilities of political debate and to predetermine the contours of those policy discussions that do take place. In making this case, the paper challenges the closures of work on post‐politics, and argues for an exploration of the situated modalities of practice through which forms of depoliticisation interact with, and are constituted by, processes of neoliberalisation. In this context, the framing of asylum seekers as a ‘burden’ emerges as a discursive and symbolic achievement of the neoliberal politics of asylum accommodation. Framing asylum seekers as a burden represents both a move to position asylum as a specific and managerial issue, and at the same time reiterates an economic account of asylum as a question of resource allocation, cost and productivity.


Darling, J. (2016). Privatising asylum: neoliberalisation, depoliticisation and the governance of forced migration. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 41(3), 230-243.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 6, 2016
Online Publication Date Mar 23, 2016
Publication Date Jul 1, 2016
Deposit Date May 29, 2018
Publicly Available Date May 29, 2018
Journal Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Print ISSN 0020-2754
Electronic ISSN 1475-5661
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 41
Issue 3
Pages 230-243


Published Journal Article (165 Kb)

Publisher Licence URL

Copyright Statement
© 2016 The Authors. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Geographical Society (with The Institute of British Geographers).<br /> This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

You might also like

Downloadable Citations