The language of labelling and the politics of hostipitality in the British asylum system

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Since 1990 when Britain witnessed a spike in asylum applications, consecutive governments have adopted a stance towards asylum, whereby the interests of the state supersede those seeking asylum. By employing Jacques Derrida’s notion of hospitality and the politics of labelling, the article identifies five ways in which Conservative, New Labour and Conservative Liberal Democratic coalition governments have sought to establish the label of a genuine asylum seeker. Drawing upon parliamentary archives, the article presents a narrative of an idealised refugee figure that has been created through consecutive British governments, at the expense of the asylum seeker. Individuals who do not meet the genuine criteria are branded as failed, bogus asylum seekers, or more recently, immigrants, who abuse the system. The article argues that what we are witnessing within the British asylum system is the politics of hostipitality, whereby hostility is the overriding reaction to the asylum seeker
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)599-617
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Politics and International Relations
Issue number3
Early online date25 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - 01 Aug 2016


  • asylum
  • Britain
  • hospitality
  • labelling


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