This project explores the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on asylum seekers and refugees living in the UK. It focuses on those individuals placed in temporary accommodations such as hostels and hotels, using Glasgow as a base for the project as the local authority with the most dispersed asylum seekers in the UK. Moves by private sector firms to relocate asylum seekers into ‘safe environments’ have been widely criticised, particularly for the difficulties in maintaining physical distancing in new crowded, shared spaces thus increasing the risks of exposure to Covid-19. Organisations and stakeholders representing asylum seekers have reported the fear and distress that this move has caused for asylum seekers. In addition, this re-housing has also made it difficult for charities to provide support to affected individuals, who are moved often at short notice. The project examines what the situation is currently on the ground, how the crisis has accentuated the risk for those seeking asylum and develop responses with migrant communities to create a genuinely ‘safer environment’ for asylum seekers.

A collaborative ethnography

To capture the everyday experiences of asylum seekers living in temporary accommodation and their housing conditions amid the context of Covid-19 restrictions, this project adopts a digital ethnographic approach. It is is co-produced with Migrants Organising for Rights and Empowerment (MORE), a grassroots organisation based in Glasgow advocating for human rights and dignity for asylum seekers and refugees living in the UK. This co-created and co-designed interdisciplinary and qualitative approach seeks to gain insight into people’s everyday realities through documenting online conversations, reflections and a range of participant produced visual and audio data. The project will follow the lives of a group of participants through mediated and sustained contact over a six-month period. The project will foreground the ongoing day-to-day realities of their lived experiences over time as the pandemic unfolds and their circumstances change. The production of a co-created documentary, based on the online testimonies of community researchers and participants will act as a layered process of reflection and analysis, which will continue to provoke feedback once in the public domain.

Research objectives:

  • To document the housing conditions and understand the impact of relocation from the perspectives and experiences of asylum seekers themselves
  • To identify factors and mechanisms which have placed asylum seekers living in temporary accommodation at greater risk of Covid-19
  • To work with grassroots community groups to influence government policies and practices on asylum accommodation in order to address the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on those seeking asylum
  • To influence media and public debate and raise awareness about the issues and challenges faced by asylum seekers and refugees living in the UK

The project is funded by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and will run from November 2020 until November 2021.

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