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Negotiating locals in Britain : the relationship between asylum seekers and the local british community in East Anglia
conference contributionposted on 2017-12-06, 00:00 authored by Sophia RainbirdSophia Rainbird
This paper explores the ways in which asylum seekers negotiate their relationship with British locals, who form a majority white indigenous British population in the rural region of East Anglia. Asylum seekers were dispersed to the region from London by a government program where accommodation was more readily available, and access to services could be localised. However, the reception provided by locals was not always welcoming. Fuelled by the media, there was a general negative perception that asylum seekers were linked to terrorism, gang violence and welfare exploitation. This resulted in a fear of violence by asylum seekers and locals, from each other. This paper illustrates that it is very difficult for asylum seekers to engage with locals without giving weight to their cultural background or ethnic normative standards‘ (Fuglerud 1999:105), particularly for those identifiable as Muslim or of Iraqi origin. To locals then, an outsider has no social markers other than [their "otherness"] and the fact that they are understood to be "asylum seekers" (Fuglerud 1999:105). In response, asylum seekers draw on a situational identity which may circumvent the asylum seeker aspect of their identity according to the context. This paper explores such identity reworking that is evident in the coping mechanisms of blending in and avoiding interactions with locals. These coping mechanisms, employed by asylum seekers, allow them to negotiate their interactions with locals.