Smith, Kate (2017) New and enduring vulnerabilities: Rethinking stories about 'the refugee’. In: Europe, Migration and the New Politics of (In)Security: Experiencing (in)securities, March 2017, University of Leeds. (Unpublished)

This paper will discuss some of the new and enduring narratives of vulnerability in relation to ‘the refugee’. Forced displacement across the world increased dramatically in 2015 with record-high numbers, whilst the right to asylum has been undermined by varying and diametric responses at a European Union, nation-state and personal level. For decades, restrictive borders, directed toward managing the flow of refugees coming into neoliberal democracies, have become a defining feature of contemporary narratives, immigration policy and social order. Stories of violence, forced displacement, global inequalities and injustices have been largely hidden from European publics. With a growing awareness of the rising number of people seeking safety in Europe (and despite an absence of major increase in numbers of refugees in the UK) the UK Home Secretary took a unilateral approach and set-up the ‘Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme’. Providing a route for selected Syrian refugees to come to the UK, this Programme stands in stark contrast to the existing asylum provision and exemplifies the latest hierarchy of rights and entitlements to emerge for refugees. Increasingly, new and enduring narratives of ‘vulnerability’ are used to highlight clear distinctions between people who are deemed to ‘deserve’ protection and those who do not. Narrowing the protection space for refugees, ‘the vulnerable’ have become a marker for the brave new world of refugee policy.

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