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Systems of Suffering

Systems of Suffering

Dispersal and the Denial of Asylum

by Jonathan Darling

A rigorous examination of 'dispersal', which forms the basis of the government's asylum policy

Of the many state-enacted cruelties to which refugees and asylum seekers are subjected, detention and deportation loom largest in popular consciousness. But there is a third practice, perpetrating a slower violence, that remains hidden: dispersal.

Jonathan Darling provides the first detailed account of how dispersal - the system of accommodation and support for asylum seekers and refugees in Britain - both sustains and produces patterns of violence, suffering and social abjection. He explores the evolution of dispersal as a privatised process, from the first outsourced asylum accommodation contracts in 2012 to the renewed wave of outsourcing pursued by the Home Office today.

Drawing on six years of research into Britain's dispersal system, and foregrounding the voices and experiences of refugees and asylum seekers, Darling argues that dispersal has played a central role in the erasure of asylum from public concern. Systems of Suffering is a vital tool in the arsenal of those fighting to hold the government to account for the violence of its asylum policy and practice.

Jonathan Darling is Associate Professor in Human Geography at Durham University. He is the co-editor of Sanctuary Cities and Urban Struggles: Rescaling Migration, Citizenship, and Rights and Encountering the City: Urban Encounters from Accra to New York.

'Elegant and disturbing [...] a brilliant analysis of the cruel biopolitics of care in contemporary Britain'

- Ash Amin, Chair of Geography at Cambridge University

'Indispensable reading for anyone interested in the contemporary policies, practices, spaces, and politics of asylum'

- Suzan Ilcan, Professor of Sociology at the University of Waterloo, Ontario

'A tour-de-force. The evidence for the violence of the country's system of dispersal of asylum-seekers is shocking. Bursting with ideas, this book contains the seeds of an urgently-needed political, social and cultural transformation'

- Ben Rogaly, Professor of Human Geography at the University of Sussex

'Rigorously diagnoses a long-term malaise in the UK system of 'asylum accommodation'. An inexorably unaccountable system hidden in plain sight, in poverty blighted communities. A system that separates people from mainstream life, frequently with loss of hope and health. A system that reduces people to unit costs in often profitable company accounts. A system that does not need to be like this. This book shows us how to change it'

- Graham O'Neill, human rights worker for Commission for Racial Equality, Equality and Human Rights Commission and Scottish Refugee Council

'A forensic and compelling examination of how systems that exist in theory to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society end up harming them'

- Daniel Trilling, journalist and author of 'Lights In The Distance: Exile and Refuge at the Borders of Europe'

'A much-needed book about the workings and effects of dispersal. Darling brilliantly unveils how exhaustion operates as a governing strategy; how the sufferings of dispersal are created by or endured through withdrawal, fragmentation, weariness, but also defiance and care'

- Anne-Marie Fortier, Professor of Sociology at Lancaster University

'Essential and compelling [...] illuminates the humanity of people navigating their violent dispersal through systems designed to treat them inhumanely'

- Alison Mountz, author of 'The Death of Asylum'

1. Dispersal, Debilitation, and Distributed Violence
2. Creating Dispersal
3. Outsourcing Asylum
4. The Retreat of Local Government
5. Dismantling Support
6. Enduring Asylum
7. Enduring Otherwise: Counter-conducts of Care

Published by Pluto Press in May 2022
Paperback ISBN: 9780745340487
eBook ISBN: 9781786807212

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