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Perceiving Europe: An Exploration of Asylum Seekers' 'Strategies'

Alessandra El Hariri

This paper focuses on the impact of the interaction of EU and national asylum policies on asylum seekers' agency. While remaining key actors, states give up aspects of their sovereignty to the EU level. Therefore, the EU can be regarded as a balance between solidarist and pluralist elements, where member states' behaviour is bound by EU level agreements on human rights. This has been reflected in a constant tension between the adherence to human rights principles and political concerns over control and 'securitisation', and the articulation of asylum as a problem or "threat". The tension between pluralist and solidarist elements and the interaction between national policies and the EU architecture have, in some cases, produced unintended results. Taking the UK as a case study, this paper will explore how asylum seekers' perceptions of UK and European asylum policies have an impact among other factors on the way they 'strategize' their moves. In particular, considering the asylum seeker as an agent, this paper aims at exploring how s/he interacts with the structure created by the EU and UK asylum policies in order to overcome obstacles that are posed by the system. This represents a contribution to the literature, as the decision-making aspect has been somehow neglected in forced migration studies. Through qualitative semi-structured interviews with Zimbabwean refugees and Kurdish refugees from Turkey, as well as with organizations and lawyers, this study demonstrates that perceptions have in some cases formed an important influence on individuals' agency in coping with the asylum process.

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