The research project, led by Dr Jonathan Darling, examines the impacts of recent attempts to privatise asylum dispersal accommodation and provision within the UK. We will explore how the changing policy landscape of dispersal is negotiated by urban authorities, asylum advocacy groups and asylum seekers, and will seek to understand how cities are experienced by those seeking asylum.
The research will inform policy debates at national and local levels over asylum provision and foster wider public discussion over how cities may respond to the needs of asylum seekers.
The multi-sited research is centred upon four key dispersal cities, namely Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow and Sunderland. These cities have been selected due to their significant dispersal numbers and their important local differences. Such as, tensions and febrile policy debates over the provision of asylum accommodation in the cases of Birmingham and Glasgow, the context of Welsh devolution in the case of Cardiff, and a consideration of a smaller and less ethnically diverse city in the case of Sunderland.
Ethics statement submitted as part of the Je-S proposal
An application for full ethical approval will be made to the University of Manchester University Ethics Committee (UEC). The UEC process matches that outlined in the ESRC Framework for Research Ethics for research ethics committee (REC) review and ongoing monitoring will be undertaken by the project mentor and the UEC. Further ethical training forms one part of the skills development plan and research practice will be informed by the ethical guidelines of The Social Research Association (2003) and the RDI Research Ethics Guidebook. The research displays a number of ethical issues:
Informed consent: this is particularly pertinent in the case of participants who are in identifiable positions and asylum seekers. Participants will be identified through the use of gatekeepers within the refugee sector and a policy review. Participants will be contacted individually, provided with an information sheet and given two weeks to decide if they wish to participate. Participants will be asked to provide ‘enduring’ consent for the sharing of anonymous data with UK Data Service through signing a consent form, their right to decline to answer any question and to withdraw at any time will be highlighted here, along with procedures for the management of data. For those wary of signed documentation the option of recording verbal consent will be provided. For observation work of asylum advocacy groups, a presentation will be made outlining the aims and methods of the research, offering a forum for discussion. Consent to observe meetings will be negotiated collectively and individual consent will also be sought as above. Consent for the use of data in the ‘stories of asylum’ exercise will be gained through the completion of an online consent form.
Confidentiality: Direct identifiers will be removed at the transcription phase to ensure anonymity. Audio files with identifiable data will be destroyed immediately after transcription to break links between data and individuals. To ensure confidentiality the transcriber will sign a non-disclosure agreement which will outline the security measures required to protect the data. Number identified files will be kept on an encrypted and password protected project laptop and PC hard disk. Only anonymous quotations will be used in research outputs and those in potentially identifiable positions will be warned of the risk of disclosure when giving consent. The specifics of individual asylum cases will not be discussed in any outputs and description of participants will avoid making individuals identifiable.
Coercion: given the precarious position of asylum seekers in the UK there is a danger that participants may feel coerced into taking part in the research as they may perceive it to hold benefits for their asylum claims. The research will be presented as independent of official status and implication and care will be taken to monitor and manage the expectations of participants. Though snowball sampling with refugee sector networks will be used, the research information sheet will highlight the project’s independence from UK Border Agency (UKBA) and all asylum support services. Information sheets will make clear that the research is unlikely to directly benefit any individual participant. Participants will not receive incentives, but refreshments will be provided.
Risk: there is a danger that sensitive or distressing information may emerge during the research, especially as asylum groups risk significant levels of post-traumatic stress. In such circumstances participants will be reminded of their right to withdraw at any time and appropriate breaks will be taken. The researcher will provide details of support groups within each city who work with issues of refugee trauma. To address risks to the researcher, a copy of each day’s itinerary will be provided to a third party for security. The researcher will carry a mobile phone at all times and will check in with the third party at regular intervals to clarify their location and safety.