Lockdown and the Spatial and Temporal Reshaping of Asylum Seeker and Refugee Everyday Lives

Authors: Robin Finlay*, Newcastle University, Peter Hopkins, Newcastle University, Matt Benwell, Newcastle University
Topics: Social Geography, Urban Geography, Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: Asylum Seeker. Refugee, COVID-19
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 36
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The spatiality and temporality of our everyday lives have been reshaped by the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdown measures to reduce the spread of the disease are restricting the use of public spaces and changing how we interact with people. Whilst the pandemic effects are felt everywhere, the impacts are considered greatest for disadvantaged and marginalised populations in urban areas (Kasinitz, 2020). Within the national context of the UK, one such population who face precarious and disadvantaged everyday circumstances are those seeking asylum and refuge. Since the early 1990s, under a premise of a humanitarian response, there is considered to have been a ‘systemic impoverishment’ (Mayblin et al, 2019) of displaced people by consecutive UK governments. In this paper then, we examine the impacts of the pandemic and lockdown on the overlapping experiences of asylum seekers, refugees and asylum service providers in Newcastle between March and August 2020. In particular, we examine the spatial and temporal reshaping of asylum seeker and refugee everyday Lives. We argue that the loss of access to everyday material spaces of support, solidarity and recreation is exacerbating urban isolation and the ‘suspension’ of refugee lives. However, we also illustrate forms of resilience to lockdown and creative strategies to reimagine space, spatial practices and solidarity. From this vantage point, we reflect on what the pandemic and lockdown reveal about asylum seeker and refugee marginalisation and the role of non-state urban infrastructures of care and solidarity in times of crisis.

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