New and enduring narratives of vulnerability: Rethinking stories about the figure of the refugee

Kate Smith, Louise Waite

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)


The role of vulnerability in relation to mechanisms of governance and social welfare practices has received growing interest, but how ‘vulnerability’ is operationalised in asylum policy is less well understood. This paper explores narratives of vulnerability in relation to the figure of the refugee. Taking a narrative approach to stories told about refugees across Europe, it puts forward the argument that access to asylum has gradually moved away from spontaneous asylum seeking to more controlled routes in the UK. This transition has increasingly drawn on the notion of vulnerability to highlight distinctions between people who deserve protection and those who do not. In particular, this paper focuses on the ways in which the UK Syrian Vulnerable Person’s Resettlement Programme is underpinned by stories of ‘the vulnerable’ and exemplifies the latest hierarchy of rights and entitlements to emerge in relation to the figure of the refugee. It also offers insight into some of the ways in which asylum policies create the conditions where vulnerabilities are generated and produced. As such, this paper brings a critical perspective to the state increasingly narrowing the protection space for refugees and redefining ‘the vulnerable’ as an essential marker of asylum policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2289-2307
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Issue number13
Early online date13 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2019


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