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Understanding the experiences of asylum seekers

Helen Liebling (Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, Coventry University, Coventry, UK)
Shani Burke (Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, Coventry University, Coventry, UK)
Simon Goodman (Senior Lecturer in Psychology, based at Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, Coventry University, Coventry, UK)
Daniel Zasada (Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre, Coventry, UK)

International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care

ISSN: 1747-9894

Article publication date: 9 December 2014




The purpose of this paper is to highlight the key issues of concern for asylum seekers in the UK by focusing on their in depth talk about their experiences, a so far neglected element in the current debate about asylum seeking.


The study involved thematic analysis of asylum seekers’ accounts of their lives in their country of origin, their journeys to the UK and experiences following arrival. Nine participants took part in semi-structured interviews.


Analysis resulted in seven themes; the importance of safety, negative experiences of the Home Office, support, emotional effects, significance of family, hopes for the future and the positive experiences of living in the UK.

Research limitations/implications

Asylum seekers largely left their countries of origin to escape conflict, persecution, violence, arranged marriages and rape. They reported safety as a key concern and for this reason they were scared to return home.

Practical implications

The research found Asylum seekers have fled traumatic situations and then have a difficult time in the UK. A more compassionate and supportive approach is needed. Policy recommendations are made with the aim of improving service responses.

Social implications

The research demonstrates that the public understanding of asylum seeking does not match asylum seekers’ experiences and increased knowledge may help to improve this (mis) understanding.


There is currently a lack of literature and empirical investigation of this subject area, so this research makes a contribution to the field of understanding asylum seekers’ experiences. The paper's focus is original and important combining asylum seekers’ accounts of their experiences following arrival in the UK. This subject is strategically important due to the pressing need to develop holistic and culturally sensitive research, which bridges and informs academia, more sensitive service responses and civil society.



The research was made possible due to a grant from the Richard Benjamin Trust (Ref 1106). The authors give sincere thanks to all the participants and the Refugee Centre for their support and facilitation of the research.


Liebling, H., Burke, S., Goodman, S. and Zasada, D. (2014), "Understanding the experiences of asylum seekers", International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care, Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 207-219.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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