The Role of Asylum in Urban Gentrification – with Dr Emma Hill

19th March 2021. We were pleased to welcome Emma Hill, University of Edinburgh, to discuss the role of asylum in urban gentrification. Emma is an interdisciplinary researcher, with expertise in displaced migration in the Global North, race, migration and decolonisation, and is currently a Research Fellow on the Governance and Local Integration of Migrants and Europe’s Refugees (GLIMER) project.

This talk analyses the relationship between the accommodation of Dispersed asylum seekers and urban gentrification in the UK. We argue that though there is a case to be made that asylum seekers are vulnerable to spatial strategies associated with gentrification such as neighbourhood ‘dumping’, containment and ’territorial stigmatisation’, the highly coercive quality of the UK Government’s Dispersal Scheme means that any relationship between asylum and gentrification must be treated as deliberative, the result of the multiscalar interests which have a stake both in Dispersal and urban ‘development’.

Drawing on empirical research conducted in Glasgow, the annual recipient of the largest asylum seeking population in the UK, we find that asylum accommodation processes and gentrification have developed a symbiotic dynamic, whereby the ‘failure’ of mid-century urban ’regeneration’ provided means and motive for Dispersal, and the Dispersal provided sufficient resources to fuel further rounds of urban ‘regeneration’.  We argue that the respective spatial politics of both Dispersal and gentrification must be understood as mutually-interested, coercive technologies, which work together to contain and exploit racialised and bordered urban minorities.  We call for urgent further research into how the asylum border is embedded in contemporary urban spatial economies.

The session was chaired by Adrian Favell, PI of the Northern Exposure project, and the talk was followed by responses from Philip Brown, University of Huddersfield, and Tesfalem Yemane, University of Leeds.