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Communicating Assisted Voluntary Return (AVR) programmes in the UK: examining tensions in discursive practice

Brickley, Katy 2015. Communicating Assisted Voluntary Return (AVR) programmes in the UK: examining tensions in discursive practice. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Assisted Voluntary Return (AVR) programmes offer UK-government and EU-funded support and resettlement packages to asylum seekers and undocumented migrants to aid return to their countries of origin. These programmes have attracted criticism: in particular, a questioning of the return as ‘voluntary’. This study investigates how social inequality is discursively maintained and challenged within AVR, particularly in relation to two of its central aspects: the voluntariness of the programmes and clients’ opportunities to make informed decisions about return. I combine a discursive analysis of institutional written texts and ethnographic interviews with staff, with observations from the two organisations involved – the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Refugee Action. Through an analysis of rhetorical-discursive devices, I show how power relationships are maintained and challenged, providing the institutional context for the client caseworker relationship. However, by exploring caseworkers’ positioning regarding ideological motivations for return and the gatekeeping relationship, I show how institutional, caseworker, and client power is negotiated and challenged by caseworkers. Addressing multilingualism, I show how caseworkers’ negotiation of top-down multilingualism and clients’ superdiversity may shape the environment in which clients are able to make informed decisions about return. I evidence how caseworkers are resourceful in challenging linguistic inequality, considering communicative strategies to increase clients’ opportunities to access information. The findings in this research provide detailed discursive evidence of how AVR occupies an ideologically contested space, but how caseworkers are able to effectively negotiate this space to offer impartial advice for people returning. This research considers how this client-institution relationship, and the voluntariness of return, is complicated both by the mixed motivations underpinning AVR programmes, and the superdiversity of clients. I consider what this may mean regarding problems of trust within the AVR programmes,and the difficulties the Home Office may face in its decision to bring the programmes inhouse from January 2016.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Publication
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Funders: ESRC
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 27 April 2016
Last Modified: 16 Apr 2017 01:30

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