The Self and The System: Social Protection Experiences of Asylum Seekers and Refugees Living in Glasgow

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis adopts a qualitative approach within an interpretive paradigm to explore asylum seekers’ and refugees’ (ASRs) experiences of social protection in Glasgow. ASRs are more prone to vulnerabilities and require social protection in their host societies. Using 50 semi-structured interviews (30 ASRs and 20 representatives from the state agencies and third sector) along with observation, this research focused on gaining an in-depth understanding of how social protection is experienced on the ground in Glasgow.

As in the wider literature, findings showed that there are significant gaps in the provision of social protection for ASRs in Glasgow. While ASRs have been portrayed as passive recipients of services and support, it emerged that ASRs have been actively negotiating and combining different yet distinct forms of social protection – formal (the state and the third sector), informal (social connections) and semi-formal (third sector provision through public donations) – to increase their access to overall social protection. This combination denotes the conditions of social protection assemblages. Further, this study emphasises that ASRs are not inherently vulnerable rather they have been vulnerablised by the state’s support system. Also evident is the third sector’s role in filling gaps caused by a lack of formal support. Findings also identified volunteering as a tool and support-seeking strategy for ASRs, who considered volunteering as a way to engage with their local community, interact and support themselves and others in need.

Findings have implications for informing policy and practice. Implications include the Scottish Government and the Glasgow City Council ensuring ASRs’ access to formal social protection, empowering ASRs to use available resources, and increasing refugees’ access to the labour market. Furthermore, this research contributes to migration and social protection literature by applying the concept of social protection and illustrates the significance and interconnectedness of various forms of social protection.
Date of Award7 Apr 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorZANA VATHI (Director of Studies), RUXANDRA TRANDAFOIU (Supervisor) & MARIAGIULIA GIUFFRE (Supervisor)


  • Asylum Seeker
  • Refugee
  • Social protection
  • Vulnerablisation
  • Inclusion
  • Third sector
  • Integration

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