Queer Asylum Seekers Online and the UK Lockdown: Media Literacy, Authenticity and Co-presence
Authors: Pullen, C.
Conference: Migrant Belongings Conference
Dates: 21-23 April 2021Abstract:
The advent of the Covid-19 lockdown in the United Kingdom, has led queer asylum seekers to become increasingly isolated, impacting further on their already established senses of abjection. With decreased access to help care community physical space, queer asylum seekers who have engaged with LGBT help groups, mental health charities and religious organisations have now become reliant on online communication. Media literacy for asylum seekers and NGO help managers has become more central in defining communication skills, and life chances. This paper explores the formative findings of a British Academy funded research project that has revealed new psychological pressures for asylum seekers and NGO managers when using online technology. It becomes a substitute for face to face interactions for help care providers, and increasing a means for immigration authorities to assess individuals. Contextualising Sara Ahmed’s (2012) work on cultural inclusivity and Jasbir Puar’s (2002) work on ‘queer space’, this paper examines how NGO help group managers and asylum seekers are learning new online skills while developing their media literacy, seeming to offer equality and inclusivity. The shift to online may be necessary in times of lockdown, however for queer asylum seekers who are doubly abject as alien and queer, it has never been more important for managers and decision makers to understand the limits of the virtual media presence. Online presence alone does not easily convey the humanity of the individual or necessarily stimulate an empathic environment. Being present within a shared physical space is an important factor in order to convey authenticity and believability, to parties that may assess your needs, or make life changing decisions concerning your future. Empathy and trust may be experienced through presence or co-presence with others, not simply media representation, however vivid or immediate.