What counts as evidence in adjudicating asylum claims?
Locating the monsters in the machine: an investigation of faith
in Science and the politics of openness

The chapter explores the ways in which appeals are made to ‘evidence’ as part of a wider trend towards openness and transparency. We argue that the presentation of evidence as objective and neutral serves to obscure the real political judgements involved in contested policy areas like asylum. Drawing on research from an ‘extreme case’, the adjudication of faith-based asylum claims, we look at how evidence is actively constructed, embodying processes of meaning-making that are underpinned by power relations. We analyse asylum seekers’ statements, UK Home Office assessment processes and the role of interlocutors (including interpreters and lawyers) to better understand the limits to claims of openness and transparency. Findings reveal a lack of plurality and diversity in the sources and forms of evidence that the Home Office draws on, with asylum decisions often based on a set of tacit assumptions that are not backed by evidence. We conclude by arguing for a more open asylum system that involves a wider range of experts, expertise and knowledge sources and pays greater attention to the context in which asylum seekers have experienced persecution.

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