Moral Exclusion, Dehumanisation, and Continued Resistance to Return: Experiences of Refused Afghan Asylum Seekers in the Netherlands

K. Kuschminder*, T. Dubow

*Corresponding author for this work

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1 Citation (Web of Science)


This paper examines how policies that deny the basic provision of shelter, food, and clothing to refused asylum seekers impact these individuals' lived experiences and their decision-making regarding return migration. A key policy argument for the removal of government assistance in the Netherlands is that refused asylum seekers will be more likely to accept and enter return procedures when they are not given these provisions. This paper contests this claim. Through 40 interviews with refused Afghan asylum seekers in the Netherlands, this paper first explores the embodied effects of state practices of dehumanisation for refused asylum seekers. Second, the paper demonstrates that, despite experiencing dehumanised conditions in the Netherlands, return to Afghanistan is strongly resisted by refused asylum seekers who consider return an impossible and unacceptable outcome. The analysis centres refused asylum seekers as a key actor within the geopolitics of return governance and highlights their resistance to state coercion. The results conclude that the human rights of refused asylum seekers should be protected and that the provision of basic welfare should be considered a separate issue from that of enforcing returns.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Apr 2022


  • refused asylum seeker
  • Afghanistan
  • The Netherlands
  • Dehumanisation

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