Hostile Environments: Refugees, Asylum Seekers and The Politics of Loneliness

New Formations - ISSN 0950-2378
Volume 2023 Number 109

Hostile Environments: Refugees, Asylum Seekers and The Politics of Loneliness
Anna Maguire pages 47-61
DOI: 10.3898/NEWF:109.04.2023


Ben Sharrock’s Limbo (2020) follows the story of Omar, a Syrian refugee and musician who, carrying his oud, a stringed musical instrument, has managed to make his way to the UK. Omar has been stationed on a mythical Hebridean island while he waits to see whether he will be granted asylum. On this ‘purgatorial island’, asylum-seeking inhabitants escape only in Border Office police vans ready to deport them, long-awaited letters from the Home Office confirming their status, or through death.2 The film anticipates recent government policy to develop offshore asylum centres as well as echoing practices of dispersal that have long dominated resettlement efforts. It presents a ‘crisis of empathy’ rather than a crisis of refugees.

The tale of Omar and his fellow inhabitants on the island – all single men – is one of solitude. While the group of asylum seekers from all over the world are collected – in the small and inadequate bungalows where they are housed, in classes held in the village hall where they practice job interviews and socialising with British people, as they queue outside the island’s phone box to check on their status or contact family at home – their endeavour is singular. Omar treks across the island, his oud always in hand though he no longer plays it, his cheeks bitten by the wind. He watches videos of his life at 

SORRY - you are not registered as being permitted online access to the full text of this article

You have the following options:

  1. If you are viewing this via an institution or academic library you can ask that your institution takes out a Subscription to this journal.
  2. If you already have a Personal Subscription please login below

    Forgotten your username / password? Click here to locate

  3. Purchase an annual Personal Subscription
    PRINT + DIGITAL personal subscription (£45 / year)
    DIGITAL personal subscription (£30 / year)
    A Personal Subscription provides immediate access not only to the single article you are seeking, but also to all past and future articles in this journal up to the expiry of your annual (calendar year) subscription.
  4. Purchase immediate access to this single article (UK£7.00) - Buy article Coming Soon

To cite this article
Anna Maguire (2023) Hostile Environments: Refugees, Asylum Seekers and The Politics of Loneliness, New Formations, 2023(109), 47-61.

Share this