Chapter 7: Behind public encounters: Uncertainty absorption in asylum decisions
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In this chapter, I investigate how asylum caseworkers in Norway dealt with uncertain country of origin information in decisions about asylum and how country experts, work organization and political attention affected the scope and exercise of discretion. In the process of determining who should be granted refugee status, discretionary authority appeared to be intimately connected to the ability to shape and settle interpretations of country information through a process of uncertainty absorption, which entailed that caseworkers extracted a set of clear-cut conclusions from complex and ambiguous information. Once caseworkers had settled the interpretations, uncertainties receded into the background, reducing doubts about the outcome. The opposite process was also observed, namely uncertainty expansion, which opened up for doubt and discretionary deliberation. In the literature on discretion and street-level bureaucracy, the relationship between uncertainty, doubt and discretion has received limited attention. Given the findings from this study, both uncertainty absorption and uncertainty expansion can be considered important elements in the exercise of discretion within street-level bureaucracies.

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