Copy and Paste

The Home Office delivers its destitution message on the cover page of the Asylum Support Application Form (ASF1): “under the terms of the Immigration and Asylum Act the Secretary of State may provide or arrange support for asylum seekers who appear to be destitute or are at risk of becoming so”.

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Naming the Secretary of State as a benefactor for the destitute is an odd moment, almost a slip of the tongue, in a text that is overwhelmingly general in its tone. The message quickly switches back to the language of the institution by using sentences that appear unauthored and that possibly already existed before, dug-up from a parent law in an act of legal archeology, to be reactivated and reconfigured for a new purpose. An act made dismally banal since the development of the Search, Copy and Paste and Save As functions, which allow documents to be produced and altered at pace, then thrusted out into the system.

Extract from the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999

Extract from the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999


And yet, no matter how quickly the transfer of information from one document to another is performed it remains an act, carried out by someone at some point in history. Fingers have moved across a keyboard to CTRL C, the thumb remaining on CTRL as the index finger moves to V and gently presses down; and a new writ is written. Its an act that takes place within, and is determined by, a culture. In this case, almost certainly a decision based on efficiency but also one that closes down space for ambiguity, interpretation and challenge.