This article draws on a photo-voice project carried out in the North West, UK, with 30 members of the asylum seeker and refugee population. The findings explore participants' experiences of ‘third places’ (for example, public green space and libraries), that were distinctly set apart from the domestic dwelling (first places), and institutional sites of exclusion, for example, immigration reporting centres (second places). These third places became affective sanctuaries that allowed for emotional retreat in the midst of the UK's exclusionary and repressive asylum regime. Moreover, for this group third places were places where participants could (re)connect with identities beyond the refugee label, and where cultural and transnational ties could be fostered. It is important that policy makers do not overlook the significance of third places for the wellbeing of community members, particularly asylum seeker and refugee populations.