How has the prominent and contentious international issue of asylum been debated at a local level; what local variations are there and why? This paper presents analysis of local newspapers and interviews with press workers for Cardiff and Leeds, two UK case study locations that have received asylum seekers through the dispersal policy. The case studies show that asylum is framed and constructed differently by the local press in different places with implications for reactions to asylum seekers and community cohesion. The relations between local press and community are explored as explanations for varying discourses. It is found that the way the local press represents and constructs local identity sets the framework for reactions to dispersal; and that the operation of the local press within local networks of power and information shapes the extent to which established discourses can be challenged. For Cardiff, the localising of asylum through the dispersal policy created an opportunity for local negotiation of difference in the context of the national moral panic on asylum.