According to the UNHCR, in 2018 there are 68.5 million forcibly displaced people around the world, including 25.4 million refugees. The ongoing civil war in Syria, coupled with other conflicts across the Middle East and Africa, has been the catalyst for what is regarded as the worst humanitarian crisis since World War Two. Although 84% of the world’s refugees are hosted by developing countries across the global South, since 2015 over 1.5 million refugees have made their way to Europe through a variety of precarious land and sea routes. Proportionally, the number of refugees in Europe pales in comparison with other host countries such as Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Kenya. And yet since 2015, the ‘refugee crisis’ narrative has persisted throughout Europe and raises questions for researchers and practitioners alike. Refugees pass through registration offices, undertake compulsory Skype interviews and spend months – if not years – waiting: in refugee camps (including the infamous Calais ‘Jungle’), in detention centres along the ‘frontiers’ of Europe, on Greek Islands or within Hungarian ‘transit zones’. While asylum claimants wait for their claims to be approved or denied, the places and spaces of humanitarian provision are no longer within enclosed camps and centres, but rather within the city itself.
This project is a timely opportunity to reflect on and highlight the diverse political and humanitarian responses to human displacement that have become a central political issue within the European Union at this moment. Given that the number of people seeking asylum in Europe has been decreasing since 2015, we face today a political crisis as much as we do a so-called migration one. Drawing on our research “Temporary migrants or new European citizens?
Geographies of integration and responses between camps and the city”, supported by the British Academy’s Tackling the UK’s International Challenges Programme, we reflect on the four European capitals where we have spent time at different intervals over the last 12 months. Whether ‘transient’ or ‘arrival’ cities (and everything in between), they reflect the face-off between politics of indifference, politics of solidarity, and politics of expulsion, and how these contestations play out in urban environments.
In the spirit of collaborative and multi-sited qualitative research across four European cities – Athens, Berlin, Budapest, and Paris – this zine assembles notes, reflections, sketches, insights, photos and snapshots from our diverse project community of research participants and collaborators. Collectively, we investigate the diverse attempts, blockades, and everyday politics of “integration” and provisioning for recent refugees seeking asylum, and we try to capture recent moods and atmospheres within these capitals. We examine how diverse forms of provisioning have given rise to new modes of sometimes fragmented and ad hoc governance, and shifting meanings of asylum and integration.
This collection offers a window into particular moments and spaces of humanitarian and urban life. These are situated histories, discourses, and responses to the ‘refugee crisis’ within these cities and countries, offering a multi-sited perspective on how ‘care’ and responsibilities evolve and transform over time throughout Europe. Through investigating the overlaps, complementarities and exclusions between governmental welfare and less institutionalised practices, this collection also reveals the possibilities and challenges of studying refugees’ ability to survive, thrive and belong in particular cities, as either temporary migrants or “new” Europeans.