Camps 2 Cities Project

Our Approach

Our project involves a multi-sited and collaborative study across 4 cities that reflect the different points of transience/waiting/arrival on the migrant ‘trail’, but also the diversity of European histories of migration and the range of contemporary responses to this so-called crisis.

Since 2015, when a concentration of refugees arrived at the doorstep of various European states, mainstream discourses have tended to emphasize a ‘crisis’ response. This is reflected amongst humanitarian agencies who have been in ‘emergency response mode’ (“on est dans l’urgence ici” dixit Utopia56). However throughout the course of our fieldwork in each site, we have seen a transition and associated panic regarding resources, personnel and stamina.

At first, the ‘emergency mode’ was reflected in the enthusiasm and mobilization on the part of an army of passionate volunteers, some of whom have moved from Calais to Porte de la Chapelle to Athens. Over time, it has become clear that the real ‘work’ is only just beginning, and the relationship between temporary refugee shelters and urban settings raises crucial questions for policy and research.

And yet, there is a lack of explicit policy and practical linkages between international agencies and funds, such as UNHCR and the EU’s Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG-ECHO) other traditional humanitarian agencies and urban planners.

  • What is the transition and relationship between refugee ‘camps’ and ‘the city’ when spaces of dwelling, waiting and care are blurred as spaces of carceral, detention, or humanitarian responses, where the abilities of state agencies and civil actors are similarly caught between rapidly shifting, reactive and populist demands?
  • What are the connections between geographies of refugee migration and processes of urbanization?
  • How are cities shaped by as well as shaping the humanitarian response to temporary migrants?

Our research is multi-sited to acknowledge the geographical interlinkages between migrant mobilities and aspirations in Europe, and the importance of thinking across cities facing similar challenges while recognising highly varied urban migrant-scapes and migrant legacies .

Each of the researchers are focusing on 2 cities, roughly one field trip per month, to trace the continuity and rapidly changing dynamics on the ground, and we focus on particular pockets of the city where there has been a confluence of refugee settlement and/or humanitarian activity, and/or police/state evictions.

We have incorporated volunteer-research as a key point of entry. Averaging one trip a month over the past 12 months, we have spent time with and interviewed volunteer organisations in all sites but especially in Paris and Athens where there are volunteer hubs that we’ve been able to easily plug into during each visit, individuals working at city council (Paris), teachers and school administration (Berlin) who are dealing with rapidly changing rules around ‘welcome classes’ for new migrants, social workers who are providing vital information to refugees as they navigate the state beaurocracies (Berlin and Budapest), and a local networks of refugees (from those still queuing for daily free meals in Paris and Athens around humanitarian centres) to those now integrated in asylum claim process (Hungary and Berlin).