Rejected asylum seekers’ acts of citizenship: Dynamics of exclusion and inclusion of rejected asylum seekers in Switzerland

Authors: Claudia Wilopo*, University of Basel
Topics: Migration, Europe, Social Geography
Keywords: asylum seekers, borders, acts of citizenship, migration, refugees, Switzerland
Session Type: Paper


In the last decade policies on the ‘externalization of border control’ have been in the form of cooperation between EU and non-EU countries, such as the operation of the Dublin I and Dublin II treaties and the intensification of an “interior social control”.’ Since the so-called “summer of migration” in 2015, Switzerland has faced an increasing number of people whose asylum requests were denied. With no legal residence permit, rejected asylum seekers are excluded from their basic “right to have rights”. This limits everyday mobility, and social and political activities, leading to marginalization and a life under precarious living conditions. This paper uses an urban geography approach to show how bordering practices take place not only on a national but also on a local, urban scale affecting the everyday lives of rejected asylum seekers. Based on empirical data in the city of Zurich, it aims to contribute insights on the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion of rejected asylum seekers in Switzerland. It will be argued that their presence indicates that citizenship cannot be conceptualised only as a set of legal practices given by the state based on membership. Instead, citizenship could also be approached from a dynamic and praxeological perspective based on people’s lived practices. Based on Engin Isin’s concept of ‘acts of citizenship’, this approach opens up possibilities for a more dynamic and inclusive approach to citizenship to be deployed not only at various sites and scales but also by different people regardless of their legal status.

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