The circuits of financial-humanitarianism: Refugees’ destitution and biopolitical value in Greece.

Authors: Martina Tazzioli*, Swansea University, Glenda Garelli, DePaul University
Topics: Migration, Human Rights, Europe
Keywords: cash assistance, humanitarian aid, refugees, cards, UNHCR, Greece
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Studio 8, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This presentation focuses on financial-humanitarianism in the field of refugee governmentality, i.e., the implementation of financial tools for governing, controlling and providing aid for asylum seekers. Our focus is on Greece, that is the first European country where the European Union (in cooperation with UNHCR) launched a Refugee Cash Assistance Program, which consists in delivering aid to asylum seekers through debit cards distributed in reception centers and hotspots. Conceived by refugees as a transit point en route to other European countries, Greece has become a place of protracted confinement for migrants after the implementation of the EU-Turkey Deal. In this context, UNHCR presents the cards as tools that foster “dignity and self-reliance of asylum seekers in Greece.” Our argument is that far from responding to the logic of financial inclusion, this card-based Refugee Cash Assistance program works as a system for temporarily governing refugee populations in transit and is based on highly exclusionary criteria. The presentation examines the specific effects of destitution that are generated through financial-humanitarianism, focusing on two main aspects: first, the modes of production and extraction of biopolitical value that stem from the financialization of refugee control; second, the ways in which financial-humanitarianism shapes refugees both individually and as transient populations. Financial-humanitarianism, we argue, allows mapping processes of capitalization over migrants’ bodies that go beyond the commodification and exploitation of their labor.

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