European geographies of refugee integration and response

Authors: Eszter Kovacs*, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge
Topics: Europe
Keywords: Refugee
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 2:40 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Galvez, , Marriott, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Since 2015, European states have struggled to manage growing numbers of asylum seekers arriving through south-east Europe. Geopolitical fragmentation in states’ acceptance of responsibility for refugees, combined with widespread sub-national austerity measures, states’ roles are increasingly cut back and minimised, leaving a burgeoning care and provisioning ‘gap’. This space is increasingly filled by voluntary and civil society actors, including refugee-refugee support networks, with uncertain pathways for both the long-term integration of refugees into European societies and the welfare state. Amidst such contestations in policy and practice, European cities offer patchworks of services by multi-scalar actors, redefining refugee politics and ideas of integration. This paper introduces and explores the methodological approach and preliminary findings from a collaborative and multi-sited qualitative study across four European cities – Athens, Berlin, Budapest, and Paris – where we investigate the diverse attempts, blockades, and everyday politics of “integration” and provisioning for recent refugees seeking asylum. We examine how diverse forms of provisioning have given rise to new modes of (albeit frequently uncoordinated) governance, and shifting meanings of asylum and integration. We reflect on the situated histories, discourses, and responses to the ‘refugee crisis’ within these cities and countries, offering a comparative perspective on how ‘care’ and responsibilities evolve and transform over time across sites. Through investigating the overlaps, complementarities and exclusions between governmental welfare and less institutionalised practices, we discuss the possibilities and limitations of studying refugees’ ability to survive, thrive and belong in particular cities, as either temporary migrants or “new” Europeans.

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