Contested citizenship and the politics of solidarity: Protesting Afghan deportations in the EU

Authors: Sameera Ibrahim*, University of Wisconsin - Madison
Topics: Political Geography
Keywords: Refugees, EU, deportation
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 42
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The terms and labels used to categorize those who cross international borders are not value-neutral, but are laden with political meanings around ‘worthiness,’ ‘deservingness,’ and ‘innocence.’ Beyond merely symbolic or bureaucratic representations of those seeking safety, these labels have material and life-altering consequences, determining who is ‘deserving’ of international protection and who is excluded from it. The case of Afghan refugees in the EU exposes the contradictory and confounding ways these discursive labels are circulated and deployed in asylum status determinations. While Afghans are the second largest refugee group in the world, they are subject to the most deportations in the EU. In response, several anti-deportation groups and networks have mobilized across the EU to protest Afghan deportations, co-opting the same political discourses around safety and deservingness. The reframing of these statist, top-down narratives around who can and cannot be granted asylum not only pushes back against xenophobic rhetoric and the EU’s anti-migrant policies, but also creates new forms solidarities with refugees.

This paper examines the solidarities and networks of care that have emerged between Afghan refugees and anti-deportation activists. How do these acts of political protest respond to the securitization and racialization of the EU migration regime? What new forms of solidarities and care emerge between EU citizens and refugees? What new forms of citizenship emerge among refugee groups themselves? In exploring these questions, this paper draws on and contributes to feminist migration scholarship centered on the intimate connections, embodied experiences, and resistance to violent border regimes.

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