Germany

The study in Germany focused on refugees’ journeys to Europe and people’s transnational networks. More than 70 people were interviewed for the study led by BICC (Bonn International Centre of Conflict Studies).

TRAFIG at the “In Dialogue” Symposium organised by Indiana University

On 18/19 March 2022, colleagues involved in the TRAFIG project contribute to Indiana University’s “In Dialogue” Symposium, which focusses on transnational dynamics and repercussions of the movement of displaced peoples between Africa and Europe. In a session on “Constrained transnationalism: Experiences of displacement and ongoing limbo between Africa and Europe” Catherina Wilson (Leiden University), Janemary Ruhundwa (Dignity Kwanza), Benjamin Etzold (BICC), Markus Rudolf (BICC), Simone Christ (formerly BICC) and Pietro Cingolani (FIERI) will share insights from TRAFIG research in Tanzania, Ethiopia, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany.

Meet TRAFIG Team member Simone Christ

Meet TRAFIG Team member Simone Christ

Meet Simone Christ, who managed the TRAFIG fieldwork in Germany implemented by the Bonn International Center for Conflict Studies (BICC), and find out more about her experience, her motivation and her work in the TRAFIG project.

Four years ago, we at BICC, in collaboration with our partners, responded to a call by the European Union asking for alternative solutions and innovative ideas for tackling protracted displacement. In our previous research projects on displacement, we saw how people relied on their own resources—particularly connectivity and mobility—to escape protracted displacement despite adverse and constraining conditions. This is where we wanted to start: How can displaced people use mobility and connectivity as resources to get out of the precarious living conditions and the enduring situation of limbo they experience in protracted displacement? Four years later, I can now look at these aspects from the perspective of refugees in Germany, as I led the German case study ... Read more

TRAFIG practice note no. 10

TRAFIG practice note no. 10

Transnational lives are not the exception but rather a reality of displaced peoples’ everyday lives. This became obvious in the TRAFIG research with refugees in Germany, which was based on a figurational approach to better understand their situation and how they overcome protracted displacement. By focussing on the social constellations in displacement, a figurational approach can offer practitioners a new way to identify how to best support displaced people.

Everyone belongs to multiple social constellations or ‘figurations’. In the TRAFIG research in Germany, which is presented in TRAFIG working paper no. 10, family figurations of displaced persons were of particular importance, as decisively shape their everyday lives—particularly when refugees have been separated from close family members, and/or when kin networks are dispersed across multiple countries. Read more

TRAFIG policy brief no. 6

TRAFIG policy brief no. 6

Moving on

How easing mobility restrictions within Europe can help forced migrants rebuild their lives

Free movement within the Schengen area is a cornerstone of European integration – and indeed an essential part of the European way of life. However, this freedom of movement is limited for forcibly displaced people residing within the European Union (EU). European asylum systems are designed to suppress mobility, which actually prevents many asylum seekers from finding a ‘durable solution’. In contrast, enabling legal mobility within and across EU countries, when paired with access to labour markets and ensuring the right to family life, can open new opportunities for forced migrants to settle into receiving communities and truly rebuild their lives. Read more

TRAFIG working paper no. 10

TRAFIG working paper no. 10

Figurations of Displacement in and beyond Germany

Empirical findings and reflections on mobility and translocal connections of refugees living in Germany

This working paper presents the findings of the empirical research on the role of connectivity and mobility for displaced people in Germany in the framework of the TRAFIG project. The findings are based on qualitative fieldwork in Germany, with 73 qualitative interviews with displaced people and experts in the field.

This working paper uses a figurational perspective; figurations are characterised as dynamic social constellations which emerge in the context of displacement between displaced people and state and other actors at the local, translocal and transnational scale. This working paper discusses the figurations of displacement in which refugees in Germany are embedded.

Our analysis demonstrates the importance of family figurations in displacement, among them the “figuration of a transnationally separated family”, “figuration of the jointly displaced family”, or the “figuration of the transnationally extended family”. Family figurations are deeply intertwined with local and transnational bureaucratic figurations, which structure the experiences of refugees. Bureaucratic figurations evolve with respect to German authorities, those of the countries of origin and other local actors. Despite the significance of family figurations, connectivity is not restricted to it. Refugees are also connected within non-kin figurations, such as within an “ethnic network-based” or “volunteer-refugee” figuration.

The analytical category of figurations provides valuable insights into how displaced people embedded in certain social constellations can best be supported. It shows that transnational life is a reality for displaced persons and an integral part of their everyday lives. As the German case demonstrates, displaced people use mobility and connectivity as a way out of protracted displacement.

Authors: Simone Christ, Benjamin Etzold, Gizem Güzelant, Mara Puers, David Steffens, Philipp Themann, Maarit Thiem

Cite as: Christ, S. et al. (2021). Figurations of Displacement in and beyond Germany—Empirical findings and reflections on mobility and translocal connections of refugees living in Germany (TRAFIG working paper no. 10). Bonn: BICC. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.5841892

You can download TRAFIG working paper no. 10 here.

Mobility and agency in protracted displacement

Mobility and agency in protracted displacement

Available in English, French and Arabic

The latest issue of the Forced Migration Review includes a special feature on mobility and agency for those living in protracted displacement, produced in collaboration with the TRAFIG project. Read more

  • Understanding the dynamics of protracted displacement
  • Mobility dynamics in protracted displacement: Eritreans and Congolese on the move
  • Family networks and Syrian refugees’ mobility aspirations
  • ‘Constrained mobility’: a feature in protracted displacement in Greece and Italy
  • Humanitarian Admission Programmes: how networks enable mobility in contexts of protracted displacement
Forced migration as a fragmented process: (Im)mobility in Una-Sana Canton, Bosnia

Forced migration as a fragmented process: (Im)mobility in Una-Sana Canton, Bosnia

Insights from field research at the EU external border in Bosnia and Herzegovina

by Philipp Themann

The Bosnian Canton Una-Sana at the European Union's external border is currently the end of the line for thousands of refugees. With the devastating fire in Camp Lipa just before Christmas, their already precarious situation has become even worse. Even though the humanitarian catastrophe at the border is currently generating a comparatively high interest of the media, no adequate and winterised accommodation for the displaced has yet been found. Despite the warnings of numerous human rights organisations, EU member states have not been able to bring themselves to grant displaced persons safe entry and an examination of their applications for asylum. Some 1,000 people are now living in the former Camp Lipa in winter without shelter, sufficient food, clothing and medical care- not to speak of the many hundreds of people in the ruins and woodlands around the two towns of Bihać and Velika Kladuša. This blog gives an insight into the situation there.

Una-Sana as a space of displacement

Una-Sana Canton is situated in the north-west of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in direct proximity to the Croatian border. The geographical closeness to the EU’s external border and the infrastructural connections make it an ideal starting point for the onward journey of many displaced people to the European Union. This is why the cities of Bihać and Velica Kladuša have been major transit points for refugees on their way to the European Union for several years. Due to the intensified border protection and the illegal push-backs of the Croatian border police, Una-Sana has also become a place where displaced people are forced to stay on. In this way, they are deprived of their chance and right to apply for asylum once they have crossed the border.

In the Canton, forced migrants can be found 1) in central, state-recognised camps, 2) in the periphery of the towns in larger mutually supportive groups in empty houses, industrial buildings, so-called squats or in wooded surroundings of the towns, so-called jungle camps, 3) in various localities in smaller mutually supportive groups in the immediate vicinity to the Croatian border (for instance just before they cross the border) or in some few cases 4) hidden in private houses by Bosnian citizens.

The freedom of movement of these forced migrants is extremely limited as a result of police repression by Bosnian authorities and their being moved to official and informal shelters. Besides police repression, lacking resources to meet (basic) needs and the numerous push-backs by Croatian border officials exacerbate this problem.

Official and informal shelter structure A: Burnt-down Camp Lipa, B: Large squat: Collapsed factory building, C: Smaller squat: Burnt-out house, D: Jungle camp (pictures: Philipp Themann)

(Im)mobility between state-recognised camps, informal squats and the internalised external border of the European Union

In the burned-down Camp Lipa, the precarious living and weather conditions, the remoteness of the camp and lack of alternative housing have led to the fact that residents of the camp have nowhere to go and are increasingly isolated from the rest of the world. This manifests itself, for example, in the fact that some people no longer have the strength to walk longer distances in freezing temperatures and snowfall to change from one place to another or to run away from border police when trying to cross the border.

  • “We sleep in a handmade shelter, because there was no other place to live (in the burned-out Camp Lipa). Only half bread and one canned meat and half liter water. For one day. (…) now we do not have energy that we can run. Because of the hunger. The hunger destroyed everything” (Interview 1, male, 30, Afghanistan).

As the holding capacity of the few official camps in Una-Sana is not sufficient to accommodate all, an informal, highly makeshift housing infrastructure has developed in recent years. This includes empty and dilapidated factory halls or uninhabited houses, so-called squats, where refugees organise themselves in separate, autonomous mutually supportive groups. Depending on the size of the building and the season, several hundreds of individuals can live in different rooms and halls of a squat. The inhabitants of such squats are also subject to protracted immobilising forces, determined mainly by the precarious socio-economic living conditions and police repression.

Some refugees report, for instance, that because of arbitrary controls by Bosnian police officers, they cannot move in public spaces or along roads. They are often denied access to public facilities, supermarkets or hospitals. As a result, they generally only leave their informal housing when they intend to cross the border or when they go to get food at night, which is mainly distributed by (criminalised) volunteers. As most squats are in the immediate vicinity of the towns or even in the town centre, their inhabitants are evidently exposed to the permanent danger of being held by Bosnian police officers and deported to Camp Lipa, which is 25 km away even though there is no space for them.

  • “They (Bosnian police officers) catch us, sometimes they beat us and then (…) they push us back to Camp Lipa. (…). When IOM (camp authority) recognise that you don’t have ID-Card (proof of living in the camp) they told you ‘leave the Camp, go outside' in the midnight, then we have to walk 4 1/2 hours back in the city” (Interview 2, male, 25, Pakistan).

The combination of police push-backs to the remote camp and being sent away by the camp authority forces refugees to involuntary mobility between official and informal housing infrastructure. Around the towns, they use a network of informal and memorised pathways:

  • „We know the way, we go through the forests (due to police controls at public access roadways), there is a little way we cross (beaten paths). (…) Then we come back to main road, if there is no police, and try again to reach here (squat near the city centre)” (Interview 2, male, 25, Pakistan).

Besides the policy of repression in the Una-Sana described above, refugees continue to be hindered in their movement in the Croatian border area. According to the displaced, the problem is not to cross the EU’s external border but to stay on the other side for good. The internalisation of the border seems to extend far into Croatia itself, where refugees are apprehended, deported and forced from the Schengen area back to Bosnia. In this context, many displaced persons report ‘chain push-backs’ with the informal cooperation of Italian, Slovenian and Croatian border officials. The descriptions of the at times violent push-backs are quite drastic in some cases.

  • “I tried ten times (to cross the border into the EU). Two times I was deported from Triest (italian city near the Slovenian border) (…) They (border police) catch us in the night, the people were sleeping and don’t recognize that police come. The (Croatian) police beat us everywhere, with sticks, kicks, tear gas and push us back to the Bosnian border. (…) When I see they (Croatian border police) going to beat me, I try to protect my face and body. (…) We don't fight back (…) they might get angrier” (Interview 3, male, 19, Pakistan).

Besides the violent assaults, some Croatian border officials seem to confiscate the personal belongings of the refugees:

  • “Croatia police take our sleeping bags, money, mobiles, shoes, jackets, everything they take. I don’t know what they doing with the mobiles and money, but they burn the jackets, bags and shoes in a fire near to the (…) border” (Interview 3, male, 19, Pakistan).

These violent push backs by Croatian border officials and the taking away of personal items contribute greatly to the protracted immobilisation of forced migrants in Una-Sana. Under the precarious socio-economic conditions, it usually takes them some weeks or months to equip themselves for a new attempt at crossing the border. For instance, many reported that they have been stuck in Una-Sana for one to two years and were trying to cross and then to stay on the other side of the border every two months on average, weather permitting.

The findings from this field research indicate that the immobilisation of refugees and their precarious socio-economic living conditions in predominantly informal housing infrastructures is mainly caused by the EU border regime and respective state-organised orders of violence.

The field research took place in the framework of a cooperation with BICC and the TRAFIG project and the data collection for my Master’s thesis at the University of Bonn’s Geography Department between 29 December 2020 and 9 January 2021.The research was made possible by the German association "Kölner Spendenkonvoi e.V.".

The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the TRAFIG Consortium or the European Commission (EC). TRAFIG is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.

Insights from TRAFIG field work in Germany

Insights from TRAFIG field work in Germany

By Simone Christ

The German research team

Germany is one of the destination countries in western Europe for people who have to flee from their homes. In BICC’s fieldwork in Germany that we are responsible for in the project, we use different qualitative methods: semi-structured interviews, biographic interviews, expert interviews and focus group discussions. After we had to postpone fieldwork due to the COVID-19 pandemic, empirical fieldwork in Germany started in August again.

The German research team consists of the BICC staff members Simone Christ (responsible for the TRAFIG field research in Germany), Benjamin Etzold (TRAFIG scientific coordinator), Maarit Thiem (TRAFIG project coordinator), Gizem Güzelant (student assistant in TRAFIG who is currently writing her master’s thesis at the University of Bonn within the TRAFIG project), and four students—Mara Puers (University of Cologne), Juliette Simon (University of Trier), David Steffens (University of Trier), and Philipp Themann (University of Bonn)—who are going to write their master’s thesis related to the TRAFIG project.

Unexpected challenges: Fieldwork and COVID-19

Even though we were able to resume field research face-to-face from summer onwards, this is now very different from our usual fieldwork experience. Whereas previously, when conducting field research with refugees in Germany, we got to know refugees in welcome cafés in the shelters or accompanied them to their appointments at different agencies; in a nutshell, we were able to immerse ourselves into the field. With COVID-19, all this is no longer possible. Our concern now is to ensure that we do not put our respondents and ourselves at risk and to strictly follow the hygiene standards. Access to the field is thus proving to be much more difficult than it was before.

Another challenge to every research situation with refugees is that there is a power difference between us, the privileged researchers, and our interviewees, most of whom are in vulnerable situations. This power imbalance is even more striking in this current health crisis, as, for example, some of our interviewees still live in refugee shelters with shared rooms, bathrooms, and kitchen, where keeping a physical distance is just not possible.

Preliminary findings

Protracted displacement in Germany?

The term protracted displacement is usually used in the context of displacement in the Global South. Can we also speak of this in western Europe? Based on our research, we argue that protracted displacement also exists in Germany. Refugees whose asylum application is rejected but who cannot return usually receive a temporary suspension of deportation; they are tolerated in Germany. Very often, this situation lasts for many years. These people are de facto excluded from any integration measures such as language courses or access to the labour market. The tolerated stay becomes protracted, hopelessness and legal insecurity determine their everyday lives for many years.

Feben is one of them. Feben is a young woman from Eritrea whom I met several weeks ago. Her asylum application was rejected, but she has a tolerated stay. For three years already, she has been living in limbo—she does not have a work permit and cannot do anything else than waiting. Feben tried hard to get a work permit by approaching the foreigners’ registration office, yet she has been unsuccessful. She told me:

"I would like to learn, do an apprenticeship and live independently. I do not want to sit like a poor woman only at home. I am young, I have strength, I want to work. Now I am like an old woman, sitting at home, getting only money from social services. I asked for a work permit a thousand times, but the social security office said I shouldn't come here anymore.“

Container shelter in NRW, Germany. Photo: Simone Christ, BICC

Mobility

The mobility of refugees in Germany largely depends on the legal status they have. Under the Geneva Convention, recognised refugees can travel freely, except for their return to their country of origin. Nevertheless, they are facing mobility restrictions—In Germany, they are not allowed to move from one federal state to the other within the first three years. Asylum applicants or people whose deportation is suspended must even ask the foreigners’ registration office for permission to leave their municipality.

This can lead to paradoxical situations, such as in the case of Mehmet: Mehmet found a well-paid job that corresponds to his qualifications within a relatively short time. However, he is assigned to a refugee shelter in a small town in North Rhine-Westphalia, around 150 km away from the city where he found the job. As his asylum application is still pending, he is not allowed to move there, even though the foreigners’ registration office allowed him to take up this job.

Connectivity

The interviews conducted so far show that among refugees there are different degrees of connectedness: Some have large networks; others’ networks are disrupted. Asma, a woman from Syria, has built up local and transnational network contacts. When Asma arrived five years ago, she befriended a German woman. As her daughter goes to kindergarten, she got to know some of the other children’s mothers. Besides her local contacts, Asma also depends on her transnational network for support. Having had a stillbirth, Asma is pregnant again. Her family, in particular her mother and her two sisters in Syria, are her source of transnational emotional support. Whenever Asma has an appointment at her gynecologist’s, they think of her. Asma reports: “They all have my doctoral appointments in their calendars. After the appointment, when I go home, I contact my mother and my sisters.”

At the other end of the spectrum is Nadim, a young man from Syria. Even though he learnt German quickly and tried hard to get to know other people here in Germany, he did not succeed. Nadim feels lonely: “No one has visited me at home for two years.” He has also lost all connections with his former friends in Syria. It is only his core family, his sister in Germany and his parents in Syria, with whom he keeps contact.

The relation between mobility and connectivity: The case of family reunification

The interlinkage between mobility and connectivity becomes apparent in the case of a family reunification. A family reunification enables refugees stuck in countries of first reception or transit countries to be mobile by building on familial connectivity. Only members of the core family are entitled to family reunification. Even though recognised refugees have the right to privileged family reunification, it is often a long-lasting and emotionally very demanding procedure.

Between 2016 and 2018, people with subsidiary protection were no longer allowed to enjoy mobility through family reunification, and to-date, a maximum of 1,000 people per month can apply for reunification. Two years may seem short. But what about children who are separated from their parents for years? What is the emotional cost of having to maintain parent-child relationships only via WhatsApp?

The case of Dahab from Eritrea tells us about the burdens of a protracted and undetermined family reunification process. Her two children who are under-age live as refugees in Ethiopia. Dahab applied for privileged family reunification back in 2016. But the road to family reunification has been and continues to be very rocky— bureaucratic hurdles have so far prevented Dahab’s children from joining their mother in Germany.

In April 2020, the children had an appointment at the German embassy to apply for a visa. But as a consequence of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the appointment was cancelled, and the children have so far not received an alternative appointment. Just a few days before I started writing this blog post, a violent conflict began in northern Ethiopia, where Dahab’s children live. The region is blocked, and reliant information is missing. Dahab has been trying to get in touch with her children, yet unsuccessfully. After having waited for so many years, the situation has become even worse: Besides the difficult situation around the mobility of her children to Germany, now her connectivity with her children has also been disrupted.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the TRAFIG Consortium or the European Commission (EC). TRAFIG is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.

Asylum reception during the pandemic: How can systems become more resilient?

Asylum reception during the pandemic: How can systems become more resilient?

By Caitlin Katsiaficas and Martin Wagner, ICMPD

The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a number of far-reaching impacts on daily life across Europe, and asylum systems are no exception. With the outbreak, the accommodation of applicants and beneficiaries of international protection in reception facilities has posed several concerns related to the health and care of both residents and staff which have spurred a host of changes across European reception systems and facilities – with important implications for residents. Reception is a key first step in providing an effective solution to displacement for asylum seekers in Europe. It is not only part of a state’s obligation to provide protection and access to asylum, it is also the first entry point into receiving societies, providing orientation, accommodation and other key introductory services. Covid-19 has had a significant impact on both the functioning of reception systems and facilities and on the lives of asylum seekers and refugees in reception.

Immobility perpetuates insecurity and a life in ‘limbo’

Social distancing is a huge challenge in centralised accommodation, putting vulnerable individuals particularly at risk. Additionally, the pandemic has shifted attention away from other health issues, including mental health, which may be exacerbated by the pandemic. But beyond (the more obvious) health concerns, the pandemic has also presented a range of other challenges for residents. In many cases, activities such as language classes and internships have been suspended, disrupting not only residents’ routines but also their longer-term integration prospects (a challenge compounded by economic downturn and rising unemployment in receiving societies). Also important to integration and social cohesion are relationships between asylum seekers and refugees and receiving communities – but these have at times soured, worsened by fears related to the pandemic’s spread. Meanwhile, mobility restrictions and public health concerns have also led some systems to pause exits from reception, leading to longer waiting periods in legal insecurity and potential negative mental health effects for residents. However, pushing people out of reception can also lead to challenges, especially when finding a new apartment or a job is made even more difficult by the pandemic. Covid-19 has therefore had shorter- and longer-term implications for residents, of which a prolonged sense of insecurity is a central feature.

“Every emergency, when you are not prepared, exposes the weakness of the system.” Apostolos Veizis, Médecins Sans Frontières Greece

Reflecting on recent developments, participants in a TRAFIG expert meeting identified the following lessons learnt thus far for strengthening the response of reception systems:

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When systems operate below full capacity there is more flexibility to respond to external shocks, including by creating isolation spaces and moving particularly vulnerable persons to apartments.
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The provision of information – that is translated and disseminated widely, including alongside local government and community partners – is critical to virus prevention and mitigation.
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Technology can be leveraged to provide opportunities for residents to engage digitally, including by participating in integration activities and accessing medical care.
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Strong communication with mayors and host societies is important to avoiding a downturn in public opinion toward refugees. Intentional efforts to foster good relations with local communities and shape narratives can help prevent a backlash against reception centres or the scapegoating of residents.
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While Covid-19 is understandably the primary health focus right now, policymakers and practitioners should be thinking about physical and mental health and wellbeing more widely and developing the capacity to address other health issues that also remain important.
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Arrival and reception should not be separated from the next steps; coordinated policies and programs are needed to ensure a smooth transition out of reception and foster positive integration outcomes.

“There will be a new normal after Covid-19, within reception systems as well as the broader asylum system.” -- Michael Kegels, Fedasil, Belgium

Strategic communication, technology and flexibility as potential game changers

While national contexts differ, Covid-19 has had important similarities in its impact on the lives of those in reception across Europe. And although the health situation in Europe has improved, concerns about local outbreaks or a second wave remain and the wait for a vaccine continues. Beyond health concerns, one of the largest impacts of the pandemic has been an intensified and prolonged sense of limbo for residents. Furthermore, there is a danger that imposed changes like limited access to the territory, asylum procedure or reception will not be fully rescinded but instead may be prolonged even under an improved health environment to serve a longer-term political strategy. With Covid-19 the second major shock to reception (and asylum) systems in the past five years, the pandemic provides an important opportunity to reflect and find ways forward to strengthen this key phase in providing durable solutions. Strategic communication efforts and the creative use of technology, combined with increased system flexibility, are some potential game changers that can be leveraged to make reception systems more resilient going forward and to better support residents as they wait to settle in their new communities.

This blog post is inspired by a TRAFIG meeting of reception experts from Belgium, Germany, Greece and Italy held in June 2020. The discussion of the impact of Covid-19 on reception systems and residents touched upon several of TRAFIG’s central themes, namely 1) the complexity of navigating within aid and asylum governance regimes; 2) living in limbo, including the legal and psychological insecurity and immobility that it entails; and 3) the importance of fostering good relations between displaced persons and hosts.

The pictures show Covid-19 adaptation measures in an asylum reception facility in Belgium. Photos courtesy of Fedasil, Belgium.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the TRAFIG Consortium or the European Commission (EC). TRAFIG is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.

Asylum reception during a pandemic

The impact of Covid-19 restrictions on the lives of applicants and beneficiaries of international protection in reception in select European countries

Private stakeholder meeting 9 June 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a number of far-reaching impacts on daily life across Europe, and asylum systems are no exception. In this context, the accommodation of applicants and beneficiaries of international protection in reception settings poses many concerns related to the health and care of residents and staff. Since the outbreak, a variety of measures have been put in place in different reception systems and centres, including restrictions on movement, quarantines, the pausing of education- and work-related activities, and bans on or separate accommodation for new arrivals. The consequences of such measures to halt the pandemic’s spread also pose a concern for the wellbeing and integration of this population.

With reception a key first step in providing an effective solution to displacement – and one that has come under increased stress since the 2015-2016 spike in arrivals and now the Covid-19 pandemic – participants in this expert meeting exchanged experiences, challenges and good practices and examined the impacts of recent developments on both reception systems and those in reception facilities.

Read more about it here

TRAFIG working paper no. 3

TRAFIG working paper no. 3

Governing protracted displacement

An analysis across global, regional and domestic contexts

This working paper explores the governance of protracted displacement across global, regional and domestic levels in the context of the project “Transnational Figurations of Displacement” (TRAFIG). The multiple contemporary crises that have led to forced displacement show not only the limits of a tight definition of ‘refugee’, but also highlight the gaps in international protection frameworks. A significant number of those forcibly displaced are in protracted displacement situations.

This paper is an effort to make sense of the legislative and policy frameworks of protection that apply globally, regionally and domestically, and the way in which these frameworks facilitate or hinder solutions for people in protracted displacement. We evaluate how these frameworks contribute (directly or indirectly) to resolving or creating protracted displacement, assess how they contribute to relevant policy developments and identify engagement trends and (unintended) effects. Along the way, we also draw comparative insights across different global, regional and domestic levels, including eight different countries that host large groups of displaced people and are the focus of the TRAFIG project: Greece, Germany and Italy in Europe; Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Tanzania in Africa; and Jordan and Pakistan in Asia.

We explore some selected gaps in the current systems of governance of displacement, while concentrating on three key perspectives: governing protection, exercising rights and accessing services, and mobility and transnational dimensions of displacement. We conclude with ten key messages regarding the shortcomings of the current governance system of displacement. They highlight the need for stronger stakeholder collaboration, integration of global and local policies, enhanced focus on IDPs, investment in progressive regional policies, redesign of EU policies to avoid promotion of protracted displacement, greater ownership of processes and resources, de-politicisation of displacement policies, alignment of durable solutions with development-oriented interventions, realisation of the development potential of refugee integration. They also focus on mobility and translocal connectivity as a fourth durable solution to protracted displacement.

Keywords: Protracted displacement; protracted refugee situations; refugees; IDPs; governance; mobility; social integration; economic impact

Authors: Nuno Ferreira, Carolien Jacobs, Pamela Kea, Maegan Hendow, Marion Noack, Martin Wagner, Fekadu Adugna, Ali M. Alodat, Tekalign Ayalew, Benjamin Etzold, Camilla Fogli, Thomas, Goumenos, Panos Hatziprokopiou, Md. Mudassar Javed, Khoti C. Kamanga, Albert Kraler, Fawwaz A. Momani, Emanuela Roman

Cite as: Ferreira, N. et al. (2020). Governing protracted displacement: An analysis across global, regional and domestic contexts (TRAFIG working paper 3). Bonn: BICC. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.5841848

You can download TRAFIG working paper no. 3 here.

TRAFIG methodological workshop in Italy: meet the Italian team

TRAFIG methodological workshop in Italy: meet the Italian team

The preparation of the European part of the TRAFIG fieldwork started with a workshop held in Torino, Italy on 21-22 October 2019. The workshop was organised and hosted by the Forum of International and European Research on Immigration (FIERI) – leader of TRAFIG Work Package 6, which investigates protracted displacement in Europe. The whole FIERI team involved in the TRAFIG project participated in the workshop together with the project coordinator Benjamin Etzold from BICC (Germany). In addition, Panos Hatziprokopiou and Eva Papatzani from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece) – the other WP6 partner – participated via Skype on the first day of the workshop.

The workshop started with an introductory presentation by Benjamin Etzold on the general aspects and conceptual premises of the project. An update on the progress of fieldwork in countries in the Middle East/Asia and Africa followed the introduction. Ferruccio Pastore presented a methodological note prepared by the FIERI team for WP6, a plan for the Italian fieldwork and some preliminary reflections on how this could coordinate with fieldwork in Greece and Germany. Participants had a lively discussion on the overall scientific goals and overarching research questions of the project, and the need to adapt the general TRAFIG methodology to the European and national contexts. Part of the workshop was devoted to an in-depth analysis of different research tools, and to discussing methodological issues and ethical challenges that researchers may face in the field.

The TRAFIG workshop in Torino was a great opportunity to develop the overarching TRAFIG research design further. The team was able to adapt the TRAFIG research questions, methodological tools, interview forms and fieldwork plans to the European context in a joint effort involving the Italian, Greek and German partners. Having finalised the methodological aspects, the Italian team is now ready to go to the field and start what promises to be an amazing research! The Italian TRAFIG team is an interdisciplinary group of scholars with different backgrounds (sociology, anthropology, political science and law). The team members bring in long-standing expertise in conducting qualitative research with forced migrants across Italy and in other European countries. The TRAFIG research will certainly benefit from the differentiated skills and disciplinary approaches characterising the Italian team.

Participants of the FIERI workshop

The members of the Italian team are:

  • back row in the picture: Irene Ponzo and Ferruccio Pastore, Deputy Director and Director of FIERI, respectively; and
  • front row in the picture, from the left to the right: Giuseppe Grimaldi (Frontiera Sud, FIERI), Emanuela Roman (FIERI), Milena Belloni (University of Trento, FIERI) and Pietro Cingolani (FIERI, University of Torino) – in this picture together with Benjamin Etzold (in the middle).

By Emanuela Roman, FIERI

TRAFIG Panel at final CEASAVAL Conference

TRAFIG Panel at final CEASAVAL Conference

Is there protracted displacement in the European Union?

… asked Albert Kraler, partner of the TRAFIG consortium at the CEASEVAL Project Final Conference “Refuge Europe – a question of solidarity?” at Chemnitz University of Technology, Germany, on 1st October, 2019.

The TRAFIG project took another opportunity to present, test and discuss the TRAFIG concept and some preliminary findings in the framework of the final conference of the CEASEVAL project – a sister H2020 project – on 1 and 2 October 2019 in Chemnitz, Germany. The Conference titled “Refuge Europe – a question of solidarity?” focused on asylum in the European context thematising questions of harmonisation and solidarity within the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) and how everyday borders impact the lives of asylum seekers and refugees in the EU.

On the first of three panels on “Everyday Borders in the Lives of Asylum Seekers and Refugees Coming to Europe (I)” Albert Kraler (DUK) put the TRAFIG core research under a European lens questioning “[whether] there [is] protracted displacement in the European Union?”. Departing from the more global concepts of and discussions on protracted displacement, Albert sought ways of applying it to the European context. Evidently, protracted displacement is not an established term in the EU legal or policy framework. At the same time, the CEAS had a strong aim to prevent refugees landing in “orbit”, which in the EU context referred to a situation where an applicant finds him/herself between the responsibility of several EU Member States or none. The CEAS developed in the past 20 years is a consistent legal protection framework for asylum seekers and beneficiaries of refugee and subsidiary protection status. However, despite that, practice shows several signs of protection gaps: lack of mobility, no or challenging access to employment, less rights for subsidiary protection by increasing use of this status; very limited protection for non-EU-harmonised humanitarian protection statuses in Member States and a significant number of migrants living in an irregular situation within the EU. Albert concluded his findings by pointing at a rather protracted precariousness than displacement hinting to the fact that the EU protection framework, theoretically, provides for solutions, which however often come too short or do not offer solutions that meet the expectations of migrants concerned.

Following this more conceptual lens from the TRAFIG project, the co-panelists approached everyday borders from different angles: Burcu Toğral Koca, Einstein Fellow at the Institute of Urban and Regional Planning, discussed to what extent civil society actors and refugees have challenged, transformed and/or reproduced local bordering practices vis-à-vis refugees and the urban space. She found that bordering practices involve both states and non-state actors. “De-bordering” and “re-bordering processes” are not mutually exclusive, but occur simultaneously and are constantly negotiated and reconfigured by different actors. Paul Baumgartner, ICMPD, presented his findings from a broad survey on the access to the labour market for asylum seekers, refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection in Austria. The research showed that sociodemographic factors such as gender and age play a significant role as do labour market related factors such as the level of education, recognition of qualifications, past occupations and education taken in Austria. Further, the length of stay and the place of residence play an important role whereas the country of origin or the legal status are less important factors. Overall, a mismatch between qualifications and occupation was found, which decreases with the years of stay and is more frequent for higher-skilled persons. Interaction of networks and state support are considered essential for integration by the reference group. Claudia Paraschivescu, from the University of Luxembourg, looked into experiences of border crossings of asylum seekers and refugees after settling in Luxembourg and France - particularly looking into cross-border workers flux in the Greater Region. Claudia pointed at quite similar mobility patterns of asylum seekers and refugees as the local population in the – admittedly rather special – region.

Martin Wagner, Senior Policy Advisor on Asylum at ICMPD, partner in the TAFIG project, moderated the panel session.

Everyday Borders in the Lives of Asylum Seekers and Refugees Coming to Europe (I)

  • Chair: Martin Wagner
  • Papers presented:
  • Milena Belloni, Benjamin Etzold, Albert Kraler, Ferruccio Pastore & Martin Wagner: Is there protracted displacement in the European Union? An exploratory enquiry
  • Burcu Toğral Koca: Local Border Regimes, Civil Society and Refugees: The Cases of Berlin and London
  • Paul Baumgartner & Meike Palinkas: (Perceived) barriers to integration and what to do to overcome them – an empirical analysis of refugee integration trajectories based on survey data from Austria
  • Claudia Paraschivescu, Birte Nienaber & Lucas Oesch: Borders and the mobility of migrants. France and Luxembourg compared.

TRAFIG Panel as CEASAVAL Conference

Albert Kraler, partner of the TRAFIG consortium partner had the opportunity to present, test and discuss the TRAFIG concept and some preliminary findings in the framework of the final conference of the CEASEVAL project on 1 and 2 October 2019 in Chemnitz, Germany. The Conference titled “Refuge Europe – a question of solidarity?” focused on asylum in the European context thematising questions of harmonisation and solidarity within the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) and how everyday borders impact the lives of asylum seekers and refugees in the EU. the CEASEVAL Project Final Conference “Refuge Europe – a question of solidarity?” at Chemnitz University of Technology, Germany, on 1st October, 2019.

On the first of three panels on “Everyday Borders in the Lives of Asylum Seekers and Refugees Coming to Europe (I)” Albert Kraler (DUK) put the TRAFIG core research under a European lens questioning “[whether] there [is] protracted displacement in the European Union?”. Departing from the more global concepts of and discussions on protracted displacement, Albert sought ways of applying it to the European context. Evidently, protracted displacement is not an established term in the EU legal or policy framework. At the same time, the CEAS had a strong aim to prevent refugees landing in “orbit”, which in the EU context referred to a situation where an applicant finds him/herself between the responsibility of several EU Member States or none. The CEAS developed in the past 20 years is a consistent legal protection framework for asylum seekers and beneficiaries of refugee and subsidiary protection status. However, despite that, practice shows several signs of protection gaps: lack of mobility, no or challenging access to employment, less rights for subsidiary protection by increasing use of this status; very limited protection for non-EU-harmonised humanitarian protection statuses in Member States and a significant number of migrants living in an irregular situation within the EU. Albert concluded his findings by pointing at a rather protracted precariousness than displacement hinting to the fact that the EU protection framework, theoretically, provides for solutions, which however often come too short or do not offer solutions that meet the expectations of migrants concerned.

Following this more conceptual lens from the TRAFIG project, the co-panelists approached everyday borders from different angles: Burcu Toğral Koca, Einstein Fellow at the Institute of Urban and Regional Planning, discussed to what extent civil society actors and refugees have challenged, transformed and/or reproduced local bordering practices vis-à-vis refugees and the urban space. She found that bordering practices involve both states and non-state actors. “De-bordering” and “re-bordering processes” are not mutually exclusive, but occur simultaneously and are constantly negotiated and reconfigured by different actors. Paul Baumgartner, ICMPD, presented his findings from a broad survey on the access to the labour market for asylum seekers, refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection in Austria. The research showed that sociodemographic factors such as gender and age play a significant role as do labour market related factors such as the level of education, recognition of qualifications, past occupations and education taken in Austria. Further, the length of stay and the place of residence play an important role whereas the country of origin or the legal status are less important factors. Overall, a mismatch between qualifications and occupation was found, which decreases with the years of stay and is more frequent for higher-skilled persons. Interaction of networks and state support are considered essential for integration by the reference group. Claudia Paraschivescu, from the University of Luxembourg, looked into experiences of border crossings of asylum seekers and refugees after settling in Luxembourg and France - particularly looking into cross-border workers flux in the Greater Region. Claudia pointed at quite similar mobility patterns of asylum seekers and refugees as the local population in the – admittedly rather special – region.

Martin Wagner, Senior Policy Advisor on Asylum at ICMPD, partner in the TAFIG project, moderated the panel session.

Everyday Borders in the Lives of Asylum Seekers and Refugees Coming to Europe (I)

  • Chair: Martin Wagner
  • Papers presented:
  • Milena Belloni, Benjamin Etzold, Albert Kraler, Ferruccio Pastore & Martin Wagner: Is there protracted displacement in the European Union? An exploratory enquiry
  • Burcu Toğral Koca: Local Border Regimes, Civil Society and Refugees: The Cases of Berlin and London
  • Paul Baumgartner & Meike Palinkas: (Perceived) barriers to integration and what to do to overcome them – an empirical analysis of refugee integration trajectories based on survey data from Austria
  • Claudia Paraschivescu, Birte Nienaber & Lucas Oesch: Borders and the mobility of migrants. France and Luxembourg compared.