We are studying the transition from emergency relief provision for recent refugees to long-term transition and integration programmes for ‘new Europeans’ in four European cities: Athens, Budapest, Berlin and Paris.
Over 1.5 million refugees have arrived in Europe since 2015, stretching EU and individual state capacities, testing formal registration and arrival procedures, and reigniting debates around continental ‘margins’ and geopolitical power differentials between east and west Europe. Contested debates continue on multiple levels regarding the appropriate duties of care, needs and agencies of refugees and providers on the arrival ‘frontlines’. As geographers, we are interested in considering the temporal and spatial dynamics of refugee experiences and stakeholder responses to the diversity and volume of ‘new migrants’ across Europe. With British Academy support, we have embarked on a multi-sited and collaborative research project across these four cities that reflect the different experiences of transience, waiting, and arrival on the migrant ‘trail’, but also the diversity of European histories in relation to migration and the diversity of contemporary responses to this so-called ‘crisis’.
Our project aims to provide an alternative account of the European ‘refugee crisis’ by focusing on two key aspects:
First, we focus on key European hubs that give rise to multiple ‘urban humanitarian stages’ (rather than engage with camps), where fragmented provisions of care are performed and contested amongst a constellation of actors including state, city authorities, formal agencies, and non-traditional humanitarian associations. Our research is guided by an interest in the connections between geographies of refugee migration and processes of urbanization, wherein cities are the desired destination of most refugees and are consequently shaped by, as well as shaping, the humanitarian response to migrants.
Second, we examine the transition between practices of emergency response and the calls for a longer-term integration strategy across institutional and social domains, recognising that refugees seeking asylum are in most cases “here to stay”. As emergency responses evolve to more holistic humanitarian care in some cases, but stricter migration policies in others, fundamental contestations emerge around the roles and responsibilities of the welfare state, the private and civil sectors and the forms of their involvement in the development and realisation of integration programmes. Furthermore, these are played out across a broad European context of deep austerity.