The project of an interactive map-archive of ‘migrant spaces’ of transit, border enforcement and refuge across Europe stems from a workshop organised in London in November 2016 by researchers working on migration and based in different European countries.
The goal of this collective project, is to bring to the fore the existence and the stories of ephemeral spaces of containment, transit, and struggle, that are the outcome of border enforcement politics and of their spatial effects, as well as of their impact on migrant lives.
What we want to represent
We do not represent on the map official detention centres or reception camps, but rather unofficial (but visible) spaces that have been produced as an effect of migration and border policies as well as of migrants’ practices of movement. Some well-known examples are the Jungle of Calais, or the Hellenic’s airport in Athens, which represent the output of the relation between the border enforcement policies with the autonomous movements of migrant subjects across Europe. Moreover, spaces of transit like the rail station of Milan will be represented, which have then become places of containment – such as Ventimiglia, Como, and the Brenner after the suspension of Schengen in such border areas. Several structures have been build in such transit knots, being characterized by their humanitarian element that intertwine the dimension of control with that of help and care. Finally, some of these places are zones inside European cities that have played the twofold role of spaces-refuge and area
controlled by the police, and then have been evicted as dwelling places where migrants found a temporary place to stay – like Lycée Jean-Quarré in Paris, La Chapelle. Others are self-managed places, like Refugee City Plaza Hotel, or square and public spaces that had been sites of migrant struggles for some time – as Orianenplatz in Berlin.
The three dimensions
The complexity of the processes that get intertwined in these places can be represented through three dimensions that we aimed to represent, although they cannot be exhaustively of the complexity of this phenomenon.
Border enforcement/ border control: by border control we understand all the operations, measures and actions put into place by the police for enhancing national borders and obstructing migrants’ movements and presence.
Humanitarian enforcement: by humanitarian enforcement we understand all the operation/action and structures deployed by those humanitarian actors involved in managing migrants. Being ‘humanitarianism’ a blurry and contested category, we understand it as a continuum with the two endpoints of humanitarian control and humanitarian support. The first endpoint refers to all these actions, operations and structures that aim to control migrants and contain their mobilities. The second endpoint refers to all these actions, operation and structures that aim to support migrants and their movements avoiding deploying control measures.
Migrant struggles: by ‘struggles’ we understand both self-organized struggles with a declared political claim, and everyday struggles such as the transits mobilities and the ‘everyday resistance’ (Scott, 1985) practices collectively enacted by migrants, that can be visible or remaining under the threshold of visibility.
Temporality and spatiality
A crucial feature of this map is the focus on temporality rather than spatiality. Indeed, this map cis an archive of those fleeting and ephemeral spaces that do no longer exist and that have changed their function over time, as frontiers or as spaces of refuge and struggle. The focus on temporality allows us to go beyond the mainstream representations of migrants routes offered by those official actors managing migration such as Fontex, European Union, IOM and the UNHCR.
We do not want to represent those informal places that are still existing in order to avoid shedding more light on them that could bring some problem to the people dwelling and transiting through those places. The idea of archive is related to that ethical/political topic: we do not want to trace the still existing place where people are struggling, but rather we aim to keep a record and a memory of such ephemeral spaces that do not exist any-more but nevertheless have contributed to the production of a Europe not represented in the mainstream debate. Therefore, we represent only those places still existing where the border and humanitarian enforcement come to the fore, in order to keep an ongoing monitoring gaze.
The aims of this map-archive are: a) to keep memory of these spaces that have been visible and have been the effect of border enforcement policies but that then had been evicted, or ‘disappeared’ ; b) to produce a new map of Europe, that is a map formed by these spaces of transit, containment, and refuge, as result of politics of border enforcement and of migration movements; c) to shed light on the temporality of migration as a crucial dimension through which understand and interpret the complexity of social processes related to migration towards and within Europe and the consequent border enforcement.
To be continued
Since Europe externalizes its borders beyond its geopolitical frontiers, we would like to add also spaces of transit and containment that are located in the so called ‘third countries’ – for instance, in Tunisia, Turkey and Morocco – as the map wants also to represent a different image of the borders of Europe, looking also at sites that are the effects of EU borders externalisation politics.