Post by Monish Bhatia, Lecturer in Criminology at the Abertay University. His research interests lie in the areas of race, crime and criminal justice. Monish was awarded his doctorate in 2014 and in 2015 he was granted prestigious Carnegie Trust funding to carry out a study on harms of destitution amongst asylum seekers. Monish’s most recent article can be found here. Monish is on Twitter @DrMonishBhatia. This is the first instalment of Border Criminologies’ themed series on Seeking Refuge in Europe organised by Monish.

Over the next two weeks, Border Criminologies will run a series of linked posts on seeking refuge in Europe. In these posts, authors offer alternative accounts that challenge the grossly oversimplified narrative of ‘crisis’ that dominates contemporary media, political and policy discourses about asylum and migration. In so doing, they seek to bring back into view, the reasons why people leave, and the barriers they face in finding sanctuary.

The urgency of the language of ‘crisis’ disguises years of restrictionist policies and sheer political inaction to resolve a complex humanitarian situation. It also conveniently overlooks the escalation of border controls and policing measures to keep the ‘other’ out.  It does, so, even though such factors resulted in an increase in the numbers of individuals embarking on perilous journeys and dying while crossing the border (Last and Spijkerboer, Weber and Pickering) – a number that has drastically increased over the past few years.

The first part of this series includes a broad range of articles reflecting on the complexity of the refugee phenomenon: Alberto Mallardo from the Mediterranean Hope project highlights the ways in which civil society organisations in Italy have addressed the inaction of the government, by creating humanitarian corridors . This is followed by Stratos Georgoulas who explains the complex situation that has engulfed the Greek island of Lesvos. Daniel Fisher addresses the practices of everyday securitisation at the Spain/Morocco border. Finally, Jelena Jovicic deconstructs the visual portrayal of asylum seekers in German newspapers.

Those who get past the escalating and sturdy borders are subjected to a whole raft of punitive controls and exclusionary/exceptional policies and practices. Part two of this series will consist of four broad ranging articles covering this aspect: Valeria Ferraris discusses the EURODAC biometric system, which collects and stores the fingerprints of those seeking refuge in Europe to immobilise or stop them from ‘asylum shopping’. This is followed by Martin Joormann’s article on the emergence of temporary asylum law and secret legal cases in Sweden. The next post by Rachel Seioghie addresses a rather concerning development in the UK and the Secretary of State ‘considering ceasing’ refugee statuses of Sri Lankan Tamils. Finally, to end this series, Monish Bhatia will discuss the racist hate crimes directed against those seeking asylum in Britain, and ways in which immigration policies/procedures, Conservative government’s ‘hostile environment agenda’ and xenophobic media/political rhetoric, has contributed towards the victimisation of this group.

In presenting these posts together, we hope to offer a counter to official explanations of contemporary events. While some posts, like Valeria Ferraris’, offer a bleak vision of expanding control, others, like that by Alberto Mallardo remind us of the possibilities for thinking and acting otherwise. Contemporary policies are more than a ‘crisis’, they are a choice.  By paying close attention to the experiences of those subject to border control, we hope to illuminate alternatives.

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How to cite this blog post (Harvard style)

Bhatia, M. (2017) Seeking Refuge in Europe. Available at: https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/centre-criminology/centreborder-criminologies/blog/2017/05/seeking-refuge (Accessed [date]).