Urban Geographies of the Refugee Crisis: considering the public/private and city/state in Belgrade and Athens
This discussion considers the urban and spatial politics of the refugee ‘crisis’ in transit countries; specifically, it takes a detailed look at cities hosting informal settlements and transient refugee populations, and the actors and spaces shaping refugee lives.
From the ‘Calais Jungle’ to the ‘City Plaza’ squat in central Athens, makeshift settlements have become an integral part of refugee journeys to the EU. Such settlements are often ‘off the grid’ and receive no aid or services, except that provided informally by volunteers and activists. This presentation examines informal refugee settlements in urban areas of transit countries, by focusing on Belgrade and Athens.
This discussion considers the urban and spatial politics of the refugee ‘crisis’ in transit countries; specifically, it takes a detailed look at cities hosting informal settlements and transient refugee populations, and the actors and spaces shaping refugee lives. It considers how urban spaces are used and adapted by refugees and activists to create temporary settlements and aid network, but also, how authorities employ surveillance and spatial practices aimed at regulating the presence of refugees in centrally located public spaces. In its focus on cities, the presentation also places the informal settlements into a broader context: refugee settlements make use of spaces that are already subjected to pre-existing local politics and contestations over land, regeneration and property development, and this often results in evictions or demolitions of refugee housing.
Dr Jelena Obradović-Wochnik is a senior lecturer in politics and international relations and deputy director of the Aston Centre for Europe at Aston University. Jelena has worked as a fellow at the Aleksanteri Institute at the University of Helsinki, the European Union Institute for Security Studies in Paris, the Center for European Studies at Harvard and at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at John Hopkins University. She is an expert in the politics of the Western Balkans, focusing on issues such as the conflicts in the region, its relationship with the European Union and the rest of the world and issues of border control in Serbia.
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