„You are in Czech Office, so you have to be able to speak Czech:“ Discourses and Practices of Czech Migration Policy
Charles University, Czech Republic
In summer 2017, criticism and contention encompassed Prague City Hall after employees put up a sign demanding that clients speak in Czech, or else come with a translator. The sign reads: ‘You are in Czech office, so you have to be able to speak Czech.’ According to our research, this sign represents public authorities’ practice which migrants face in everyday life in the Czech Republic.
In the last few years, European newspaper headlines have repeatedly highlighted xenophobia and intolerance in Europe. In our paper, we intend to look at everyday demonstrations of such discourses in institutional practice. We have deployed tools of cultural and interpretative sociology to explore discursive strategies and social practices in relation to the institutional experience of migrants.
Based upon the analysis of migration law and policies and interviews with migrants, social workers, and public officers, we mapped barriers and enablers of migrants into the Czech society and describe their experiences in relation to the Czech institutions. We conclude that the hostility toward migrants is inscribed both in bureaucratic rules and their interpretation in practice. The Czech migration policy remains locked in the circle of the hermeneutic of suspicion which is inscribed in the legislative rules and their interpretation of street-level bureaucrats.
Home Accommodation of Asylum Seekers in Finland. Hospitality as Resistance.
University of Helsinki, Finland
The autumn of 2015 and the arrival of unprecedented number of asylum seekers mobilised the Finnish civil society. As elsewhere in Europe, new forms of pro-asylum action emerged in addition to the solidarity movements that were already in place. In Finland, a network for home accommodation of asylum seekers was set up by local activists to respond to the growing need for housing and assistance, and in order to show support to the newcomers. Although hospitality is an old practice and pro-migrant solidarity groups have been active for years, the scale of the movement has been unprecedented since the ‘long summer of migration’.
This empirical paper is based on a qualitative research project where the main data consists of in-depth interviews with local hosts who have opened their homes to asylum seekers. Home accommodation is considered here as a grassroots movement and as a form of hospitality that aims to challenge tightening asylum policies and anti-migration atmosphere. I argue that hosts aim to surpass binary divisions often related to migration, such as guest/host and victim/agent, by renouncing the idea of home accommodation as one-way assistance. However, power inequalities may affect how well equality and reciprocity are achieved in everyday life. Home accommodation of asylum seekers turns the private home into a site of resistance where the right to asylum is being claimed and immigration categories lived and contested. Thus, I understand home accommodation as an activity that blurs the public/private divide.
“Staying Despite Everything”: Syrian Refugees’ Legal, Political and Social Struggles in Turkey
Sabanci University, Turkey
In this talk, I will focus on the problems Syrian women experience in their efforts to seek medical treatment for their problems in the health institutions in Istanbul, through the interviews I conducted with them and participant observations I had in the hospital settings. I would relate these problems to the biopolitical strategies of the state, general discriminatory discourses in the society, and inadequacy of NGOs in addressing the Syrians’ needs. I would also inquire why the Syrians prefer to stay in Turkey despite all these problems, claiming a common culture and religion. There are about 3.5 million Syrians in Turkey, and they are often subjected to discriminatory discourses and practices by the people and state, and there are ambiguities in terms of how they would benefit from their basic human rights, such as the access to health and educational services. They cannot be legally called as refugees, since Turkey grants this title to the migrants from the West, as the Turkish state had that geographical condition in signing the Geneva Convention in 1951. They are under “temporary protection”, a term which is legally ambiguous. Most Syrians suffer from disadvantageous living and working conditions, as well as economic exploitation. In Turkish academia, there are several studies which focus on the political, legal and social problems of Syrians, but very few of them reflect their own perspective and voice through research with qualitative methods, which I aim to do with my research.
Negotiations of Borders and Uncertainty: Social Work with Unaccompanied Minors in Times of Restrictive Migration Policy
Linköping University, Sweden
In November 2015, in the midst of the so called ‘refugee crisis’, the Swedish prime minister declared a need of ‘breathing space’ in the reception of asylum seekers. In addition to enforcement of stricter border controls and medical age assessment of unaccompanied minors, a provisional legislation has been passed by the parliament which restricts asylum-seekers possibilities to obtain permanent residence permits and for family reunification. These changes have raised enormous critique, especially for the consequences they have for unaccompanied children and youth seeking asylum, and for their situation. Moreover, the current migration policy has ramifications for social work with this particular group. In this paper I investigate social workers talk about their work with unaccompanied minors, discretion and the current policy. The paper is based on a qualitative interview study with social workers at the Social services and at residential care homes. In the analysis, particular attention is payed to both how the social workers negotiate the uncertainty that characterises not only the children’s and youth’s situation but also the provisional legislation, and how borders are manifested, negotiated and resisted in their accounts. State borders not only become manifested in accounts of the minors’ legal status, but also in how the social workers talk about both minors’ trajectories towards independence and adulthood. Inclusion, in this regard, is intimately connected to certain ideas of integration, education, work and values such as equality.