Here’s the second political document of the Housing Right Coalition about Refugees Crisis and urban melting-pot.
For a few years, migration issue has gained a lot of importance in the European political and social debate, becoming one of the main concerns of European governments, although it has long been a structural phenomenon of our societies. It is still true, anyway, that the number of asylum applications has significantly increased in the past 5 years, from 236.000 in 2011 to 1.255.000 in 2015 (Eurostat, 2015). It is important to analyse these numbers through two different lens. On one side, the growing economic and political instability experienced by different zones of the world pushes lots of people to move in order to find peace and dignified living conditions. On that topic, we want to underline the political and economic responsibilities of EU’s countries in waging foreign conflicts and in maintaining foreign wretched conditions by financing the arms industries, encouraging the uncontrolled liberalisation of the market and by expecting a free access to foreign resources. In view of this, it is fundamental for social movements to demand and fight for the ending of all wars and for a global human freedom of movement. On the other side, asylum application together with family reunification are currently the only two possible forms to enter Europe legally. It is not a surprise, therefore, to watch asylum numbers grow up, even when the demanded requirements are not satisfied. By now, refugees’ flows join the wider migration movements that have beset EU during the last twenty years. By the way, it is important to remember that the reasons for migrating are always hybrid, made of search of a better economic situation, political instability, different imaginations for one’s own future, families’ expectations. From this perspective, we therefore think that migration’s categories need to be rethought keeping in mind that the ideas of a “pure refugee” or a “pure economical migrant” represent excessively-rigid definitions. Anyway, in this scenario, the South-European countries, Italy and Greece in particularly, are geographically forced by transnational and EU agreements to play the role of first ports of call and their territories are crossed by continuous transit flows. In the past few months, the EU has tried, unsuccessfully, to relieve the migration pressure on the most concerned countries, but finally it has just been able to sign an agreement with the authoritarian government of Erdogan, by handing over its responsibilities. The latter is just the last one of a set of procedures and devices implemented by Eu’s countries in order to externalize their borders, by delegating their responsibility of control and reception. This happens towards extra-Eu countries through the stipulation of bilateral co-development agreements which promise funds in exchange for tighter controls on emigration; but it happens also within Europe itself as the hotspot’s system or the displacement of British controls on French territory in Calais demonstrate. In this regard, it is important for us to highlight that acting in such a way Eu contributes to exacerbating oppression in the countries of departure, besides not assuming its legal and ethical responsibilities.
Several researchers and theorists of migrations argue that the contemporary migration policies and the narrow interpretation of citizenship put migrants in some geographical, legal and social spaces which are neither completely inside nor outside host societies, making them feel vulnerable and powerless. Referring more especially to the condition of refugee, the creation process of social representations on them answers to the “care, cure and control” principle (Agier, 2005:50), where the very function of “care” has a security nuance. This principle tries to reduce refugees to “pure victims” supposed to satisfy conditions of poverty, passivity and submission in order to be considered as “real refugees”. Furthermore, it is also possible to recognize in Europe the implementation of “spatial technologies” which aim to establish and maintain differences. Refugee camps and centres represent a very good example of those “governmental rationalities”, to quote Foucault, the aim of which is the implementation of “exclusion and inclusion processes through space”. Such centres can therefore be defined as real “heterotopies”, since they are perfectly detectable spaces placed on the margins of our societies in order to underline the difference between inhabitants, as well as between citizens and non-citizens. Nevertheless, starting from the awareness that every space, geographical or social, is dynamic and constantly evolving, we believe in the importance of reflecting on the role that social movements can play in deconstructing such “governmental rationalities”. In Europe, we have recently experienced some positive example of reception models which break with the ordinary Eu’s system. It is the case of Barcelona, where the new mayor, ex-activist for the right to housing, has demanded the active participation of the inhabitants of the city in order to increase the available resources and to promote among citizens the acceptance of multiculturalism. And yet, in Athens a building has been occupied by a grassroots movement in order to offer a reception place for refugees based on their self-management and participation. We therefore need to take a leaf and analyse these experiences in order to understand which strategies social movements of all Europe could implement in order to propose a different and new way of facing the so-called “refugee crises”.
The above-mentioned governmental rationalities seem to be primarily aimed to manage a transnational mobility appearing as a turbulent and less and less governable mass-phenomenon. In this light, the set of disciplinal tools composing the EU border regime is not addressed to impede the migration move, rather responding the crucial need of Western economies to synchronise the fluxes of migrants with the European productive demand of labour force. In this context, migrants are not passive and docile bodies as the social representations broadcasted try to make them; on the contrary, they constantly struggle to remain mobile and pursue their migratory strategies, whereas migrations are conceived as acts of insubordination and sabotage threatening the EU borders’ control system. These forms of action cannot be tout court assimilated to a movement acting by making claims to institutional power (Papadopoulos and Tsianos, 2013), but they are however able to produce concrete political outcomes, as so far as the disciplining of migrant fluxes appears as a crucial factor within the reproduction of capital. Then, although the practices that migrants adopt in order to be still free to move are not mostly politically-organised, they have a cooperative nature: the sharing of tactics, information and routes becomes an indispensable factor of survival, making migration a collective movement (ibidem). The latter is not obviously a political movement, and we cannot describe it as a form of political mobilisation in the sense that Western societies understand this concept. The ‘politics of migrants’ has indeed an autonomous orientation, incorporating its own logics and its own meanings, and it constitutes a surplus exceeding the action repertoires of European social movements − an idea contradicting the integrationist perspectives, that consider migrants’ practices as a political expression only when they are integrated within the political systems of Western societies (Glick-Schiller & Çaglar, 2008).
The politics of migrants is reflected on the collective production and reproduction of migratory knowledge allowing people on the move to remain mobile – an invisible expertise including a variety of resources that have been defined as ‘mobile commons’ (Papadopoulos and Tsianos, 2013). In this light, camps and migrant neighbourhoods function as spaces where information, practices of mobility and tactics of survival are made available to violate the border regime control, acting as a counterpart of the spatial technologies proliferating within and outside the EU territories. This multiplication of transnational social spaces of migrants responds to the emerging of a new flexible system of control, where the strict demarcation between inside and outside has been replaced by fluid processes of differentiated inclusion of migrants: the border extends its action to the city by producing a set of differentiated legal status within citizenship (Mezzadra, 2004). The de-territorialisation of the European polis, resulting in the discontinuity of its juridical space, entails two crucial consequences: on one hand, this dynamic produces new spaces of exclusion within European cities; on the other hand, it stratifies the access to citizenship in a range of different degrees of inclusion – social conditions deriving from a complex intersection among legal status, labour market and welfare arrangement. A relevant trait of this new scenario concerns the fact that the mechanisms of differentiated inclusion seem to extend their action beyond migrants, affecting at the same time marginalized portions of European citizens experiencing precarious job conditions and limitations in accessing social rights, whereas the crisis of welfare state opens the way to hypothesis of limited citizenships for designated social categories (Tosi, 2010).
At the same time, this alludes to the possibility of new, even passing, urban alliances between the worlds of migration and precarity sharing the same urban spaces and, in some cases, positions on the labour market. In this field, the cooperative practices being shared by mobile people in order to remain on the move (that has been called ‘mobile commons’) meet the everyday practices of survival that constitute the social heritage of the European peripheries, as well as solidarity networks of grass-roots movements and urban activism that in such territories take place. It does not necessarily produce a new hybrid political subject (Papadopoulos and Tsianos, 2013), rather corresponding mostly to temporary and localized convergences, often being counterbalanced by contradictions and conflicts. Nonetheless, these even-limited convergences may lead to significant urban struggles – it is the case of the ongoing housing rights movements in the Southern-European cities. For the most, forms of action and insubordination that are not tout court assimilated to a political movement play a crucial role in allowing migrants and marginal groups to acquire forms of protections that extended the limits of citizenship and express a very peculiar and implicit form of agency. In this context, the citizenship does not have to be exclusively intended as a legal status, because it also constitutes a subjective space (Mezzadra 2001: 112), where the “politics of migration” reaffirms the action of collective discussion and problems-framing that have accompanied the developing of welfare as a public arena (de Leonardis 1997: 187). In other words, the “authors” of citizenship are not always and only those owning the legal status and citizenship should be thought as a “subjective position” (Isin, 2009:370), which can be taken by no matter who, regardless of nationality: therefore, citizenship means above all to care about the place where we are living in and «to be a citizen is to make claims to justice: to break habitus and act in a way that disrupts already defined orders, practices and statuses» (ibidem). It is in this perspective that social movements acting in territories characterized by melting-pot and precarity should cement the so different kinds of citizens by finding a common sense among them and, in this way, avoiding the dangerous war between poor people.
Some social experiments from below (especially referring to the housing rights struggles) allude to the possibility that these temporary convergences give rise to innovative social laboratories within spaces of urban marginality, where the “politics of migrants” may play a crucial role within the networks of urban movements opposing austerity policies and, more in general, the neoliberal restructuring of the European cities. These convergences of struggles and claims seem to trigger constituent processes transforming subaltern neighborhoods in spaces of democracy – an insurgence of new social forces potentially obviating the crisis of the so-called “intermediate bodies” (such as trade unions and historical working class parties and organizations) and reaffirming the action of collective discussion and problems-framing that have accompanied the expansive phase of citizenship and the concomitant rise of welfare as a public arena (de Leonardis 1997: 187). Nonetheless, the hypothesis that new institutions of the commune (Negri & Hardt, 2009) may take place within these spaces of democracy must necessarily consider how this surplus largely exceeds both the traditional institutions of the political representation and the very common repertories of action of the urban movements. In our view, it is the case of the rise of forms of neo-mutualism, that in situations of absence of social institutions propose themselves as spaces of democratic reconstruction from below, where the engagement of each one is demanded in order to give a collective response to individual problems.
In the light of the above, we therefore affirm the importance for social movements to assume a role of mediation between citizens by researching key words and claims sharable by everyone, in order to create community-led and democratic territories. In the same way, we affirm the necessity for them of dealing with the migration issue by fully recognizing the migrants’ practices of self-determination and organization, as well as the peculiar and not-univocal logic of migration as a movement.