ReROOT Output

IMISCOE Panel: Urban In/Formalities: Arrival Infrastructures and Newcomers’ Access to Resources

Urban In/Formalities: Arrival Infrastructures and Newcomers’ Access to Resources
Wed July 3, 09:00–10:30, Session #58 | Panel

*bold name indicates ReROOT project team

Chair: Susanne Wessendorf
Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, Coventry University

As part of the reflexive turn in migration studies, the arrival and settlement of migrants has increasingly been analyzed through the lens of place. Rather than focusing on groups of migrants from specific countries of origin or ethnicities, as was traditionally the case in migration studies, scholars have begun to highlight the importance of place regarding newcomers’ processes of settlement and ‘integration’.

Spatial settings where arrival takes place vary from diverse urban spaces with longstanding experiences of arrival, to more suburban or rural spaces which are often less equipped with arrival-related infrastructures, to (often peripheral) camps. Current research on arrival infrastructures focusses on both structural conditions of arrival as well as newcomers’ agency in shaping arrival processes, illustrating the close interconnectedness of formal, non-formal, and informal arrival infrastructures.

This panel explores the diversity of in/formal practices related to arrival and the ongoing negotiations between more or less institutionally embedded actors. It highlights the various and fluid roles individuals involved in arrival processes play, and pays particular attention to migrant agency, tensions around solidarity and exploitation between those providing and those receiving support, the role of street-level bureaucrats, urban planners, and civil society actors, and how these deal with urban in/formalities and facilitate arrival.

The papers are grounded in empirical and mixed methods research and include case studies from Kristen Biehl & Marhabo Saparova (Sabanci University), Laura Guerin (Université Paris Nanterre), Tamlyn Monson (Coventry University), Rivka Saltiel (University of Graz).

Documentary regimes in/of Arrival: Producing Bureaucracies of (Fictive) Legalities in Istanbul
Kristen Biehl (Sabanci University ) & Marhabo Saparova (Sabanci University)

Istanbul’s historic Fatih district can be considered one of the oldest arrival hubs of the city, having attracted and hosted diverse migrant populations over centuries. Since the 1990s especially it has emerged as a key arrival, transit and settlement area for a great diversity of migrant and refugee populations. Commercial facilities and affordable, flexible housing arrangements in the area have been the most significant arrival infrastructures that drew various migrant populations over the last three decades. Yet with the increasing bureaucratization of migration management and the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, various documents (e.g. residence permits, health insurance, vaccine cards) have become central in maintaining everyday life for migrants in Turkey. Intermediary firms and brokers producing various migrant-related documents have flourished as an arrival infrastructure in Fatih. Based on ethnographic research in three localities in Fatih (Aksaray, Kumkapi and Laleli) between 2021-2022, this paper examines the emerging bureaucratic infrastructures and their role in facilitating and impeding further mobility of newcomers in the arrival hub in Istanbul. More specifically, this paper explores how new bureaucratic requirements and broader migration-related governmental efforts in Turkey transpire in arrival areas that have long been defined by the absence of or limited state structures. Thus, we present how the production of bureaucratic (il)legalities intersect with arrival and integration processes.

Formal and informal religious practices of West Africans’ migrants in France in the context following the 2015 Paris attacks
Laura Guerin (Université Paris Nanterre )

This paper addresses the notion of arrival infrastructure through religious practices. More specifically, this paper is about the visibility of Muslim religious practices of West Africans migrants in France in the context following the 2015 Paris attacks. The paper is based on ethnographic fieldwork undertaken in the Paris region from 2016 until 2022 on foyers.

Foyers are a specialized housing system, hostels dedicated for (post)colonial -mainly African- male migrant workers since the 1960s. Since the 2000s, the foyers have undergone a significant transformation: their architecture and legal frame have been transformed, the foyers giving way to ‘résidences sociales.’ In these new structures, African migrants are not the only residents anymore and their socio-spatial practices are closely monitored. Indeed, the prior rooms and mosque that existed in foyers disappeared through the transformation, leading to more informal religious spaces and practices.

This paper aims to focus on the blurry frontier between formal and informal religious practices. Indeed, even if religious activities are not supposed to take place in the new ‘résidence sociale’ everyday negotiations with the building managers can lead to the formalization of a prior room or even an online referenced mosque (on the website trouvetamosqué This paper highlights the negotiations, conflicts and tensions between ‘résidence sociale’ inhabitants, building managers, neighbours and policy-makers and their spatial consequences for everyday religious practices in the very tense context post 2015 Paris attacks and the rise of Islamophobia.

‘Lonely I couldn’t do it’: the role of social connections in mediating barriers
Tamlyn Monson (Coventry University)

New immigrants often move into ‘arrival areas’ characterised by ‘commonplace diversity’, containing layers of previously settled migrants from various backgrounds who have arrived over many decades. The literature on 'arrival infrastructures' has found that social realities in arrival areas can be conducive to immigrant settlement, with newcomers drawing support from longer-established immigrants. This paper considers the ubiquity of informal social support encountered in ethnographic research within one such arrival area - the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham. It illustrates the ways in which the agency of immigrants past and present can help overcome barriers of language, IT skills and local knowledge. It goes on to examine the important role that informal social connections play in residents’ support trajectories in this context, and the way in which such informal support mediates barriers and fills gaps in institutional capacity and user-centred design. Finally, it examines the dilemmas that emerge. On one hand, dilemmas for isolated immigrants who lack suitable informal support structures to assist them to overcome barriers in service interactions. On the other, dilemmas for other residents – often fellow immigrants – who face everyday demands by street-level bureaucrats to step in and support these interactions, for instance by interpreting.

Spaces of curated encounters as social infrastructures of arrival? A feminist care lens on in/formal refugee support
Rivka Saltiel (University of Graz)

Curated encounter is a particular form of social contact in which the gathering of people with—and because of their—different social identities, abilities, and needs is organized to respond to needs of people in the city. Since 2015, the Plateforme Citoyenne de soutien aux Réfugié(e)s curates encounters between arriving migrants and local volunteers to ensure the survival of precarious migrants in Brussels. In these encounters, relationships between strange others emerge that constitute essential social resources and significantly shape processes of arrival and movement. Interconnected with a range of in/formal caring practices and spaces, they form parts of the city’s social infrastructures. While building and sustaining care relations, new collective identifications emerge, and caring communities are produced locally that operate in different spaces and produce spaces of caring with. They respond to structures of social marginalization and unequal access to care by self-organizing care and thereby suggest alternative modes of being, relating and acting with strange others. However, these care arrangements are fragile, precarious and maintained under great pressure from all involved. This paper explores the potentials and challenges of caring communities as social infrastructures to discuss alternative forms of societal organizing for a more just distribution of – and access to – care. In doing so, it draws on Joan Tronto’s thoughts on feminist care ethics that offer a normative orientation for a caring society based on social interdependence, solidarity and collective responsibility.

Discussant: Heike Hanhoerster on-site
Technical University of Berlin
Project Updates
Made on