Construction site for the maintenance of the walls and creation of green space, funding EU. Source: the authors.

Label against the demolition of wall houses. Source: the authors (1999)

Graffiti in Ano Poli. Source: the author 2021

Wall houses in Ano Poli. Source: the authors.

by Charalampos Tsavdaroglou & by Zachos Valiantzas

October has just arrived and we have arranged a visit to a housing squat in Thessaloniki’s Ano Poli (upper town). A conversation with the dwellers of the squat will help us build trust and make contacts with more newcomers to the city. Our minds are filled with questions. Which are the material, social and political aspects of Arrival Infrastructures (A.I.)? What is the relationship between A.I., local and global history and the migrants’ everyday life? Our meeting is at 13:00 with a friend from Maghreb. We get in the car and park on Eptapyrgiou Street in a green space – under construction – next to the city walls.

These walls are the fortification which used to divide the palace area (Genti Koule) from the rest of the city. Almost 12 metres high now, the walls were initially built as a defensive infrastructure during the Roman and Byzantium era (4 th century) and various repairs and exapansions happened in the following years of the Ottoman Empire. The area around the walls was mainly inhabited by Muslim citizens until Thessaloniki city was occupied by the Greek army in 1912. After the Greek-Turkish war and more specifically as a result of the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, 670,000 Greek citizens of Muslim religion moved from Greece to Turkey while 1,6 million Ottoman citizens of Christian religion moved from Asia Minor and Eastern Thrace the other way around to Greece. About 200,000 Christians settled in Thessaloniki and several of them in the so-called ‘interchangeable buildings’, the residences built by Muslims who relocated to Turkey. Therefore, the area of Ano Poli was the place of arrival for the newcomers from Turkey, whose presence in turn attracted more refugees, relatives and friends of them, to settle or build makeshift accommodation – shacks – on the unstructured plots of the area around the walls.

One of the most distinctive characteristics of this new type of dwelling are the so-called “castroplikta” houses – wall houses, i.e small houses that are adjacent to or include parts of the Byzantine walls. However, only a small number of these “castroplikta” still stand today. In 1997, Thessaloniki was named the European Capital of Culture, which motivated a plan to demolish about 900 abandoned and inhabited wall houses in order to create a green zone  along the walls. The demolition program envisages the preservation of only 16 buildings, not as residential areas but as cultural and historical monuments of the refugees. We have witnessed local resistance to this demolition plan appearing in the public spaces of Ano Poli since our first visits in the fall of 1999. On one of our first visits to Ano Poli, this resistance took the form of a sign posted on a centrally located building next to the central Portara (a large door in the Byzantine walls) This sign used the same aesthetics, font and logo of the European Capital of Culture in order to attract the eyes of tourists. However, on second glance it turned the logo from a boat to a bulldozer and the message written in 6 languages stated “CULTURAL CAPITAL FUNDING IS TO BE USED TO DESTROY THIS HISTORICAL PART OF THE CITY”. Today, unfortunately, the sign is gone. While the demolition was considerably delayed, it eventually started to be implemented after 2010.

Having parked the car in this particular area of the demolished “castroplikta” houses, we head down to Osios David old church, where we arranged to meet our friend from Maghreb. During our way through the tiny cobblestone paths of Ano Poli, we see a slogan written on a wall: “immigrants welcome, tourists go home”. While we are looking at the slogan, some actual tourists pass by.

The slogan indicates the ongoing controversy over the right to Ano Poli. Similar slogans appear in the streets of the neighbourhood and call for an awareness about two interrelated issues: the increasing touristification and Airbnb-fication of the neighborhood on the one hand and the question of migrants’ and refugees’ housing on the other. There are dozens of similar slogans all over the neighborhood (in English and sometimes in Arabic) and, according to our discussion with local residents, the writers are often local residents – anarchists, leftists and migrants. Since 2016, after the closure of the Balkan Corridor, Ano Poli area has hosted several migrant newcomers, either as guests in solidarity residences, in apartments provided under UNHCR housing programs, or by occupying abandoned buildings such as the “castroplikta houses”. At the same time quite intense gentrification processes are taking place in the area. Searching the airdna database of Airbnb platform we found about 250 available apartments and rooms in Ano Poli. Small hostels have also begun to appear.

 1 According to our observations, in the area of Ano Poli there are several squats, housing projects and social centers. Our perception is that the slogans’ campaign (immigrants welcome/tourists go home) enriches and extends the discussion of similar campaigns across Europe beyond anti-airbnb sentiments and the touristification of cities or of specific neighborhoods. Indeed, the campaign in Ano Poli is not just a complaint against touristification but it proposes that the neighbourhood could be a welcoming place for – refugees and migrants – whose predecessors did built the area decades ago.

We meet our friend and he leads us to his housing squat. We realize that his house is one of the remaining “castroplikta” (wall houses) that is adjacent to the walls towards the side of Genti Koule.

There are two beds in the house and no electricity. Church candles are used for lighting, gas stoves for heating, and the interior is decorated with many teddy bears. Our friend welcomes us with a smile and a hug. We climb a makeshift staircase up to a small terrace where a sheet offers shading and a freshly-washed carpet has just been spread to dry. Our friend pours us vanilla-flavored tea with caramel and our conversation begins.

During our conversation we reflect upon the function of walls and how they typically signify a defence infrastructure in Europe, the US and other countries to prevent the entry of immigrants. We talk about fortress-Europe raising fences. Here, however, these old walls may allow us to think differently. Here, these walls reverse the above function and importance. Indeed, thinking with Stavros Stavrides’ ideas about common space as threshold space, these walls have become in some way threshold infrastructure: a shelter but also an entrance to the city for those who do not have papers.

As we continue our research in Ano Poli, together with residents, we will further explore this notion of threshold infrastructure and how it connects practices and narratives on urban commoning with the arrival infrastructures framework. 1 Airdna “tracks the performance data of 10M Airbnb & Vrbo vacation rentals. It offers short-term rental data analysis on Airbnb occupancy rates, pricing and investment research, and more” (

1 Airdna “tracks the performance data of 10M Airbnb & Vrbo vacation rentals. It offers short-term rental data analysis on Airbnb occupancy rates, pricing and investment research, and more” (



by Malmö University & by KU Leuven

The purpose of WP 3 is to upscale and re-embed the results from WP 2 for further use in later stages of the pro-ject. The WP 2 results will describe the very context-specific intricacies of arrival infrastructures (T 2.2) – their historical transformation, their present-day makings, and their transformation in the turbulent years of immi-gration into Europe after 2015. By upscaling we mean situating these results in broader ‘contexts’ related to forms of regulation and control informed by e.g. local and national policies and practices on migration and inte-gration. These we call regimes of diversity and mobility (Glick Schiller and Salazar 2013, Grillo 2010), as they re-present models of coping with diversity related to mobility and migration, e.g. defining who is included in or ex-cluded from the nation state. Furthermore, regimes of diversity and mobility inform ideologies of integration (Favell 2016, Olwig & Paerregaard 2011, Rytter 2018) in defining who is ‘integratable’ and how. These regimes consist of a reflexive process of external ascription – attribution of legal status, racial or ethnic profile, cultural or religious identity, etc – and self-identifications – the double process of subjectification (Fassin (2011) that affects migrants´ social mobility and aspirations in important ways. The regimes lead local lives and co-constitute the site-specific arrival infrastructures.

The upscaling effected by WP3 has first of all a methodological function of training (T3.1) the site researchers. After the researchers have familiarized themselves with the different sites, they will be trained to identify and describe the local ‘regimes of diversity and mobility’ and ‘ideologies of integration’ at work in their specific sites. This task supports the researchers of WP2 first of all to add this dimension to their analysis of, and in-sights into, the workings of the site specific arrival infrastructures, and secondly to report their findings back to the WP 3 researcher. These reports form the basis of the second form of upscaling. The local site-specific re-gimes and ideologies also lead translocal lives far beyond their confines: in national and regional (EU/European/Western) and global ideoscapes and governmentalities. The objectives of developing this training material can thus, quoting the description of action, summarized as:

1. Providing site researchers the necessary theoretical research support on integration and regimes of diversity and mobility.

2. Enabling T3.2 by tailoring the input from WP2 to the needs of the WP3 researcher in order to be able to start the cross-site comparative and comprehensive research on AI in relation to local and translocal regimes of diversity & mobility.



by Susanne Wessendorf & by Kristen Biehl

This report is about the trainings delivered as part of WP2 (Arrival Infrastructure Site Research) of the ReROOT project, a work package consisting of the following three main tasks: “Research methods training & support for AI site research” (T 2.1), “AI Site research” (T 2.2.) and “Cross site exchange and compilation” (T 2.3.).

As de-scribed under the ReROOT Description of Action, the first task of WP2 involved conceptual and methodological training for the ReROOT field researchers (postdocs, PhDs) to prepare them to undertake field site research un-der the second task

Trainings started in M2, as foreseen but were turned into a form of blended (online/offline) training. The following report summarizes the implementation of the training delivery plan. This is followed by a detailed overview of the content of the 7 trainings delivered. These materials include Power Point presentations, lectures in the form of video clips, literature lists and introductory documents. 

The written versions of the train-ing materials listed in these individual training reports can be found in the annex of the report available upon request.


« On nous a dit clairement : “vous n’êtes pas travailleur social” »

This article is written by  Laura Guérin. It was published in Plein droit #132, in January 2022. The link to the full article can be found below.


by Laura Guérin

Durant la grève Sonacotra des années 1970, se débarrasser des « gérants racistes » était un mot d’ordre central, à l’époque où le profil dominant était celui d’anciens militaires ayant servi dans les territoires colonisés. Dans d’autres structures gestionnaires de foyers, des profils très différents existaient, par exemple d’anciens résidents devenus gérants à la Soundiata.

Par-delà ces différences historiques, aujourd’hui gommées par les fusions et les nouvelles dénominations, ces métiers sont redéfinis : une même personne prend en charge plusieurs foyers et n’habite plus sur place, la profession s’est féminisée et au contrôle direct se sont substituées des pratiques gestionnaires dans lesquelles la remontée d’informations est centrale.

Documenter le profil de ces intermédiaires entre les résidents et les cadres de la structure, qui n’adhèrent souvent que partiellement au projet et aux modalités des transformations actuelles, est crucial pour comprendre ce que sont ces lieux aujourd’hui.

Sébastien travaille dans la même structure gestionnaire de foyers depuis le milieu des années 1990. Il est dans un premier temps embauché comme travailleur social en région lyonnaise, puis déménage en Île-de-France au début des années 2000 pour devenir gérant d’un des foyers de travailleurs migrants gérés par cette structure. Nous échangeons à la fin de l’année 2021 sur son quotidien.

Quand j’arrive le matin, et qu’il n’y a pas d’urgence particulière, je m’installe à mon bureau et je reçois les résidents qui passent…



Lydd Airport is a permanent base for search-and-rescue helicopters in the south-east of England.

A local Kent newspaper covers Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speech at Lydd Airport. He is pictured
in the article alongside Natalie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover.


by Tamlyn Monson

Recently, the first steps were taken in implementing a bizarre new plan for processing arrivals across the English Channel. Announced on 14 April 2022, the ‘Migration and Economic Development Partnership’ (MEDP) was described by the Conservative government as an ‘innovative’ approach likely to become a ‘new international standard’ in dealing with asylum. The UNHCR, in contrast, has called it an ‘egregious breach of international law and refugee law and human rights law.’ It involves distinguishing between asylum claims on the basis of the claimant’s mode of arrival, and excluding from the asylum process anyone arriving outside ‘safe and legal routes.’

Since the ‘safe and legal routes’ currently in existence relate only to resettlement of refugees already living in safe third countries, their families, and various discretionary visa schemes (Home Office, 3 December 2021), the announcement expressed an intention to severely erode or eliminate the system of in-country asylum claims. From detail that has since emerged, in-country claimants will henceforth be affected by their connection to or stay in a third safe country, and considered for removal to that country or alternatively to Rwanda, a ‘safe third country’ with which the UK has signed an agreement. The most obvious targets of this new approach are arrivals across the English Channel, whose departures from the French coast give them an inevitable ‘connection’ to a third safe country.

On the day of the surreal announcement, Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave a speech at Lydd Airport, an air base to Her Majesty’s Coastguard located along the Kent coast in South East England. In it, he made a case for the MEDP policy, and the controversial Nationality and Borders Bill which underpins it (which passed into law two weeks later, on 28 April 2022). His rhetoric reminded me of Achille Mbembe’s observation that the ‘security state thrives on a state of insecurity, which it participates in fomenting and to which it claims to be the solution (Mbembe, Necropolitics, p.54). In this reflection from ReROOT’s UK field site, I share some thoughts on how the discursive choices in this speech conjured a state of insecurity, justifying and giving a ‘common-sense’ quality to the government’s decision to treat arrivals across the channel, and men in particular, as disposable and less deserving of rights.


Conjuring threats to life, law and governance

Boris Johnson’s speech at Lydd – which serves as an airbase for Her Majesty’s Coastguard – focused on ‘action to tackle illegal migration’ (Johnson, 14/04/2022). Johnson linked this action to the efforts of the Nationality and Borders Bill, for the first time, to “distinguish between people coming here legally and illegally” and to make that distinction material to claims and status.

What is clear from Johnson’s speech is how the invention of this distinction between ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ arrival, allows the majority of asylum seekers to be named as ‘illegal immigrants’. Once this is accomplished, their arrival can be considered a crime and a threat to law and order, which the state can then claim to solve using the instruments of national security rather than of hospitality and humanitarianism.

The speech demonstrates the power of this legal/illegal distinction to mark as criminal the everyday and internationally recognised act of arriving in a territory with the intention to claim asylum. It speaks of in-country asylum claims as ‘a parallel illegal system’, of people arriving on boats or trucks as entering or arriving ‘illegally’, as having chosen ‘illegal options’ which constitute ‘abuse of our legal system.’ This despite the 1951 Refugee Convention stating that Contracting States ‘shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who… enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.’

Apart from 13 references to illegality, the speech emphasises the association of irregular migration with other criminal themes, such as ‘people smugglers’ (mentioned 8 times), ‘gangs’ (mentioned 7 times) and ‘abuse of the vulnerable’. The speech emphasises the ’vile‘, ‘appalling’, ‘ruthless’ and ‘brutal’ nature of these activities. It uses hyperbole to equate them with a ‘sweeping tide’ that might bring the ‘80 million displaced people in the world’ to the UK’s doorstep, expecting ‘the British taxpayer to write a blank cheque to cover the costs.’ The substantial costs of housing asylum seekers (£5million a day) are also cited, implying irregular asylum seekers are responsible for this financial burden, while contributing issues in housing and immigration policy and practice are overlooked.

Finally, the speech utilises multiple references to death and suffering: ‘desperate and innocent people… taken to their deaths in unseaworthy boats’, ‘drowning in unseaworthy boats’, ‘losing their lives at sea’, ‘suffocating in refrigerated lorries’, in such a way as to justify the Government’s approach, present it as ethically necessary and argue for it to be implemented with speed and urgency: it is imperative, it seems, to ‘stop these boats now, not lose thousands more lives.’

In this way, in-country asylum claims are presented as virtually inseparable from crime, deviance and death, leading to the extraordinary revelation that the Government’s solution to ‘taking back control of illegal immigration’ is ‘a long-term plan for asylum.’


Defining a New Trope for Disposable Life?  

Having described the ‘innocent people’ who are ‘taken to their deaths in unseaworthy boats,’ it is a major leap to explain how these supposedly ‘innocent’ people become criminals undeserving of the chance to make an asylum claim if they are fortunate enough to reach British shores. It is as if they can only maintain their innocence if they die; if they live, they become lawbreakers abusing the UK’s asylum system, who (to prevent the deaths of other innocents) must be disposed of through deportation or removal to a third safe country.

To prevent the whole edifice of this ‘innovative’ new system from collapsing on this point, a new type of disposable human is produced. It is ‘men under 40’ that the Prime Minister’s speech appears to construct as the scapegoat for all the ills of uncontrolled immigration. In a dubiously evidenced statement, the Prime Minister claimed at Lydd that ‘around seven out of ten of those arriving in small boats last year were men under 40, paying people smugglers to queue jump and taking up our capacity to help genuine women and child refugees.’

This sweeping statement appears as a rhetorical device intended to draw a distinction between illegitimate, ‘queue-jumping’ male asylum seekers, and ‘genuine’ women and children claimants. As there are no publicly available statistics on asylum seekers’ method of entry, the veracity of this statement is difficult to judge in terms of the sex and age distribution of arrivals by boat, let alone the percentage of such arrivals that are ‘genuine’.

The statements immediately following this one go on to paint male claimants under 40 as illegitimate beneficiaries of the UK asylum system. Johnson asserts that they ‘should’ have claimed asylum in other countries and that their failure to do so is the cause of ‘rank unfairness’ in the asylum system. Coming from the Prime Minister, the claim that legitimate asylum seekers must be ‘DIRECTLY fleeing imminent peril’ statement sounds authoritative, but it contradicts legal precedent (see judgement of Lord Simon Brown in Adimi or for more on legal duties of non-penalisation, see this blog by Costello and McDonnell, 2021).

While ‘men under 40’ are only singled out once in the speech, it appears that here for the first time they are being produced as a distinct, unwanted and illegitimate group. Having defined ‘men under 40’ as those who ‘jump the queue’ and are not ‘genuine refugees’, the Prime Minister goes on to state that under the Government’s plans, ‘those who try to jump the queue, or abuse our system, will find no automatic path to settlement in our country, but rather be swiftly and humanely removed to a safe third country or their country of origin.’ And indeed, from news reports emerging with detail of the MEDP from anonymous official sources, the public has also heard that the plan would involve a pilot which would remove ‘single men’ to Rwanda and make them ineligible for refugee status in the UK (Lee & Faulker, BBC News, 18/04/2022), drawing critical commentary even from former Prime Minister and one-time Home Secretary Theresa May. In this combination of discursive and policy choices, it appears it is single men who come to occupy the position of ‘those who abuse our system.’

Having been produced as a disposable and undeserving category, is it really possible that single men arriving by irregular routes are to become the object of experimentation by policymakers, treated as a lower form of life that can be relegated to a place outside the terms of both domestic and international law? Certainly, theorists have argued that acts of exceptionalism are the very origin of sovereignty. In that sense, perhaps this is not so surprising. And the Nationality and Borders Bill has been controversial exactly for its intention to create a two-tier system that treats some asylum seekers as less equal than others (see blog by David Cantor, Eric Fripp, Hugo Storey and Mark Symes, and the Law Society’s submission to the UN’s universal periodic review of the UK). But even so, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.’ It does not allow men, single or otherwise, to be denied rights given to others. The UK’s Equality Act makes it unlawful to discriminate ‘against any person’ on the basis of their sex or marital status. To treat ‘single male’ asylum seekers differently from others would be to perform two prohibited acts at the same time.

When challenged about the criteria for removal in the weeks since the announcement, the Home Secretary refused to share specifics, arguing that to do so would provide ‘loopholes’ for smugglers to exploit. The recently published Equality Impact Assessment similarly avoids divulging specific criteria, insisting that decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis. Without transparency, there is little reassurance that in reality this policy will treat asylum seekers equally, particularly given the bias against men under 40 expressed in the Prime Minister’s Lydd speech.

The Home Office has since notified the first group of migrants of the intention to remove them to Rwanda under the MEDP. While the Government has claimed that this will save lives and reduce ‘human misery,’ over 160 organisations signed a letter calling it ‘shamefully cruel’ and likely to cause ‘immense suffering.’ Mbembe’s words are apt again in closing:

What, then, is this “borderization,” if not the process by which world powers permanently transform certain spaces into impassable places for certain classes of populations? What is it about, if not the conscious multiplication of spaces of loss and mourning, where the lives of a multitude of people judged to be undesirable come to be shattered? (Mbembe, ibid, p.97)