Refugees’ experiences in sites of prolonged displacement, liminality, and exception: a case study of the Diavata refugee camp in Northern Greece

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Boeren, Annelie
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Many EU countries, including Greece, set up refugee camps to temporarily accommodate the migrants and refugees that arrived during the 2015-2016 reception crisis. Although they were created as temporary solutions, over the years many refugee camps consolidated into prolonged sites of displacement, which until today continue to accommodate families and individuals under pressing circumstances. Based on the case study of the Diavata camp, the thesis examines how the residents of a refugee camp in mainland Greece experience times of exacerbated exclusion. Drawing on qualitative research methods in the fields of Sociocultural Anthropology and Political Science, the methodology consists of fieldwork (i.e. participant observation and informal interviews), in-depth interviews with key informants, and analysis of reports. Utilizing a grounded theory approach, the thesis conceptualises the refugees’ experiences in the Diavata camp as processes of prolonged displacement, liminality, and exception in an era of exacerbated exclusion. First, it discusses the Diavata refugee camp as a site of multi-layered exclusion through its remote location, enclosed architecture, and discriminatory Covid-19 restrictions. Second, it examines the refugees’ experiences of living in liminality, by scrutinizing the co-existing spaces of ‘exception’ and ‘belonging’ in the Diavata camp and the ‘Casa Base’ safe space next door. Third, it discusses the advent of the new, three-meter high concrete wall and how this makes the Diavata camp resemble an occupied enclave. Overall, the relevance this gives to the thesis, from a human rights perspective, is the documentation and creation of a counter-narrative to both the hegemonic societal discourse and policy practice of exclusion. This narrative highlights the biopolitics of ‘care and control’ as a dominant axis of refugee politics in Greece and the EU.
Second semester University: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Awarded thesis 2020/2021
refugees, Greece, refugee camps, migrants, displaced persons