On accumulated homelessness in refugees’ lives: HOMInG @ «Stay, move-on, return: Dynamics of mobility aspirations in contexts of forced displacement» (6-7th November, Amsterdam)

HOMInG’s Milena Belloni and Aurora Massa will present their paper «Accumulated homelessness: Analysing protracted displacement along Eritreans’ trajectories» at the workshop Stay, move-on, return: Dynamics of mobility aspirations in contexts of forced displacement organised by Lea Müller-Funk (Department of Sociology), Natalie Welfens (Department of Political Science), Saskia Bonjour (Department of Political Science) at the Amsterdam Centre for European Studies.

Their paper explores the connection between homelessness and ongoing displacement drawing from Belloni’s and Massa’ ethnographic research in the everyday life of Eritreans at home and in exile. Bringing together debates on protracted displacement and homelessness, the paper suggests that contemporary refugees trajectories are characterised by a condition of “accumulated homelessness”.

The workshop Stay, move-on, return: Dynamics of mobility aspirations in contexts of forced displacement focuses on dynamics of refugees’ (im)mobility and aspirations, against the mismatch existing between policies and refugees’ practices. A variety of new EU policies and approaches aims to govern and manage mobile populations in, towards, and outside of Europe. Such policies usually build on certain premises and assumptions regarding how refugees’ mobility and decision-making work. For instance, countries’ information campaigns imply that welfare policies in destination countries drive migration towards Europe and thus, that demystifying rumours would lead to lower levels of migration. Some European governments have also argued that Search-and-Rescue Missions in the Mediterranean are a pull factor for migration. However, reality has shown that refugees’ mobility pattern and decision-making are far more complex than policies imply. The workshop aims to fill this gap by investigating the role of migrants’ aspirations.

The workshop situates the discussion on migration aspirations within the literature on agency and structure (Emirbayer and Mische 1998). The workshop pursues conceptually an approach that places forced migrants as active social actors in the centre, and asks what forced migrants do and aspire to do in different spaces of immobility, displacement and settlement, how they live in “liminal spaces” (Brun, Fàbos, and El-Abed 2017) or in situations of material and political dispossession (Batrawi and Uzelac 2018). At the same time, the workshop also aims at highlighting shifts and changes of aspirations over time in different ‘stages of migration’, including the leaving, the journey, the entrance, (re)settlement, on-migration or return (Erdal and Oeppen 2018). International experience shows that the absence of fighting is rarely a singular trigger for return. Overall, refugees have their own calculus of return and assess available options that considers factors including improved security and socio-economic conditions in origin states, access to property and assets, the availability of key services, and restitution in home areas (World Bank 2019, 11).