Migration is generally perceived and studied as a spatial process and the temporal aspect of migration has received much less attention. Asylum seekers and undocumented migrants are constantly waiting for decisions and assistance coming from others: the state, the church, NGOs, legal firms, labour unions or individuals such as employers. The dependence on others’ decisions leads to a patronizing relationship, which means that the migrant has to surrender to the authority of others. Lack of information on how long they have to wait or what exactly they have to do to get their documents makes migrants’ lives unpredictable and results in uncertainty. This is most palpable in various forms of camps, where migrants can be kept with no legal time limit.

This half-day workshop aims to focus on the ethnography on time, waiting, and temporalities in relation to irregular migrations and asylum. The workshop is scheduled to take place on September 16, 2014, at Stockholm University and will have a limited number of participants working on temporal aspect of migration.

Participants:

  • Melanie Griffiths, COMPAS, University of Oxford
  • Rebecca Rotter, University of Exeter
  • Souad Osseiran, Goldsmiths College, University of London
  • Ruben Andersson, The London School of Economics
  • Shahram Khosravi, Stockholm University

The workshop ends with the screening of a feature documentary about the predicament of undocumentedness in today’s Europe. There will be a discussion with the director after the film:
I'm Dublin by David Aronowitsch et al (2014).

Seats are limited, therefore please send an email to lina.lorentz@socant.su.se no later than September 9 if you plan to attend the workshop.

Program

13.00 – 13.15
Introduction

13.15 – 14.30
Melanie Griffiths, COMPAS, University of Oxford
The Temporal Uncertainties of Refused Asylum Seekers and Immigration Detainees

Rebecca Rotter, University of Exeter
Waiting for asylum in Glasgow

14.30 – 14.45 Coffee Break

14.45 – 16.00
Ruben Andersson, The London School of Economics
Time and the migrant Other: European border controls and the temporal economics of illegality

Souad Osseiran, Goldsmiths College, University of London
‘Waiting’ and being ‘at the ready’ in Istanbul: Syrian migrants in Transit

16.00 – 16.45
Sharmarke Binyusuf, Anna Persson, David Aronowitsch
Film Excerpts Showing and Discussion
I'm Dublin and Detention

16.45 – 17.00
Wrap-up and final discussion

Abstracts

Melanie Griffiths, COMPAS, University of Oxford

The Temporal Uncertainties of Refused Asylum Seekers and Immigration Detainees

Despite long-standing recognition that variations exist between people’s experiences of time, and that time is central to the framing of social life and bureaucratic systems, migration scholars have tended to neglect the temporal dimension in their exploration of mobility. This continues to be the case today despite it being over a decade since Saulo Cwerner called for migration researchers to give greater attention to time. In this paper, I draw on ethnographic research conducted with refused asylum seekers and immigration detainees in the UK to question how an appreciation of time provides insights into understandings of mobility and deportability. It argues that deportable migrants suffer from the instability and precarity created by living with a dual uncertainty of time, one that simultaneously threatens imminent and absent change. In so doing, I distinguish between four experiential temporalities voiced by refused asylum seekers, ones where time appears to speed up (frenzied time), slow down (sticky time), halt (suspended time) or shift dramatically (temporal ruptures). Research on uncertainty often portrays dramatic upheaval, in which lives are made nonsensical as a result of profound change over short time periods. I will argue, however, that in addition to instability caused by rapid change, people’s lives can also be made chaotic through a lack of change. I will end by considering how the re-appropriation of time might aid individual resilience.

Rebecca Rotter, University of Exeter

Waiting for asylum in Glasgow

Across Europe, a variety of commentators have lamented that asylum applicants must wait increasingly long periods of time for initial asylum decisions, appeal hearings, appeal determinations, and an ultimate end to the refugee status determinations process. Politicians, the public, and auditors of governmental spending tend to conceptualise this protraction of time as a problem of bureaucratic inefficiency and costs to the tax payer; while asylum advocates, campaigners and scholars see it as one of suffering and injustice for applicants. This paper reports on research which explored a group of asylum applicants’ experiences of waiting for 2-9 years in the asylum process in Glasgow, UK. It shows that these individuals framed their waiting in terms of profound uncertainty, powerlessness and passivity, due to limited knowledge of the asylum process, an inability to anticipate when decisions would be made, and exclusion from a range of activities and domains. However, long-term ethnographic fieldwork was also able to capture the (albeit limited) ways in which the waiting period could be productive and preparatory for individuals’ desired futures, particularly when they were able to draw upon resources to transform excess time into various forms of capital. This highlights the importance of utilising methodologies which capture the multi-faceted nature of waiting, and resisting the temptation to cast waiting as a homogeneous, problematic experience for migrants.

Souad Osseiran, Goldsmiths College, University of London

‘Waiting’ and being ‘at the ready’ in Istanbul: Syrian migrants in Transit

The quality (ies) of time when waiting is experienced in various ways. Different ‘waits’ relate to the ways presents and futures are constituted. Some waits extend the present deferring the future(s).Other waits are stretched out moments of tension and energy. Drawing on research undertaken with Syrian migrants living in Istanbul, I will examine the ways various waits are experienced in tandem. I move between ‘waiting’ and being ‘at the ready.’ In using being ‘at the ready’ I will explore the relationship between energy, stasis and movement.

The Turkish state has granted Syrian nationals in Turkey temporary protection. Part of temporary protection is the right to remain in Turkey for the foreseeable future. The protection sets up the eventual future of return making Turkey a transitory space. Beyond the state framework migrants approach their presence in Istanbul as temporary. Some Syrian migrants have been present in Istanbul from prior to the uprising in Syria, but the majority have come due to the ongoing fighting. Some migrants are seeking to continue onwards to Europe while others are setting up a life in Istanbul. Waiting in Istanbul to move on or move back is experienced differently and the waits are made effective in various ways. In exploring ‘waiting’ and being ‘at the ready’, I focus on the intersection of different temporalities in transit.

Ruben Andersson, The London School of Economics

Time and the migrant Other: European border controls and the temporal economics of illegality

The rich world's borders increasingly seem like a battleground where a new kind of 'threat' is fought back – the so-called 'illegal migrant'. At Europe’s southern frontiers, sea patrols, advanced surveillance machinery and fencing keep migrants out, much like at the US, Israeli or Australian borders. Such investments have created a dense web of controls that displaces the border both inward and outwards, into the borderlands beyond it. This paper, building upon recent border studies and ethnographies of illegality, explores Europe's migration controls by focusing on their temporal rather than their spatial aspects. In the borderlands, it shows, irregular migrants are not only subjected to extended periods of waiting, as migrants often are; they also face an active usurpation of time by state authorities through serial expulsions and retentions. The ways in which migrants' time is appropriated reveal a complex economics of illegality, complementing existing 'biopolitical' perspectives on Europe’s borders.