Photo: European Parliament

The sites and spaces temporarily inhabited by migrants worldwide are vastly different. They encompass repurposed sites, self-settlements and semi-permanent refugee camps. Materially, the camps are diverse. In some, migrants inhabit tents whereas in others, migrants are forced to create their own temporary shelters using materials available to them. In each case, migrants and refugees adapt their surroundings to reflect their cultural and religious needs and create a space that, in some way, reflects the land they fled.

Since the outbreak of the Syrian conflict in 2011, more than 5 million refugees have settled in neighbouring countries. However, the reception given by the countries has been very different. While Jordan and Turkey chose to open refugee camps, Lebanon still refuses this option which has led to refugees self-settling in the country. The only option for refugees in Lebanon was to create their own site and more than 400 informal tented encampments exist around Lebanon hosting Syrian refugees. Self-settling means that following official entry registration of refugees, they are moving and settling inside Lebanon on their own accord. This provides them greater freedom, but makes it more difficult to ensure refugee protection and to coordinate aid relief to the refugees.

Sprawling across three square miles in the Jordanian desert, Zataari refugee camp is home to an estimated 80 000 people and has become so large it is now the fourth largest city in Jordan. The camp is constructed of 30 000 shelters including hospitals, schools and hundreds of make shift shops. The camp, which was originally designed to host a maximum of 60 000 inhabitants, is now beyond its capacity and is unable to accept any more refugees. In contrast to the ad-hoc sprawl of the Zataari camp, the Al-Azraq camp, also in Jordan, is well organised with steel cabins to house the refugees. A school and hospital have been constructed along with cabins prepared for the arrival of more refugees. This is symbolic of the increase in state-organisation of refugee camps in Jordan. Since the outbreak of the Syrian conflict in 2011, Jordan has taken in over a million refugees and continues to accept 50 to 100 refugees per day.

Further west, countries in Europe are facing similar challenges in how to address the growing number of migrants. 2015 saw more than 200 000 migrants entering the EU territory through Lesbos. Lesbos has arguably become the epicentre and the face of the current migrant crisis in Europe. Bordering Turkey, it allows for quick movement from the Middle East into the European Union. The sheer number of migrants, combined with international NGOs, media and researchers, resulted in spatial conflict and tensions with the residents of the small Aegean island. Lesbos has become a symbol of international solidarity with migrants where local and international humanitarianism combine. However, in March 2016, strict restrictions were placed on the number of migrants entering Europe with the intention of stemming the flow of migrants. The EU-Turkey deal stated that each case must be individually assessed to ascertain whether they should be deported or granted asylum in Europe. There are currently nearly 6, 000 migrants detained in limbo waiting to hear whether they will be granted asylum and can move further or whether they will be sent back to Turkey. Meanwhile, the migrants remain in cold, damp conditions with little sanitation or food and tensions with the local population are increasing.

The migrant crisis that was initiated by the outbreak of conflict in Syria has highlighted the lack of international cooperation and preparation for dealing with mass migration. The examples used above demonstrate different strategies but emphasise that the problems are global and not restricted to one specific area. Although there are a number of different sites that temporarily house refugees and migrants, there is a lack of coherent international strategy in how to address the problem.

This week, CMI are hosting a series of seminars forming Migration Week. On Thursday 27th October, the focus will be on Sites. To learn more about the different types of detention facilities and how refugees live in camps, please join us at 10am to hear from Kamel Dora? and Evthymios Papataxiarchis about their work with refugees in Jordan and Greece respectively. For more information: Migration Week

By Anna Gopsill

Anna Gopsill

Project Adviser and PhD candidate