Urban diaplacement: space, place and belonging in “cities of refuge”

An increasing number of refugees live in poor neighborhoods in towns and cities across the Middle East, a premier refugee region with one of the world’s highest urbanization levels. Although countries in the region are hosting millions of refugees, the host states do not have the resources to provide for them. Aiding refugees living in cities and urban areas is therefore a major challenge to humanitarian policy. For many refugees, cities are viewed as the best option to provide for themselves and their families. However, cities can also become “poverty traps”, where the refugees survive below subsistence levels. Urban refugees also compete with other urban dwellers for housing, jobs, and services. This can strain host-guest relations causing a backlash against refugees both on the local and national level. Neither displaced nor emplaced, they are suspended in what Turner (2016) has labeled “diaplacement”. While the size and complexity of cities account for some of the problems facing refugees, they are also part of the solution. Cities have larger and often unregulated labour markets, more shelter options, and ready access to health and school facilities. Cities and towns can also offer greater freedom of movement and foster self-reliance as well as better prospects for successful socio-economic integration and social interaction. The daily challenges that displaced persons experience range from material and financial to emotional and moral. This panel examines how the displaced persons in Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan have responded to those challenges. Based on new research from across the Middle East region, the panel examines the displaced creation of place and its impact on Istanbul host communities (S. Osserian), the role of ‘arrival infrastructures’ in urban incorporation in Istanbul (K. Biehl and M. Saparova), refugee housing and emergency urbanism in Beirut (A. Knudsen) and the creation of urban spaces and city-making in refugee camps in North Jordan (K. Doraï).

Panel conveners and organizers: Are John Knudsen (CMI) and Souad Osseiran (MiReKoc)

Souad Osseiran (MiReKoc): Complicating the Migrant and Refugee Category Boundaries, Syrian Refugee Experiences in Esenyurt

Kristen Biehl (Sabancı University) and Marhabo Saparova (Northeastern U):  Understanding migration and urban incorporation through an ‘arrival infrastructures’ lens: The case of Istanbul’s Fatih district

Are J. Knudsen (CMI): Emergency Urbanism: Self-Settled Syrian Refugees in Two Beirut Tenement Buildings

Kamel Doraï (CNRS): Refugee Camps and the Urban Fabric in Northern Jordan

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