Of Bastions and Bulwarks: A Multi-Scalar Understanding of Local Bordering Practices in Europe


In recent years, local authorities in Europe have increasingly developed bordering practices that hinder or further migrant rights, such as the freedom of movement. They bypass national borders by facilitating refugee resettlement, they claim local space to welcome or shun certain migrants, and they develop or break down local impediments to migrant mobility. These local practices, we argue, can best be understood from a multiscalar perspective, which considers processes of placemaking as reproductive of power dynamics. Applying such a perspective to local bordering practices in Greece, Turkey, the Netherlands, Italy, and Germany, we point out the importance of the multitude of the actors involved; legal pluralism; and the contextual role of social, economic, and spatial factors. This offers a theoretical foothold for understanding the power dynamics at play when local authorities become bastions or bulwarks, in which some migrants are welcomed, and others are not.

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Except where otherwise noted, content in this journal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Published: 2021-09-01
Pages:16 to 29
Section:Special Issue: Transforming Borders and the Discretionary Politics of Migration
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How to Cite
Oomen, B. ., Baumgärtel, M. ., Miellet, S. ., Sabchev, T. . and Durmuş , E. . (2021) “Of Bastions and Bulwarks: A Multi-Scalar Understanding of Local Bordering Practices in Europe”, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 10(3), pp. 16-29. doi: 10.5204/ijcjsd.2038.

Author Biographies

University College Roosevelt; Utrecht University

Professor Barbara Oomen holds a chair in the Sociology of Human Rights at Utrecht University, and is based at University College Roosevelt, both in the Netherlands. She leads the Cities of Refuge project, that explores and explicates the relevance of international human rights to how local authorities in Europe welcome and integrate refugees (www.citiesofrefuge.eu). She has published extensively on localizing human rights, amongst others in the edited volume ‘Global Urban Justice: The Rise of Human Rights Cities’

University College Roosevelt

Moritz Baumgärtel is an assistant professor in law and sociology at University College Roosevelt and the senior researcher in Cities of Refuge project. He is also the author of “Demanding Rights: Europe’s Supranational Courts and the Dilemma of Migrant Vulnerability”, which was published by Cambridge University Press in 2019.

Utrecht University; University College Roosevelt

Sara Miellet is a Ph.D. researcher at Utrecht University and a member of the Cities of Refuge research project. Within this project, her research examines the relevance of international human rights for the reception and inclusion of refugees and irregular migrants in different Dutch and German municipalities. Sara has a longstanding interest in the interplay between housing and dispersal policies for refugees and freedom of movement and right to residence.

Utrecht University

Tihomir Sabchev is a PhD candidate at the School of Law of Utrecht University, member of the “Cities of Refuge” research team. His doctoral dissertation focuses on the role of Greek and Italian municipalities in the reception and integration of forced migrants in the post-2015 period. Tihomir’s research interests include multi-level governance of migration and integration, and refugee sponsorship practices in Europe and Canada.

Utrecht University

Elif Durmus is a PhD Researcher at Utrecht University, in the Project “Cities of Refuge” together with her co-authors in the article in this Special Issue. The holds an LLB from Ankara University and an Advanced LLM (cum laude) from Leiden University on Public International Law, Specialisation: Peace, Justice and Development. Within the Cities of Refuge project, she explores local governments and their formal and informal transnational networks’ engagement with international law, specifically human rights and migration. Her publications can be found at www.citiesofrefuge.eu. She is a founding editor of the Blog of the Netherlands Network of Human Rights Research Human Rights Here, is currently co-editing a volume on the “Urban Politics of Human Rights” and teaches part-time at University College Roosevelt.