Millions of refugees are stuck in camps and cities of the global South without permanent legal status. They wait in limbo, their status unresolved in what the United Nations (UN) calls ‘protracted refugee situations’ (PRS). The material conditions and depictions of such
refugees as immobile and passive contributes to a feminization of asylum in such spaces. In contrast, refugees on the move to seek asylum in the global North are perceived as threats and coded as part of a masculinist geopolitical agenda that controls and securitizes their movement.
Policies to externalize asylum and keep potential refugees away from the affluent nations of the global North, in which they may seek legal status, represent one strategy of exclusion. This article traces these divergent trajectories of im/mobility and demonstrates how humanitarian space for
both groups is narrowing over time. For those seeking asylum in the global North, measures such as increased detention and rapid return to transit countries aim to deter migrants from arriving at all. It is contended that the discrete systems that manage asylum seekers in the global North
and refugees in long-term limbo are themselves gendered. European Union policies to ‘externalize’ asylum and keep asylum seekers offshore dovetail with policies by EU member states to ‘build capacity’ for refugee protection in refugee ‘regions of origin’.
These represent a shifting, not a sharing, of responsibility for their welfare and prolongs their wait.
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