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Borders as Meeting Points: Migration Policies, and the Migrants' Resistance in the Port and Border Area of Patras

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Over the last twenty years, borders have undergone a substantial redefinition of their functions, meanings, and structures, as a result of geopolitical and socio-economic changes. Borders have proliferated in places other than national boundaries and different actors other than the states have contributed to their redefinition. The development of the European Union (EU) embodies the epitome of this process. Driven by global capital restructuring, the creation and progressive enlargement of a common European market has led to a process of de- and re-bordering that eliminated checkpoints between member states while strengthening security measures along and even outside the external borders of the EU. Internal borders, however, have not disappeared, but rather have been reproduced within the European space through variegated policies and practices, asserting, as Balibar put it, their ubiquitous and heterogeneous character.

Drawing upon the concept of production of space, as theorized by Lefebvre and elaborated by Harvey and Massey, this paper assesses the impact of neoliberal practices and migration policies on the spatial transformation of the border/port area of Patras, the third most populated city and the third most important harbour in Greece. Since the 1990s, the port – driven by rapidly growing traffic figures – has undergone a significant expansion while simultaneously strengthening its security measures. In the same period, the increasing migratory pressures prompted many migrants and asylum seekers to gather in the proximity of the port, where they created and moulded their own "living space," contesting the bordering practices in their attempt to reach Italy and the rest of Europe.

Taking insights from recent empirical research, the paper will analyze the role of both state and non-state actors (migrants, associations, local residents) in shaping the border area, each of them producing their own particular space. In particular, the paper will focus on the everyday experiences of migrants and refugees occupying an abandoned industrial area in front of the port. Despite their impelling desire of leaving Greece, legal conditions and lack of money have often forced some of them to stay indefinitely, thus seeking alternative ways to build their own "living space" out of that inhospitable place. Through the examination of semi-structured and informal interviews with a wide variety of actors, the paper will investigate the everyday practices of negotiation, contestation, and resistance employed by migrants and asylum seekers at and across the border. The paper will eventually argue that borders are "meeting points" where different multi-scalar dynamics performed by multifarious actors continuously meet and reproduce.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2017

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  • The St Antony's International Review (STAIR) is the only peer-reviewed journal of international affairs at the University of Oxford. Set up by graduate students of St Antony's College in 2005, the Review has carved out a distinctive niche as a cross-disciplinary outlet for research on the most pressing contemporary global issues, providing a forum in which emerging scholars can publish their work alongside established academics and policymakers. Past contributors include Robert O. Keohane, James N. Rosenau, and Alfred Stepan.
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