In this introduction, the authors explain the context of the case studies, which is identified as a process of re-bordering within Europe that is maintained by a strengthening of bureaucracies and institutional structures. At the same time, welfare bureaucracies construct the refugee as a source of risk that needs to be governed, disciplined and mitigated on a daily basis. This process, the authors argue, is fraught with violent practices that are to be studied throughout the book.
Contesting the meaning of the 2015 refugee crisis in Sweden
The chapter focuses on Sweden and illustrates the construction of refugees as a national risk, which ultimately impeded the ability to respond to the influx of large number of refugees in 2015. The analysis reveals a fundamental difference between the national and local government. The national government saw 2015 as a threat to sovereignty, while the municipalities saw it as a strain on the bureaucracy that was successfully managed, but the lessons and resources of which were lost on the government and the state precisely at the moment when new practices were established that could effectively deal with another mass entry. The national government curtailed the autonomy of the local government, however. The author concludes that, far from threatening Swedish state sovereignty, the ‘refugee crisis’ has both justified, asserted, and extended sovereignty by recourse to national and international law, and an associative chain link between asylum seekers, illegal immigration, terrorism, and crisis.
Young Palestinian men encountering a Swedish introductory programme for refugees
The chapter interrogates the Swedish introductory programme that is expected to aid in integrating refugees. The analysis illustrates experiences of frustration, loss and dependence, which often thwart the hopes and dreams of mobile youth who arrive in Sweden. Despite policy-makers’ attempts to individualise the programme and to offer extensive support, institutional requirements and the disciplining of refugees have immobilising effects, not least when it comes to social mobility and higher education.
Institutions and the challenges of refugee governance
The chapter focuses on media constructions of a refugee crisis in 2015 and underscores the central theme of challenging the various institutions of the welfare state. According to the analysis of newspaper articles, state institutions were unable to cope with the demands of bureaucratically managing and assisting those who came to Sweden seeking help. The author underscores the salience of the institutional crisis rather than moral panic that shaped the public framing of the crisis in 2015. Such institutional emphasis facilitates a restrictive turn in reception polices that can be justified through the invocation of notions of order, discipline, control and management without challenging the nation’s self-image as generous and self-righteous.
The chapter focuses on those whose application for asylum has been rejected and illustrates the implementation of the minimum rights approaches adopted by the Swedish and Danish governments. This approach is intended to make the respective countries less attractive for persons seeking protection. While the discussed policies form part of a wider European trend whereby welfare regimes are instrumentalised for the purpose of border and migration control, the author argues that restrictions to minimum welfare services assume particular significance in highly bureaucratised welfare states, and should be understood as a particular form of state violence.
Given the significant similarities and differences between the welfare states of Northern Europe and their reactions to the perceived 'refugee crisis' of 2015, the book focuses primarily on the three main cases of Denmark, Sweden and Germany. Placed in a wider Northern European context – and illustrated by those chapters that also discuss refugee experiences in Norway and the UK – the Danish, Swedish and German cases are the largest case studies of this edited volume. Thus, the book contributes to debates on the governance of non-citizens and the meaning of displacement, mobility and seeking asylum by providing interdisciplinary analyses of a largely overlooked region of the world, with two specific aims. First, we scrutinize the construction of the 2015 crisis as a response to the large influx of refugees, paying particular attention to the disciplinary discourses and bureaucratic structures that are associated with it. Second, we investigate refugees’ encounters with these bureaucratic structures and consider how these encounters shape hopes for building a new life after displacement. This allows us to show that the mobility of specific segments of the world’s population continues to be seen as a threat and a risk that has to be governed and controlled. Focusing on the Northern European context, our volume interrogates emerging policies and discourses as well as the lived experiences of bureaucratization from the perspective of individuals who find themselves the very objects of bureaucracies.
The chapter focuses on the framing of crisis in the Danish context, the deterrence policies that such framing triggered, and some of the reactions to these policies among certain segments of civil society. The analysis unpacks three interrelated concepts: deterrence policies, institutional uncertainty, and deportable populations. The author shows that the specific framing of crisis legitimised restrictive policy shifts that receive widespread support in Danish public life. These policies also feed into a climate of uncertainty and expand the category of deportable populations exemplifying a form of bureaucratic violence.
The chapter provides an introduction to the constructions of refugees in and through political discourses and legal procedures in Sweden, Germany and Denmark. The analysis underscores the relevance of class as a category of stratification, which plays an important (yet sometimes contradictory) role in the granting of asylum. The chapter highlights the relevance of class in informing the perceptions of judges, special regulations on entry to a country and restrictive deterrence measures.
Understanding the violence of the benevolent welfare state in Norway
Focusing on Norway, the chapter tackles one specific form of frustration, that of waiting. In illustrating the ways in which the welfare state exerts violence on refugees, the analysis depicts the ways bureaucracies negatively impact the lived experiences of those waiting to be resettled in a municipality and to start a new life, despite attempts of empathy and care by individual street-level bureaucrats. Even though the author’s interlocutors have received permanent residency, lack of willingness and coordination between different welfare state institutions prolongs the waiting and creates a situation of bureaucratic violence.