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Rescaling migration, citizenship, and rights

Recent debates over migration, refuge, and citizenship are challenging the assumed primacy of the nation-state as the key guarantor of rights and entitlements. Sanctuary Cities and Urban Struggles makes the first sustained intervention into exploring how such considerations of citizenship, rights, and mobility are recast when examined from different spatial scales. The collection brings together discussions from across political geography, urban geography, citizenship studies, socio-legal studies, and refugee studies to explore the role of urban social movements, localised practices of belonging and rights claiming, and diverse articulations of sanctuary in reshaping where and how responses to the governance of migration are articulated. Working from the intimate relations of the body and interpersonal accounts of sanctuary, through to strategies for autonomous settlement as part of Europe’s ‘summer of migration’, the collection sets out to challenge the often assumed primacy of the nation-state as the dominant lens through which to understand questions of citizenship and mobility. In its place, Sanctuary Cities and Urban Struggles proposes not a singular alternative, but rather a set of interlocking sites and scales of political practice and imagination, all of which respond to, and variously rework, the governmental demands of the contemporary nation-state. Mixing empirical cases and conceptualisations that move beyond ‘seeing like a state’, this collection will be of interest to geographers, political sociologists, migration scholars, social anthropologists, and urbanists.

Jonathan Darling

It has become relatively commonplace to claim that the world is becoming urban. However, it is only relatively recently that the domain of the urban has been considered as an area of study for those concerned with the politics of refugees. This chapter reflects on what is at stake in such work and presents an argument for exploring in more detail how a prosaic reading of the city as an ensemble of authorities, legalisations, and claims can help critical scholarship understand the politics of refugee mobility. Reflecting recent debates over the rescaling of politics, the chapter draws on a concern with ‘seeing like a city’, to argue that an urban perspective may offer a conceptual path to contest the exclusions of the state. Through mobilising this lens, and considering its empirical application in the work of urban sanctuary movements and refugee-led urban activism in the UK, the chapter considers how an urban politics of presence may reposition refugees in relation to authority, rights, and opportunities for belonging.

in Sanctuary cities and urban struggles
Rationale and barriers
Idil Atak

In 2014 Toronto, the first Canadian sanctuary city, reaffirmed its commitment to improving undocumented migrants’ access to programmes and services from city-funded agencies. However, research shows that official policy has not been consistently realised in practice. Service providers experience difficulties such as unfamiliarity with the needs of undocumented migrants and lack of formal organisational policy. Moreover, confusion still exists as to the nature of and extent to which municipal programmes cohere with federal/provincial law. Consequently, fear of arrest, detention, and removal from Canada still result in the marginalisation of undocumented migrants, and susceptibility to exploitation and abuse. This chapter provides a critical analysis of the operation of sanctuary city policy in the Greater Toronto Area. Using the theoretical framework of ‘local governance’, this chapter offers a reflection on the importance of the municipal context in crafting policy responses to the legal, economic, and social marginalisation of undocumented migrants. The chapter maps the nature and extent to which formal policy effectively protects the human rights of undocumented migrants. Drawing on research conducted from 2015 to 2016, the chapter explores the insights and perspectives of city officials, civil society organisations, and practitioners in the Greater Toronto Area.

in Sanctuary cities and urban struggles
Between policy, practice, and politics
Janika Kuge

Sanctuary legislation is used in many different contexts. What the so-called ‘sanctuary cities’ have in common is that city authorities actively ignore people’s legal status when conducting business with their inhabitants. Thus, while drawing on humanitarian principles, sanctuary practices often have a pragmatic side. For example, the variety of legal and residency statuses of people living together in a city have often resulted in complicated organisational and social networks, the disruption of which by immigration authorities would endanger social peace. This tension has been framed as a contradiction between national requirements and a post-national local reality, a tension that sanctuary practices might be seen as responding to. This chapter draws on these contradictions between the national and the post-national to explore in metropolitan areas discussion of the future role of the local and of statehood is being made and remade in response to concerns around national identity and post-national populations. Sanctuary in these contexts emerges as an urban policy framing that results from such discussions. The chapter thus argues that if sanctuary legislation is a sign of political change in the perception and organisation of migration, it may also signal the changing nature and significance of the nation-state in an interconnected and increasingly urbanised world.

in Sanctuary cities and urban struggles
M. Anne Visser and Sheryl-Ann Simpson

While immigration policy making has traditionally been the sole prerogative of nation-states, recent research has documented increased instances of migration policy making at sub-national levels across migrant receiving societies. These findings have begun to bring attention to the ways in which immigration policy is now being set through the actions of lower levels of government. This chapter extends these findings, arguing for attention to the role of sub-national actors in defining the politics of contemporary processes of migration, settlement, and incorporation. The chapter engages with these broader issues by discussing a group of sub-national actions, the implementation of migrant labour market regularisations (LRs) in the US. LRs are discrete arenas of policy making at the sub-national level that affect aspects of migrant workers' status and include laws and ordinances related to anti-solicitation, language access, local enforcement of federal immigration law, and employment verification. The chapter thus builds on findings from individual case studies, through an analysis of a unique national dataset of over 3,000 LRs passed in US counties and municipalities between 2001 and 2015. In doing so, the chapter provides a national perspective on the social, economic, and political processes influencing the adoption of LRs over time and across space.

in Sanctuary cities and urban struggles
Harald Bauder

Sanctuary cities exemplify the rescaling of citizenship, community, and belonging. This chapter sets the stage for the book by exploring urban sanctuary practices and policies in different countries. Drawing on the USA, the UK, and Canada the chapter shows how sanctuary policies and practices aim to accommodate illegalised migrants and refugees in urban communities. The concept of the ‘sanctuary city’, however, is highly ambiguous: it refers to a variety of different policies and practices, and focuses on variable populations in different national contexts. The chapter examines the international literature to show how urban sanctuary policies and practices differ between national contexts and assess whether there are common features of sanctuary cities. It uncovers legal, discursive, identity-formative, and scalar aspects of urban sanctuary policies and practices. These aspects assemble in ways that differ between countries. The chapter discusses these aspect in relation to urban practices in other countries, such as Germany, Spain, and Chile. It concludes by raising important practical and theoretical questions about urban sanctuary.

in Sanctuary cities and urban struggles
Staff Security and Civilian Protection in the Humanitarian Sector
Miriam Bradley

In 2015, Action Contre la Faim launched a campaign calling on the UN to create a new post, that of a Special Rapporteur for the protection of humanitarian aid workers. Critics of the proposal claimed, inter alia, that creating such a post would imply that aid workers were a special category of civilians, worthy of protection over and above that accorded the wider population in the contexts in which they work. This raises an important issue which runs deeper than the campaign for a Special Rapporteur. The present article argues that, with or without such a post, the current situation is one in which humanitarian agencies treat aid workers as distinct and separate from the wider civilian population, and take significantly different measures for the safety of their staff from those they take for other civilians. For the most part, the distinction and associated differences are uncritically accepted, and this article sets out to challenge such acceptance by highlighting the nature of the differences, assessing possible explanations for the underlying distinction and considering its implications. Through this analysis, the article argues that this distinction not only reflects but also reinforces an unequal valuing of lives internationally.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Emmanuelle Strub

A security advisor for Médecins du Monde France between 2012 and 2016, Emmanuelle Strub recalls her experience and some of the major shifts in risk management in the NGO sector in recent years. In particular, at a time of global normalisation of the aid sector, she describes her own efforts to streamline security management in her organisation: empowering field teams and, in particular, heads of mission, emphasising the crucial role of obtaining consent from the various stakeholders in the countries of intervention, and developing security trainings, crisis-management tools and a risk-management methodology. Yet, she warns, the trend today, with the advent of the duty-of-care concept, is to shift the use of risk management from enabling operations and facilitating access to populations to protecting the organisation from legal or reputational risks.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Fabrice Weissman

This article discusses the policy of absolute secrecy on abductions adopted by aid organisations. It argues that the information blackout on past and current cases is to a large extent a function of the growing role of private security companies in the aid sector, which promote a ‘pay, don’t say’ policy as a default option, whatever the situation. The article contends that secrecy is as much an impediment to resolving current cases as it is to preventing and managing future ones. It suggests abandoning the policy of strict confidentiality in all circumstances – a policy that is as dangerous as it is easy to apply – in favour of a more nuanced and challenging approach determining how much to publicise ongoing and past cases for each audience, always keeping in mind the interests of current and potential hostages.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Editor’s Introduction
Michaël Neuman, Fernando Espada and Róisín Read
Journal of Humanitarian Affairs