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.
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.
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.