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54th Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "Regional development & globalisation: Best practices", 26-29 August 2014, St. Petersburg, Russia
The article aims to illustrate the spatial dimensions of exclusionary mechanisms applied to immigrants asking for asylum in European cities. It focuses on the housing of asylum seekers, its policies, effects, causes, conflicts and resistance, with the assumption that housing asylum seekers is relevant for the integration process of this group. The comparative study uses the cases of of Copenhagen, Berlin, and Madrid exploring following main questions: 1) To what extent does the housing of asylum seekers affect the inclusion process into the urban society, and 2) how do asylum seekers act against exclusionary mechanisms and how do they negotiate their political interests? In this context, the presentation focuses on four fields of interests: the policy and responsibilities regarding housing asylum seekers on the EU, national and local level, the illustration of the location and characteristics of housing, the conflicts that arise from housing asylum seekers in communities, and forms of resistance by asylum seekers and political activists against the housing policy. The paper illustrates that the political and societal dealings with asylum seekers and, more specifically, the location for housing of asylum seekers in either deprived neighborhoods on the outskirts (Madrid, Berlin) or outside of European cities (especially Copenhagen, but also Berlin and Madrid), and the material conditions of the housing affect the inclusion process and the image of asylum seekers and their housing. Therefore, neighborhood conflicts arise between migrants and neighborhood residents, and migrants resist (often by means of protests in the urban space) against their living conditions. However, while ruffled feelings and protests have been smoothed in Copenhagen (mostly due to political repression and small improvements regarding the asylum legislation), there is an increase of political protest and resistance by political groups and asylum seekers considering the housing situation in Berlin and Madrid, which emerged due to neighborhood conflicts, the occupation of public spaces, and solidarity movements. The European City is often described as a place of openness, integration, and emancipation (Simmel 1950; Siebel 2004). However, this research work shows how asylum seekers are systematically prevented to benefit from these features. It clarifies the disadvantageous housing situation, discrimination practices and the issue of a possible failed integration, and it finally illustrates that the European City has built a new, invisible wall that excludes "non-citizens" from the actual urban life. In regards to locally "unwanted" migration groups, the European City developed to some kind of a new Fortress City.
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