Accepted paper:

A life of stamps: asylum seekers' strategies of vulnerability and mobility in hotspot Lesvos


Sabine de Graaf (University College London (UCL))

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the meaning of asylum seekers' IDs in relation to their vulnerability and mobility. It examines how asylum seekers contest their vulnerability categorisation, in order to change the mobility restrictions related to that status in pursuance of imagined future migration pathways.

Paper long abstract:

For migrants and refugees arriving at the shores of Lesvos, Greece since March 20, 2016 there is a 'simple' choice to be made: register as an asylum seeker, or be detained and sent back to Turkey. As a result of the practices surrounding the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement and the EU's hotspot approach of containment, moving forward to mainland Greece undocumented has become practically impossible. After the initial registration procedure, asylum seekers receive an ID card marked with either a red, blue, or black stamp. This paper explores the meaning and relationship of these ID card stamps to asylum seekers' perceived vulnerability and mobility, within a process of identification and assessment where the state apparatus has come into direct contact with the individual asylum seeker. It examines the ways in which asylum seekers in Lesvos employ different strategies to actively mobilise a vulnerability status in order to change the colour of their ID card stamp. With this process, they hope to get their geographical restriction lifted to (re)gain mobility, which opens up and sustains their possibilities for pursuing imagined future migration pathways to mainland Greece and beyond.

panel B04
The production, uses and meaning of identity documents for people on the move