Accepted Paper:

Trapped in the asylum space, lost in the waiting time: everyday experiences of asylum seekers in French reception centers  


Carolina Kobelinsky (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales)

Paper short abstract:

This contribution explores, from an ethnographic perspective, what happens when waiting becomes normalized for asylum seekers living in French Reception Centers supported by the state and managed by NGOs. The paper invites to think about the intimate bond between waiting and confinement.

Paper long abstract:

French reception centers, supported by the state and manage by NGOs, constitute a rare resource as most of the asylum seekers cannot reach it. Asylum seekers are taken in charge by reception centers for the duration of the claims procedure. Living in these shelters constitutes a period of precarious stability as basic living needs are guaranteed. However, this is not without consequences, as the center is a space of ambiguity and confinement where practices swing between control and compassion. But the shelter is also a waiting place: waiting may be considered the "activity" of those who seek refuge in France. The asylum seekers I met have been waiting between six months and four years for their claims to be evaluated. During this period they cannot work and their legal status is, at best, precarious. I would like to raise here a set of related questions: what does it mean to be waiting in the shelters? What kind of waiting do they experience? What happens while waiting? Based on a long-lasting ethnographic study in centers for asylum seekers in the Parisian suburb, the aim of this paper is to explore what happens when waiting becomes normalized. Eventually, this contribution invites to think about the intimate bond between waiting and confinement.

Panel W043
Alien confinement in Europe: field perspectives