Forced Displacement and Urbanity: Global movements, urban destinations and social justice in the Mediterranean Migration Crisis

In the wake of the most unprecedented movement of forcibly displaced people since the Second World War, in the past two years Europe’s towns and cities have become home to over a million migrants who have made the dangerous journey by sea across the Mediterranean and the Aegean. At the same time many thousands remain trapped in official and informal camps and ‘reception centres’ in Greece and Italy and in transit countries with little prospect of onward movement following the closure of the European Union’s external borders.

 The response to the migration crisis by European Union member states has varied considerably—with the Federal Republic of Germany remaining largely open to new refugee arrivals—while other member states have actively opposed the admission of displaced populations. This has been manifested in the construction of border fences and barriers, intensified border controls and the detention and expulsion of so-called “illegal” migrants often without recourse to asylum claims, contrary to European and international humanitarian protection laws. However, in terms of regional and municipal administrations the response to the migration “crisis” has been much more positive—with the mayors of Barcelona, Palermo, Lampedusa and Lesvos declaring their full solidarity with refugees and calling on the leaders of the European Union to endorse a politics of humanitarian protection and welcome rather than one focused on building an ever more impenetrable “Fortress Europe”.

Thus not only is Europe’s recent migration crisis global and urban in character it goes to the heart of how social justice is addressed in policy and practice by a range of state and non-state actors and how the right to the city needs to be re-imagined in the context of an increasingly conflict ridden and unstable world.

In this session we therefore particularly encourage theoretical and empirical papers that deal with the following themes:

  • Challenges and barriers for new migrants in different spatial environments and types of cities
  • Urban and regional policy and the Mediterranean migration crisis
  • Processes of cultural, social and economic integration in new migrant spaces
  • Urban housing and new refugee and migrant populations
  • Informal camps as new forms of urbanization and civic space
  • Vulnerability and exploitation among/towards forcibly displaced urban populations
  • Cultures of welcome and solidarity towards refugees and migrants in the European city
  • Urban social movements and the Mediterranean migration crisis
  • Anti-migrant politics and xenophobia in urban Europe
  • Security, counter-terrorism and policing and the Mediterranean migration crisis.


Simon Parker, University of York

Annette Spellerberg, University of Kaiserslautern