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Istanbul insecure place for African refugees

Istanbul is a gateway into Europe for refugees and asylum seekers, a transit city for thousands of migrants, who live under insecure conditions. A new dissertation at Malmö University and Linköping University in Sweden shows that social networks benefit transit migration. Established migrants help and exploit new arrivals.

Most people fleeing or leaving their home country do not see Istanbul as a final destination. They regard the city as a entryway to Europe. In her research, Brigitte Suter, a doctoral candidate at Malmö University, has interviewed many migrants living in Istanbul, migrants from Africa, south of the Sahara, from countries like Nigeria, Congo, and Kenya. In her dissertation Tales of Transit she describes how they survive.

- Transit existence for migrants is characterized by insecurity, uncertainty, and lack of rights.

Her research shows in particular how the transit movement is partly created and sustained by migrants. Refugees often receive help from other migrants, preferably of the same nationality. Experienced migrants help and exploit new arrivals.

- Established migrants have citizenship or a residency permit and can start companies and offer employment. They often employ their landsmen. The same is true when people are smuggled onward to Greece. In such cases it is usually a person from the same country who benefits financially from this.

- The line between helping and exploiting is very fine. Transit migrants depend on each other for survival. In this way this type of migration is sustained.

Turkey is Europe's outer border with Africa and Asia. The EU wants Turkey to implement its own asylum process based on the European standard, which also entails becoming a party to the Dublin Agreement. This is one of the requirements for Turkey to become a member of the EU. However, Turkey in turn sees a clear danger of facing a situation like that in Greece, that is, of receiving a disproportionately large proportion of asylum seekers compared with other EU countries.

When it becomes more and more difficult for refugees and asylum seekers to make their way to the EU, transit migration increases. Despite this fact, there is little research in this field. Brigitte Suter hopes that her research will serve to nuance the picture of transit migration.

- There's a stereotype picture of migrants in Europe: they are either seen as criminal, as victims, or as heroes. Using these migrants' own stories, I want to transform migration statistics into flesh and blood.

Facts: Transit migration Transit existence is the period between emigration and immigration or settlement. It can either be brief or can last for many years.

Contact: Brigitte Suter, Tel: +46 (0)40-66 57083, Mobile: +46 (0)709-60 87 30, E-mail: brigitte.suter@mah.se

idw :: 14.12.2012

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