Sharing RESPOND Knowledge at the IMISCOE Annual Conference 2019


By Dr. Susan Rottmann Özyeğin University

Some of the first findings of RESPOND were shared at one of the largest gatherings of migration researchers in Europe, the IMISCOE Annual Conference in Malmö, Sweden.

A major highlight was a workshop on the topic, “Gendered Experience of Migration and Vulnerabilities in Protection Regimes,” co-organized by Andreas Onver Cetrez and Sabine Hess.  The workshop included papers by Veronica Federico (Vulnerability, Migration and the Law), Ela Gokalp Aras and Zeynep Sahin Mencutek (Governance of Vulnerabilities: Reflections from Turkey), Ivan Josipovic (Interviewing Refugees: Vulnerability in Context), Andreas Onver Cetrez (“The Untouchables”: Vulnerability and Links to Consent and Anonymity in Research with Refugee Participants) and Susan Rottmann and Maissam Nimer (Negotiating Gender and Power in the Classroom and Beyond for Syrian Refugee Women Language Learners in Turkey).  Some of the papers approached vulnerability as a conceptual tool to understand the research situation, others looked at vulnerability as a legal category and others sought to explore multifaceted identities without referring to vulnerability at all.  During the workshop, Dr. Rottmann and Dr. Cetrez facilitated a discussion on the conceptual and methodological challenges of working with the concept of vulnerability.  Researchers shared their struggles with the concept, but agreed that it retains its relevance not the least because international agencies and national governments often apply this terminology. 

See below for the full workshop abstract and paper abstracts.


Gendered Experience of Migration and Vulnerabilities in Protection Regimes Workshop ABSTRACT (Organized by Sabine Hess and Önver Cetrez)

 This workshop draws mainly on research from a Horizon 2020 project, RESPOND: Multilevel Governance of Mass Migration in Europe and Beyond. Following a human rights based approach, we are interested in the experiences of refugee-migrants along their journey of protection, paying attention to gender specificities.  Recent findings of refugee studies not only point to a specific “migration-violence-nexus” (Jane Freedmann) and speak of a “violence –continuum” (Ulrike Krause), stretching from the countries of origin, via the transit, up to the reception contexts, but they also demonstrate that these phenomena are highly gendered. Whereas several international and European conventions and regulations, as well as the UNCHR are stressing the need for gender sensitive protection regimes, empirical research shows that little is done. On the other hand, the trope of vulnerability has reached a surprising importance on a governmental level with some ambivalent effects between victimization and the mobilization of care/protection. 

By drawing on fieldwork findings we want to shed light on the gendered experience of flight and migration as well as juxtaposing these accounts with the existing protection regimes. We will also discuss the critical role of existing legislation on migration in protecting from or exacerbating gendered violence. Thereby the workshop wants to initiate a critical debate on the flip sites and traps of the tight coupling of refugee women with vulnerability. We end with methodological and ethical challenges from the field.

Topics covered are:
-The German Reception system revisited from a gender perspective: the structural production of insecurity.
-Life Stage and Language: Strategies and Vulnerabilities for Syrian Women in Turkey.
-Yazidi Women: Overcoming vulnerabilities in the aftermath of the Yazidi genocide.
-Governance of Vulnerability in Turkey’s protection regime. 

Papers Presented at the Workshop

Önver Cetrez, “The Untouchables”: Vulnerability and links to consent and anonymity in research with refugee participants

Researchers, Good (2019) and Iphofen (2009), point out, the notion of vulnerable populations, meaning categories of vulnerable persons, is less functional if only adhering to a status. Instead, the concept would gain from a situational dimension, where the vulnerability label to a population is contextualised. In the research field, individuals are in varying degree capable of articulating their concerns, needs, and managing their identities as vulnerable or not. Thus, vulnerability is directly linked to the ability to give consent and to be anonymous. These are the main issues addressed in this presentation. Rather than asking whether research participants are vulnerable, from an ethical point, as the psychologist Iphofen (2009:108) writes, we should ask, if the participants are made more vulnerable than they might be in ordinary daily life, as a result of our research? The following quote by an Afghan participant reveals the careful steps taken by the person, due to risks of being revealed in relation to authorities:

“I have read the information in Farsi that you have given me and I have also noticed that there are some questions which are personal. And regarding that, I would like to ask you if this is anonymous, the interview. […] Is this recorded? And why it is being recorded? […] If there are some questions that are really personal, I will not answer, or I will answer limited. […]

I got into some small conflict with the migration officers about the situation that I and my family are in. At his point I noticed they differentiated between two types of people [Syrians and Afghanis]. They prioritise healthy male refugees from Syria […] That makes me feel very bad and discriminated.”

Ela Gokalp Aras and Zeynep Sahin, Governance of Vulnerabilities: Reflections from Turkey

 Turkey hosts more refugees than any other country in the world, with near 4 million refugees- including the ones under international protection (non-Syrians, mainly Iraqis and Afghans) and temporary protection (the overwhelming majority, 3.6 million) living in the country by March 2019.[1] Notwithstanding this, the nature of the crisis calls for humanitarian assistance to help refugees cope with it and also to respond the vulnerabilities among this population. With this paper, as being aware of the fact that categories blind us, we focus on the governance of vulnerabilities and refugee protection in Turkey, in particular in the three cities, namely Ankara, Izmir and Sanliurfa as asking by whom, when, and how vulnerabilities are identified and in response, what are the consequences? The paper sheds light on the legal framework and practices in Turkey as based on macro and meso-level analysis of our fieldwork that conducted as a part of the “RESPOND: Multilevel Governance of Mass Migration in Europe and Beyond” Horizon2020 Project.

 The empirical data that we gained from the fieldwork based on over 60 semi-structured meso-level interviews and participant observations conducted between July to November 2018 in the above-mentioned three cities. With the paper, we do not only criticize the limited legal framework regarding vulnerabilities, which provides entitlement to additional safeguards and prioritised access to rights and services provides; but also, the identification of vulnerabilities as emphasizing the important role of meso-level actors. The paper also reflects the similarities and also differences regarding the practices but also the perceptions, experiences, and voices of the meso-level actors regarding vulnerabilities and refugee protection. In addition; the roles, division of labour and coordination among the relevant multi-level actors within the governance of vulnerabilities are analysed.

Susan Rottmann and Maissam Nimer, Negotiating Gender and Power in the Classroom and Beyond for Syrian Refugee Women Language Learners in Turkey

This paper sheds light on Syrian women refugees’ gendered negotiation strategies in language learning classrooms and in the broader social context of their lives. Drawing on in-depth interviews and focus groups complemented by participating observation in language classes, we use a poststructuralist approach to examine language socialization. Our findings demonstrate that being a woman and a migrant presents particular challenges and vulnerabilities in learning language, and at the same time, learning language allows a re-negotiation of gender relations and power dynamics. The paper thus moves away from the vulnerable-resilient dichotomy in much writing on migration and gender to look at the continuity between these two concepts. On the one hand, gender structures women’s access to linguistic resources and interactional opportunities.  On the other hand, gender relations and roles are constituted and reconstituted in the process of language learning, highlighting the role of resilience and agency as part of gaining symbolic capital. While previous studies examine gender and language acquisition by identifying characteristics of ideal learners and typically focus on one domain, we take a holistic approach to language instruction that considers gendered experiences and relations of power in the classroom, family and vis a vis the host society.

[1]   As of June 2019, the number of Syrians under temporary protection is 3,622.284; while the number of non-Syrians under international protection is 114.537, available at [Accessed 27 June 2019).

RESPONDers also presented individual papers on policy frameworks, border management, legal protections and courts, and the role of place in integration. 

Please check out their abstracts listed below:

Andrea Terlizzi, Applying the Narrative Policy Framework to the Study of Migration Governance: The Case of Border Management and Migration Controls in Italy

This paper explores the benefits of applying the Narrative Policy Framework (NPF) to the study of migration governance. The NPF is a relatively new framework for analyzing narratives in public policy-making (McBeth and Jones 2010). The role of narratives is strictly intertwined with the role of ideas and expert knowledge in shaping public policy. Narratives are indeed crucial in the dissemination and articulation of certain ideas that specify how to solve specific policy problems. Moreover, narratives are key not only to the provision of policy solutions, but also to the very definition of the issue to solve. The field of migration is particularly crucial to NPF analysis, in that the development of migration policies often builds upon narratives that are not always grounded in evidence about cause-and-effect relationships. The theoretical discussion is supported by the empirical analysis of the evolution of narratives relating to border management and migration controls in Italy over the past two decades. In particular, the article identifies the dominant narratives over border management and migration controls and investigates whether they have changed or remained stable over time.

Ela Gokalp Aras and Zeynep Sahin Mencutek, City Level Comparison of Border Management: Reflections from Two Border Cities in Turkey

This paper aims at conducting city-level comparison research with a focus on border management, by raising the question of “to what extent border governance vary across provinces of the countries having highly centralized migration governance system?” It adopts most-different research design by focusing on two representative border provinces in Turkey: a border province mainly encountered by entries, Sanliurfa and a border province faced departures, Izmir. The geographical positioning of Izmir, particularly vis-a`-vis the EU and Sanliurfa vis-a`-vis Syria is a crucial aspect for comparison to seek for political considerations behind controls as well as the search of the impact of the EU’s externalization and lack of it. Sanliurfa (land border with Syria) - Izmir (sea border with Greece) comparison enables to understand the relevance of geographical closeness of regions affected by wars, and distances, in the shaping of border management. Relying on meso level interviews (n=81) and micro level border related interviews (n=70) in both provinces, this paper compare and contrast border enforcement practices and discourses, humanitarianism, and mobility. In particular, it focuses on the “humanitarian border governance” and “humanitarianism” concepts in the daily governance with multi actors at the focused border cities. Methodologically, the paper contributes to the conducting city-level comparisons at three levels, namely macro, meso and micro levels. At macro level, the common border related legal and institutional framework will be reflected while meso level will display the city based spatial practices with similarities and differences. The research will provide migrants’ experiences and perceptions at micro level.


Veronica Federico and Paola Pannia, Going Against the Grain? The Role of Courts in Framing a Solidarity-Based Immigration Law

Recent migrants and refugees’ inflows are challenging the very essence of the European Union. Despite what is at stake, rather than progressive convergence, the EU migration governance system has been characterized by increasingly conflicting dynamics of intra and inter-national competition and incoherence across States. Deterrence concerns and an overall downgrading of migrants/refugees/asylum applicants’ (MRAAs) rights prevail across the EU countries. The same approach transcends the European borders, as exemplified by the tensions revolving around the Global compact on migration.

Against this backdrop, Courts at both national and supranational levels seem to go against the grain, securing spaces of increasing legal protection to MRAAs. The panel discusses Courts as fundamental de facto actors of the migration governance system in Europe, reflecting on: the pivotal arguments and conceptual tools used by different national Courts to address MRAAs’ rights;  On similarities and differences in national and supranational Courts’ legal reasoning to enhance MRAAs’ rights; On the extent of the case law’s impact on foreigners’ legal status, and, more broadly, on the national management of migration flows. Finally, the panel aims at considering whether Court’s jurisprudence provides sufficient ground to conceptualize new common principles and legal basis of a solidarity-based European common immigration law.

Paola Pannia, Securing spaces of legal protection for migrants. The role of the Italian Constitutional Court

At the time of the so-called post-refugee crisis, when confused, fast changing and frequently inconsistent immigration legislations have become more and more frequent across European countries, turning to courts, and particularly to Supreme/Constitutional courts, has proved being one of the few successful strategies to resist the progressive erosion of migrants' fundamental rights and liberties. The paper inquires into the role of the Italian Constitutional court in securing spaces of legal protection for immigrants, invoking the principles of equality, human dignity and solidarity. The purpose is on the one hand to unveil the effective potency of the legal reasoning underpinning the court's decisions and, on the other hand, to discuss whether such a case-law can effectively provide new solidarity-based legal frames to immigration law. The paper focuses on the Italian case, as a paradigmatic example of a country strongly affected by migration inflows, severely hit by an economic crisis that has caused dramatic cuts in social welfare and has contributed exacerbating the political climate, but where solidarity, equality, fundamental rights and human dignity are explicitly and strongly entrenched in the Constitution, and where courts, especially the Constitutional Court, have been proactive in protecting and promoting migrants' fundamental rights.

Monika Szulecka, The understanding of migratory and asylum challenges in the Polish case law

 The paper was based on the secondary analysis of data gathered within the RESPOND project, between 2018 and 2019. The analysed data consisted of qualitative interviews with experts in migration management and/or asylum system and the results of desk research of the reports published by social organisations or public bodies, reflecting the legal aspects of dealing with forced migration. The aim of the paper was to answer the following questions:

- How do legal experts and activists in social organisations perceive the role of courts in protecting fundamental rights of forced migrants?

- What and how the jurisdiction may change in migration and asylum reality?

The paper referred to the selected court verdicts concerning two administrative measures applied towards migrants: refusal of entry and detention.

The preliminary results of the analysis revealed that the awareness of the challenges faced by asylum seekers and migrants among judges can be assessed as low and usually efforts to raise it are not successful. However, the interviewed experts evaluated the role of courts as extremely important, although waiting for the expected changes in practice as a follow-up of the court verdicts may require time, financial resources and involvement of qualified lawyers. In the same time, the role of jurisdiction in solving current problems of individuals was seen as ambiguous. Access to justice for forced migrants and their readiness to participate in court proceedings proved to be important factor that cannot be omitted in the study aimed at analysis how the courts contribute to the solidarity-based migration policy.

Ursula Reeger and Susan Rottmann, Bringing Place into the Equation: Exploring Social Integration of Refugees in Istanbul and Vienna

Through multi-level research on refugees arriving in Istanbul and Vienna in 2015 and afterwards, this paper explores social integration in terms of a feeling of belonging in society and in terms of inclusion in neighborhoods specifically.  Although scholars have pointed to the importance of place (cf. Buhr 2017; Philips and Robinson 2015; Platts-Fowler and Robinson 2015) and culture (cf. Garces Mascarenas and Penninx 2016) for analyzing integration, detailed comparative studies are lacking.  It has been shown that cities often lead national levels in terms of developing integration solutions (Penninx 2009), and are also key affective spaces of belonging for migrants.  In order to explain why some cities are more open to absorbing newcomers, scholars have pointed to favorable political conditions (de Graauw and Vermeulen 2016) and the presence of ethnic diversity (Hickman et al. 2012).  In this paper, in addition to these determinants, we examine how cultural proximity and distance and legal statuses of refugees impact belonging in cities. 

The paper is based on data collected through a HORIZON 2020 project, RESPOND – Multilevel Governance of Mass Migration in Europe and Beyond.  We use an innovative methodology, synthesizing insights on macro-level political discourses with more than 50 interviews with key stakeholders and refugees to understand social integration.  Istanbul and Vienna provide an apt comparison as each is their country’s largest city and home to the largest numbers of migrants in the country.  This research focuses on the role of the local level in establishing successful social integration, which is one of the key factors for successful structural integration and social cohesion in urban settings. 

Be sure to get in touch with the researchers listed here for more information about their papers and the latest RESPOND results!