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On the Doorstep of Europe

On the Doorstep of Europe: Asylum and Citizenship in Greece

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    On the Doorstep of Europe
    Book Description:

    Greece has shouldered a heavy burden in the global economic crisis, struggling with political and financial insecurity. Greece has also the most porous external border of the European Union, tasked with ensuring that the EU's boundaries are both "secure and humanitarian" and hosting enormous numbers of migrants and asylum seekers who arrive by land and sea. The recent leadership and fiscal crises have led to a breakdown of legal entitlements for both Greek citizens and those seeking refuge within the country's borders.On the Doorstep of Europeis an ethnographic study of the asylum system in Greece, tracing the ways asylum seekers, bureaucrats, and service providers attempt to navigate the dilemmas of governance, ethics, knowledge, and sociability that emerge through this legal process. Centering on the work of an asylum advocacy NGO in Athens, Heath Cabot explores how workers and clients grapple with predicaments endemic to Europeanization and rights-based protection. Drawing inspiration from classical Greek tragedy to highlight both the transformative potential and the violence of law, Cabot charts the structural violence effected through European governance, rights frameworks, and humanitarian intervention while also exploring how Athenian society is being remade from the inside out. She shows how, in contemporary Greece, relationships between insiders and outsiders are radically reconfigured through legal, political, and economic crises.In addition to providing a textured, on-the-ground account of the fraught context of asylum and immigration in Europe's borderlands,On the Doorstep of Europehighlights the unpredictable and transformative ways in which those in host nations navigate legal and political violence, even in contexts of inexorable duress and inequality.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0980-8
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction. The Rock of Judgment
    (pp. 1-20)

    To do fieldwork in Athens is always to encounter the mythic city, as it is perpetually reanimated and remade in both topographies and conversations. Stavros himself is a lawyer, who at that time worked at an NGO for asylum seekers in Athens, where we met and shared important conversations. He explained that he often came to this ancient rock of judgment to think: to work through dilemmas of life, love, and law. Despite my occasional vantage point from atop this rock, where I too would sometimes come to think, I generally lookedupat the Acropolis, which is visible even...


    • Chapter 1 European Moral Geographies
      (pp. 23-40)

      On January 21, 2011, well into the fallout from the Greek debt crisis, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) issued a judgment onMSS v. Belgium and Greece, a case brought by an Afghan asylum seeker, Mohamed Samir Samimi, against these two EU member states. According to the list of “facts” recorded in the court’s decision, “MSS” was apprehended by Greek police after his initial crossing via sea to Lesbos, just a few kilometers of sea from the Turkish coast. There, his fingerprints were taken, and after a week he was released and issued an order to leave the...

    • Chapter 2 Documenting Legal Limbo
      (pp. 41-70)

      The Aliens and Immigration Directorate of Athens and the Attika Prefecture, on the Boulevard of Petrou Ralli on the outskirts of central Athens, is most often referred to simply as “Allodhapon” [Αλλοδαπών] (of/for aliens) or“Petrou Ralli” by asylum seekers and NGO workers. Allodhapon houses a detention center for undocumented migrants, but during the research for this book it was also the police station with the largest number of officers qualified to examine asylum cases. New applicants filed asylum claims at Allodhapon and police presented them with “pink cards,” the identity documents to which asylum seekers were entitled as long as...


    • Chapter 3 Engaging Tragedy
      (pp. 73-109)

      In a spontaneous moment of reflection brought on by a particularly difficult day, this is how the lawyer Phoevi described her work at the ARS: “It’s like you have been given a life raft. You can save some people, but just a few, and you can make space for them. But even though I can save some people, I also have to recognize that the others are going to drown.”¹

      Phoevi’s short statement—delivered between meetings with clients to an audience consisting of just one listening ethnographer—captures the morally and ethically fraught character of asylum related advocacy and support...

    • Chapter 4 Images of Vulnerability
      (pp. 110-142)

      In spring 2008, I sat chatting with the gruff, chain-smoking lawyer Dimitris as the afternoon light filtered through the city smog and the dusty windows of his office. The ARS was quiet, having closed for the day, and we were discussing the determination of client eligibility. I asked Dimitris what he considered most important in making eligibility decisions, and he pulled out some paper and compiled a list. Some factors were relatively concrete and empirical, including the applicant’s country of origin, Dimitris’s research and notes from meetings with the applicant, and advice of his coworkers. Yet the list overwhelmingly reflected...

    • Chapter 5 Recognizing the Real Refugee
      (pp. 143-166)

      On an uncommonly warm early May weekend in 2007, I joined a group of lawyers and advocates from Greece and throughout the EU at the biennial meeting of a network of asylum advocacy NGOs. We traveled in buses from Athens, across the flat territory near Thebes, then up through the mists of Mount Parnassos. There, in an airy conference center near the small town of Delphi and the archaeological site, this international group outlined the advocacy agenda for the following six months through working groups and meetings and over dinners, lunches, coffees, and cocktails.

      At a closing dinner on the...


    • Chapter 6 Rearticulating the Ethnos
      (pp. 169-193)

      In March 2010, after months of intense debate, the Pa.So.K-dominated government of Georgios Papandreou passed an overhaul in the Greek citizenship legislation. This controversial bill introduced a new legal precedent forjus soliscitizenship in Greece by easing the formal requirements through which alien residents and their children could acquire status as Greek citizens.¹ The practical and symbolic significances of this legislation remain topics of charged disagreement among lawmakers, advocates, migrants themselves, diverse groups of Greek residents, and the courts. In February 2013, the Council of State issued a decision framing the new citizenship law as unconstitutional—against the very...

    • Chapter 7 Citizens of Athens
      (pp. 194-220)

      The past few years have marked a period of intensive civic engagement, unrest, and institutional instability unprecedented in Greece since the uprisings that drove the Junta out in 1974 (see Alivizatos 1996; Xenakis 2012). Since the late 2008 protests following the murder of Alexi Grigoropoulos, Athenians of diverse generations, origins, and political persuasions have sought new ways of claiming a presence and voice in the public sphere. During the economic collapse in May 2010, and the subsequent international push for top-down EU austerity measures, massive demonstrations and general strikes took place across the country, but nowhere more powerfully than in...

  8. The Machine
    (pp. 221-222)

    When Orestes, polluted through his act of matricide, asks for refuge in Athens from the persecuting Furies, clasping his arms around Athena’s ancient image, he seeks not simply redemption but “good judges.” The Furies, themselves the embodiment of chthonic pollution, alien beings who do not belong within the city walls yet simultaneously represent the ancient laws of blood, seek something similar: judges. In theEumenides, Athena’s subsequent unveiling, in which she exposes her true form, has often been identified as the first known use of the “god in the machine,” thedeus ex machina, or the Μηχανή (Mikhani) in ancient...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 223-230)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 231-246)
  11. Index
    (pp. 247-254)
  12. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 255-260)