Free to move along: On the urbanisation of Cross-Border Mobility Controls - A Case of Roma 'EU migrants' in Malmö, Sweden

Maria E. Persdotter

Publikation: Bog/antologi/afhandling/rapportPh.d.-afhandling


This thesis traces the local government response to the presence of impoverished and street-homeless so-called vulnerable EU-citizens in Malmö (Sweden’s third largest city) between the years 2014-2016, and develops an analysis about how bordering takes place in cities. “Vulnerable EU-citizens” is an established term in the Swedish context, used by the authorities to refer to citizens of other EU Member States who are staying in Sweden without a right of residence and in situations of extreme poverty and marginality. A majority of those whom are categorised as “vulnerable EU-citizens” are Roma from Bulgaria or Romania. Starting from the observation that “vulnerable EU-citizens” have been pervasively problematised as unwanted migrants, the thesis asks how the municipal- and local authorities in Malmö act to discourage and otherwise manage their mobilities by controlling their conditions of stay. In doing so, it seeks to elaborate on theories about intra-EU bordering practices, and to elucidate some of the mechanisms, effects and implications of urban mobility control practices. Methodologically, the thesis is structured as a case study, centring on the case of the intensely contested Sorgenfri-camp – a makeshift squatter settlement that housed a large proportion of Malmö’s estimated total population of “vulnerable EU-citizens”. The Sorgenfri-camp was established in 2014 and lasted for a year and a half before it was demolished in November 2015 on the order of the City of Malmö’s environmental authorities. Often referred to in the media as “Sweden’s largest slum”, the Sorgenfri-camp was quite literally a central locus of a local and national political “crisis” regarding the growth of unauthorised squatter settlements. As a “critical case”, it offers a vantage point from which to trace the development of policy and government practices towards “vulnerable EU-citizens” and observe how the authorities negotiate the legal ambiguities, moral-political dilemmas, and social conflicts that swirl around the unauthorised settlements of “vulnerable EU-citizens”. It also serves as a key example of a more widespread framing of “the problem of vulnerable EU-citizens” as an order, nuisance and sanitation problem. The analysis is carried out with a theoretical framework informed by Foucaultian poststructuralist theory and theories of scale, combining insights from the field of critical border and migration studies with concepts from the legal geographic literature on urban socio-spatial control. In particular, it follows socio-legal scholar Mariana Valverde’s (2010) call to foreground the role of scalar categorisation and politics in the networked policing of various non-citizens. The analysis addresses the construction of the Sorgenfri-camp and its residents as a “nuisance problem” in popular and policy discourse, and explores the effects and consequences of this framing in the context of the administrative-legal process that resulted in the demolition of the settlement. The thesis highlights the city as a space where complex negotiations over residency-status, rights and belonging play out. It submits that local authorities in Malmö have responded to the presence and situation of vulnerable EU-citizens in the city by enacting a series of practices and programs that jointly add up to an indirect policy of exclusionary mobility control, the cumulative effect of which is to eliminate the “geographies of survival” for the group in question. Furthermore, it argues that this reinforces the complex modulations of un/free mobility” in the EU: destitute EU-citizens who are formally free to move and reside within the union are repeatedly moved along, and thus effectively prevented from settling. This is taken to be illustrative of an urbanisation of mobility control practices: a convergence between mobility control and urban socio-spatial control, or a rescaling of mobility control from the edges of the nation-state to the urban scale and, ultimately, to the body of the “vulnerable EU-citizen”.
ForlagRoskilde Universitet
Antal sider289
ISBN (Trykt)9789178770311
ISBN (Elektronisk)9789178770328
StatusUdgivet - 2019
NavnDissertation series in Migration, Urbanisation, and Societal Change

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