Standing at the edge: Asylum seekers between confinement and spread hospitality

Roberta Altin


The article proposes a comparative analysis of three different contexts and management of hospitality for asylum seekers on the Italian-Slovenian border since the reopening in 2015 of the so-called “Balkan route” as an overland door to Europe. Through interviews and participant observation, we highlight the differences among a CARA in Gradisca, confined in a large militarized barrack on the margins of social life, a SPRAR system in the Villaggio del Pescatore, founded by a former WW2 refugee’s community, and the efficient model of widespread hospitality in Trieste that distributes migrants in apartments with coordinated self-management. However, the scenario of Trieste also includes an illegal settlement in another historical place of previous forced migrations, where migrants try to escape the dichotomous logic of assistance vs. rejection in order to strategically position themselves in a gray area within the liminal space between the authoritarian and humanitarian regime. The interpretation of micro-contexts clearly highlights the outcome of divergent choices, both in terms of the organization and management of hospitality (large militarized and confined center vs. widespread hospitality and SPRAR), and in terms of the different media and political representations, with an impact on the daily lives of migrants, citizens and workers involved.

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