Society for the Anthropology of Europe
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
In 2015, a humanitarian corridor was created in Rome to help mitigate the displacement of the nearly six million Syrians from their warring country, allowing Syrian refugees in “particularly vulnerable conditions” to enter Italy by plane under the protection of a humanitarian visa. In 2019, the new Italian government passed a security decree eliminating the possibility for subsidiary humanitarian protection that affects thousands of asylum-seekers who already living in the country. In this paper, I argue that vulnerability is a state that is conditioned by space and time, yet is rendered static and contrasted with agency in the practice of classifying and dividing “migrants” from “refugees”. I argue that certain kinds of mobilities are seen agentive acts that negate vulnerability and thus legitimacy or deservingness of asylum. I point to those who are able and willing to move as examples of and justification for the state’s right to refuse their asylum claims. However, it is often these asylum-seekers that find themselves vulnerable to exploitation upon arriving in Italy, including to human trafficking and labor exploitation. Conversely, those who are seen as lacking the agency to move to move reinforce their positions as vulnerable asylum-seekers, and thus “legitimate” and eligible for the public and private services available to refugees in Italy. I argue against the idea of vulnerability as a static state of being and show how operationalizing the term in order to legitimize or delegitimate asylum-seekers belies the spatial and temporal circumstances of forced migration.