Forced migration and legal-spatial violence in the United States and Germany

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11 Citations (Scopus)


Asylum laws cannot function without spatial technologies and practices. Refugee camps, detention centers and accommodation facilities, in addition to dispersal and residential obligations, highlight the spatiality of asylum laws and policies. They are not only designed to regulate forced migrants' movement and place them in alternative legal and spatial regimes, but they are also spaces where migrants’ legal rights are violated and access to integrating institutions are restricted. Based on findings from Germany and the United States, this paper argues that current asylum regimes are characterized by a system of legal-spatial violence; a process in which a form of violence is embedded in law, implemented through policies and formal processes, and realized and reproduced spatially. This entanglement between the law, space, and violence involves complex and paradoxical processes: immobility and internal bordering practices (where forced migrants are confined and their movement is limited), as well as forced mobility and situations of unbordering (where movement is forced, and where spatial restrictions are either repealed or replaced). These processes fragment and prolong the trajectories of forced migration. Compulsion, displacement, and the dispossession of rights—which constitute the process of forced migration—do not cease on entering Germany or the United States, but can continue. The rationale for legal-spatial violence goes beyond the securitization of forced migration and the control and deterrence of forced migrants, and also includes economic logic and profit making.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102371
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalPolitical Geography
Publication statusPublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The research for this article was funded by FWO Research Foundation Flanders (project number: 133759 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


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