The migrant and refugee camps that proliferated in Europe over the recent years reflect extreme, if not bipolar, architectural conditions. While fenced carceral camps with prefabricated units were created top-down by state and municipal authorities, informal makeshift camps of tents and self-made shelters were formed bottomup along Europe’s migration routes.1 These contrasting spatial typologies often appear side by side in the open landscapes of rural fields, in urban landscapes at the heart or in the fringes of cities, and in the architectural landscapes of abandoned institutions and facilities such as factories, prisons, airports, and military barracks. These camp spaces in their various forms all fit into the wide United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) definition of the refugee camp as “any purpose-built, planned and managed location or spontaneous settlement where refugees are accommodated and receive assistance and services from government and humanitarian agencies.”2 In today’s reality of conflicts and mass displacement, when the number of the world’s refugees and displaced people has exceeded 65 million – many of whom live in different camp settings – Giorgio Agamben’s perspective that the camp is the “nomos of our time” is more relevant then ever.3
Undocumented migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, and other people “on the move” (we will use “migrants” from here on as the most inclusive term) are often perceived as a threat to the security, the economy, or to the “purity” of the nation-state’s “national body.”4 This threat is pushed away, controlled, and restricted by physical means such as borders fortified with walls of barbed wire and biometric identification technologies.5 The camp, in its manifold appearances, has been analysed during the last decade as part of these expanding exclusionary border apparatuses, as a space “driven by a variable mix of custody, care and control.”6 The growing terminology that represents these camp spaces – reception facilities, processing hubs, hospitality centers, refugee camps, hot spots, jungles – camouflages the fact that these are all the different manifestations of the same camp mechanism that contains unwanted populations separately from society in order to maintain the segregationist “national order of things.”7
The publication of Agamben’s Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (1998) brought the idea of “the camp” and the figure of homo sacer – a person denied all rights and banned from society, or rather, “bare life” stripped of any political existence and completely exposed to sovereign violence – to the fore of academic research, placing them at the center of the discourse on modern (bio)politics. Bare life refers to human life in which the mere biological fact of life is prioritized over the way a life is lived – when the prospects of life, with all of its potential, possibilities, and forms, are reduced to sheer biological life and are abandoned to the unconditional power of the sovereign. The camp, argues Agamben, is where bare life is produced; it is formed whenever the nexus of the modern nation-state – land, state, and nation – enters a crisis, or whenever there is a discrepancy between the “territorial container” of the state and the “nation” inhabiting it.8
Many scholars have adopted Agamben’s approach in analysing institutionalized camps (or camps in which the users are excluded from their design and/ or management) as sites where people are reduced to “bare life,” abandoned outside the normal order of the state, and exposed to intensified sovereign powers.9 These camps, which are created for civilians, are an incarnation of a distinct disciplinary facility – the military camp – originally created and designed to manage a specific population (i.e., soldiers) in a strict and controlled manner.10 As Liisa Malkki points out, the basic blueprint of the military camp and its techniques of ordering and overall management of a specific population are re-appropriated in both refugee and concentration camps alike.11 These management techniques, in which every aspect of the biological necessities of the population in the camp (i.e., food, shelter, hygiene, security, etc.) is supplied in a controlled manner, could either create or prevent a humanitarian disaster, depending on the specific camp’s objectives and the way in which it is managed.
Yet another critical perspective of the camp is promoted by an increasing number of scholars who analyse it as a complex spatial and political phenomenon, arguing that Agamben’s theory offers little space to register the social and political agency of those who reside in camps. 12 In contrast to the quasi-military camp facilities, the spaces that are mostly analysed by these scholars are camps created or altered by their dwellers according to their available resources, the needs of their everyday life, and their political objectives. However, what seems to be a binary opposition between the spaces of “bare life” and “everyday life” is, in fact, a much more complicated reality in which the camps’ spatial conformations undergo constant transformations within their respective, complex political landscapes.
The different ways in which camps are created, altered, and managed by multiple and changing actors and sovereignties substantially influence the form and function of these spaces. So far, however, the radically different spatial typologies of the camp and the intersections between them have not been comparatively analysed. Based on empirical studies of the recently created migrant camps in Europe, this paper sets out to investigate their various configurations, what they reflect, and how they correspond with the culture and politics that shape them. While this paper mainly focuses on three particular camps in northern France – the container camp in Calais, the makeshift camp in Calais known as the “Jungle,” and La Linière camp in Grande-Synthe – it offers observations and analytical strategies relevant to camp spaces in other spaces and contexts and to camp studies more broadly.
Camps Typologies and Everyday Life: Between the Biological and the Human
The institutionalized and makeshift camps that were created in and around Calais and Dunkirk in France between 2015 and 2016 provide an opportunity to examine their similarities and differences in a specific geographical context. These spaces are part of the longer history of camps of various sizes and typologies that developed in this area as a result of the opening in 1994 of the Channel Tunnel, which connects France and the UK.13 These camps are similar to many other camps created next to heavily controlled borders and blocked migration routes elsewhere in the world, which could be described as “bottleneck” spaces where migrants are managed in an ongoing state of suspended temporariness. While these camps often serve as a jumping point to illegal border crossings, they are also the stage on which the struggles against the border apparatuses themselves and their consequential exclusionary spaces often take place.
The “New Jungle” camp in Calais (hereafter, “the Jungle”) that rapidly grew over the summer and autumn of 2015 soon became the most known and developed makeshift camp in Europe and one of the most symbolic spaces of the recent, so-called “migration crisis.”14 Other camp typologies, however, were also created and transformed in this geographical region by various actors with diverse and changing objectives. A very different camp, for example, was created in January 2016 when the French company Logistics Solutions, known for its expertise in building military facilities, installed 125 white shipping containers in a bulldozed area at the heart of the makeshift Jungle, and surrounded them with a fence. The construction of this camp, which is formally called the Camp d’Accueil Provisoire (or, “temporary welcome center/camp”), was initiated by the French government with the financial aid of the European Commission,15 and its management was handed to the non-profit group La Vie Active, which specializes in working with elderly people and with people with disabilities. The shipping containers that made up the camp were pierced with windows and equipped with heating and bunk beds for twelve people, and were placed in a rigid grid. Differently from the neighboring Jungle, the institutionalized camp lacked spaces and facilities essential to the everyday life of the migrants, such as cooking facilities and articulated social spaces.
Before being granted permission to live in the container camp, the migrants were obliged to register with the prefecture and allow a biometric scan of their hands, which were to be used to give them access to the camp. As fingerprint scanners open the camp’s gates, the body of the migrant is de facto turned into a key, registered by the authorities. The Dublin III Regulation (2013) has given this biometric system far-reaching legal implications in that responsibility for the migrants is assigned to the EU state in which they first made an identifiable claim. Applications for asylum and refugee status of migrants who managed to arrive in one country may be rejected in another because their fingerprints had already been registered elsewhere, which is why migrants often use fake names and refuse to be photographed, attempting to remain anonymous until they reach their destination. This is also one of the main reasons why migrants were reluctant to move to the container camp.16
The container camp in Calais is biopower at its core:17 it strips the lives of the migrants from their particular form and reduces it to nothing more than a biological body, and by doing so, deprives the migrants of their individual power and personal identity. The migrants are not identified by name but only according to fingerprints – a mere biological pattern – and are “stored” in the rigid, minimal space of a bunk bed in a shipping container. Many refugees resisted moving into the camp, comparing the containers to prisons,18 complaining of noise and overcrowding, and saying that they lived there “like animals.”19 In this way, the identity of the migrants in the container camp and in similar institutionalized camp facilities is turned into what Agamben describes as “identity without the person,”20 or, naked life whose particular human needs are neither protected nor acknowledged. The rigid space in which the migrants are “stored” lacks a clear sense of place and identity, and resists any re-appropriation by an individual or a group. While there was quite a lot of movement of people entering and exiting the camp, the camp itself looked empty. The lack of private spaces and the inflexible, repetitive organization of the containers in the camp failed to create a meaningful inhabited and lived public space that expressed the plurality of the camp’s residents; instead they created a sterile, alien environment, as anonymous as its inhabitants.
While the container camp was created to provide heated and hygienic shelters to serve the migrants’ basic biological needs and protect them from immediate dangers from the outside, this camp environment did not take into account the migrants’ diverse social and cultural everyday needs, such as having spaces for religious congregation, for play or for different forms of communal gatherings, or having the ability to cook their own food. The container camp in Calais is similar to other institutionalized camps in Europe, such as the Balassagyarmat camp in Hungary (opened in 2011) or the Amygdaleza camps in Greece (opened in 2012). These camps are surrounded with barbed wire and provide for nothing more than the residents’basic biological needs (basic food and shelter), creating spaces that are built for everyone yet for no one, and to which many migrants were refusing to be relocated.21
The space of the Calais container camp is very different from the lively environment of the Jungle makeshift camp that surrounded it (fig. 1). In early March 2016, just a few weeks after the container camp was established, the southern part of the Jungle was demolished and almost all informal building activities in the camp were halted. Despite the first wave of demolitions and the shock that followed, the Jungle continued to be a strikingly busy place. While the container camp was created by the French government to at once support and control the migrants’ biological life, the makeshift camp, by contrast, was formed and developed on the basis of the everyday material, social, cultural, and economic needs, and political expressions of its dwellers.
The basic layout of the Jungle was organized in “neighborhoods” formed according to the places of origins of their dwellers, and would sometimes display spatial characteristics of their specific cultural and social customs and backgrounds. The Darfurian neighborhood, for example, was made up of quasi-circular compounds similar to the traditional ones that exist throughout Darfur. The compound’s formation and entrance gate made the area explicitly private. In addition to the basic shelters, its structures usually included a tent for cooking, eating, and social gatherings, and a communal tent to host newly arrived people. The entrance area to each compound had distinguishing features – a basketball hoop, hanging bric-a-brac, or written messages – making it aesthetically welcoming and playful.22 Huts and shelters of other populations in the camp were surrounded by porches, sitting areas, and flowerbeds, showing an admirable attention to detail in a living environment where materials and resources were scarce.
Hand-scrawled images and writings accompanied by symbols and flags of original and desired nationalities also expressed the personal signature of the Jungle’s inhabitants, creating a unique iconography of pride, protest, and hope. These creative gestures of the migrants, which included humorous names for places like “The Jungle Books,” “David Cameron Street,” and the “3 Star Hotel,” became a sophisticated form of communication and constituted yet another level of participation in the design of the camp; these were individual, yet anonymous expressions that engaged in the discourse of the politics from which the migrants were and continue to be excluded.
While the biometrically controlled container camp creates a sterile space for its inhabitants as “identities without persons,” the makeshift camp, conversely, created a homely, yet animated space by persons without formally registered identities. The visual expressions described above compensated for identities that could not be affirmed or expressed. Together they created a collective protest whose political value should not be overlooked. These actions resisted state biopolitics, which stripped the migrants of their personal identities and only took their biological identities and needs into account. In this sense, the graffiti and drawings on the camp’s makeshift structures can be read as what Joe Rigby and Raphael Schlembach call “immigrant protest,”23 which manifests a visible and legible political claim. The migrants’ visual and built language that mixed specific spatial forms with graphic expressions created a particular aesthetic with an embedded political role, reflecting Jacques Rancière’s argument that every political community has a distinct aesthetic.24
The “high street” (fig. 2), which curved between the camp’s neighborhoods, was another example of the Jungle’s unique articulation of spatial organization. The street was always busy with constant streams of people walking or cycling up and down the muddy road, sitting and chatting next to the shops and restaurants, and queuing for donations of food or clothes. Grocery stores displayed their goods behind clear plastic sheets or mesh, offering crisps, cigarettes, bottles of soft drinks, and batteries; clusters of bananas and oranges were hung for display, as were shoes and gloves. There were also several barbershops, bakeries, and restaurants that offered shisha smoking, which served the camp residents, volunteers, and visitors alike. Many of the shops were first built as regular shelters and only later developed into shops; in many cases, the owners continued to use them as shelters, sleeping behind their counters. In March 2016, when the population was estimated to be about 5,000,25 there were about fifty restaurants and thirty small grocery shops in the camp. These businesses were also part of the informal real-estate market in the Jungle in which shops and shelters were sold, let, sublet, or passed on to friends after their owners moved elsewhere.
There were also communal institutions in the Jungle, some of which had traditional architectural characteristics that distinguished them from the other structures in the camp. The mosques, for example, were big and wide, and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church was vertically articulated. A court order saved these public institutions from the demolition of the southern part of the camp that was initiated by the Calais local authority and supported by the French government in February 2016 (fig. 3). In its judgment, the French court at Lille acknowledged that the Jungle “is characterized by the presence, in essence, of both dense and diffuse housing made up of precarious shelters and, moreover, of collective spaces whose purpose is to provide services of a social, cultural, medical or legal nature,” adding, “these places have been carefully arranged, and that they correspond, by their nature and their functioning to a real need of the exiled living spaces” and therefore should not be destroyed.26 In August 2016, the same court ruled against the Calais prefect’s office proposal to demolish seventy-two makeshift shops and restaurants, which, they argued, represented an untaxed, parallel economy and carried fire and sanitation risks.27
The Jungle was a place created in response not only to the acute physical needs of the migrants, but also in response to their need to live in an environment that accommodated a more familiar mode of everyday life. It also allowed for actions of solidarity that worked against the imposed separation of the migrants from the rest of society, a separation facilitated by the authorities.28 However, the neglect and/or violent actions of the local authorities themselves also shaped the camp, as the above examples demonstrate. The 2015 court order for the department of Pas-de-Calais and the city of Calais to improve the conditions in the Jungle by installing essential infrastructure and facilities such as street lighting, toilets, and communal water stations is yet another instance in which the space of the Jungle was altered by governing bodies. This particular mandate came only after several non-profit organizations appealed to the French court, demanding to “end serious human rights violations” of the migrants who lived there.29
The materiality and spatiality of the structures in the Jungle were also shaped by the resourcefulness and inventiveness of its builders in response to the spatial violence and restrictions imposed by the local authorities, such as those that forbade permanent structures to be built in the camp.30 The self-built shelters, for example, were mostly timber framed, insulated with blankets, and covered with tarpaulin, nylon sheets, or more robust plywood boards. The use of ready-made building parts such as doors, windows, and/or chimneys, as well as found and recycled materials – like plastic milk lids – also expressed the improvisation of the camp’s dwellers. The strip of land between the motorway and the camp that was bulldozed by the authorities and cleared of tents and huts was re-appropriated by the residents, again manifesting their spatial resourcefulness. Crowds would gather in the evenings to play football, volleyball, and cricket, while the spectators sat on the motorway’s steep slope.
The migrants of the Jungle and the aforementioned local and international governing bodies were not the only actors involved in the way the camp was built and functioned, however. Volunteers with a wide range of skills and specialties, including architects, contributed to the built environment of the camp, in some cases by supplying the materials and in other cases, by actually constructing huts or shelters for populations in particular need, like unaccompanied children, or by building essential public institutions such as the Women and Children Center and the Vaccination Center.31 L’Auberge de Migrant and Help Refugees were the main non-profit organizations on site that dealt with the building and distribution of shelters, prioritizing the most vulnerable populations. An informal pre-fabricated shelter “factory” was opened in their donation–distribution warehouse in Calais’s industrial zone not far from the camp, and volunteers opened other informal factories in their back gardens. In other cases, volunteer groups, mostly British, arrived with prefabricated huts or materials to build shelters on site for the migrants.32
While the ability of the migrants to cope with the difficult conditions imposed on them is admirable, the Jungle should not be idealized. Many of the migrants in the Jungle fled violent conflicts and survived horrific experiences in their migration routes; the violence to which they were subjected in the camp was tolerated only because no chance of life remained in their countries of origin and they desired to move on to the UK. Despite the protective environment the residents of the Jungle created for themselves, they were still very much exposed to the “violence of abandonment” inherent to the camp, which included both hidden and explicit forms.33 The conditions in the camp were deplorable. It lacked basic infrastructure and services, and was located on a former industrial dumping ground next to a motorway and a chemical factory – a derelict site to which the French authorities forced the migrants to move.34 Additionally, the migrants were exposed to violent acts of traffickers, criminals, right-wing vigilantes, other migrants, and state authorities. While fully geared French riot police squads were often seen on site, usually when night fell, their presence was ambiguous – were they there to express the state’s sovereignty in one of its most neglected spaces? Did they protect the migrants from the outside, or protect the outside from the migrants? The continual threat of demolition rendered the situation of the residents even more precarious. After the demolitions of the southern part of the camp in early March 2016, for example, 129 unaccompanied minors were reported missing, and to this day cannot be found. The total demolition of the camp which began at the end of October 2016, created a serious threat to all of its residents, and in particular to the 1,022 unaccompanied children who lived there.
Although the container camp was created to answer the basic biological needs of the migrants and to protect them from certain threats, their everyday cultural and social human needs and ways of life were not taken into account in the camp. The container camp could therefore be analysed as a biopolitical space in which the migrants are reduced to mere biological bodies that are unable to live in their unique form of human existence. This situation is similar to other top-down camps that were created with a mixture of total control over the life of the migrants and different forms of abandonment in the sense that their residents exist as dependent biological bodies rather than autonomous human beings.35 In some of these camps, especially in the closed carceral facilities, the migrants are turned into bare life exposed to the fatal violence of sovereign.36
In contrast, the Jungle can be examined as a space formed to accommodate the everyday life of its dwellers in all their complexities, creating a sense of community and belonging, while also empowering its residents who created the camp themselves. However, the fact that the Jungle is a camp created by state and municipal policy as a temporary site of both control and abandonment outside the normal legal and civic order makes it a precarious and violent environment in which the migrants are not treated as humans but as unwanted and exposed bodies. Its inhabitants live, therefore, in an in-between condition of superposition between their everyday life and their continuous existence as bare life. Thus, the camp, whether created top-down or bottom-up, is in its very nature always a place in which people are stripped of their basic protections and are exposed to various forms of violence, caused directly or indirectly by the state. Without legal and civic protection, these already vulnerable populations are left far from sight in environments that fail to satisfy even the minimum of their biological and human needs.
The purpose-built institutionalized camp and the self-built makeshift camp are two key spatial categories that allow us to examine the basic differences and similarities of camp spaces and their meaning.37 However, a closer examination of recently formed camps functioning in Europe shows that this formal/informal dichotomy is much less rigid and stable than imagined, and that the two typologies are sometimes created reciprocally. While in some cases these typologies are indeed spatially and functionally separated, in other cases, they are closely attached, sometimes to a point where they intersect, penetrate, and transform each other into hybrid spatial entities. These relations are not arbitrary, but are rather direct manifestations of the different motives that create these camps.
In many cases, institutionalized camps are created to replace makeshift camps, in order to improve the basic conditions of the migrants as well as to better manage and control them, administratively. The container camp in Calais is an example of this process, as are the camps in Greece that opened after the closure of the makeshift Idomeni camp in May 2016, and the institutionalized refugee camp in Paris that opened in November 2016 in response to the continual appearance of makeshift camps in the city. In other cases, makeshift camps are created near institutionalized camps such as in the case of the semi-carceral Gradisca asylum seekers’ camp in northern Italy, where its residents have established makeshift camps just outside its walls to provide themselves with spaces for social activities.38 These processes mean that the two camp typologies exist, at least temporarily, in geographical proximity and/or in relation to one another. In the camps of Calais, this proximity allowed those who lived in the limited environment of the container camp to use the communal kitchens, public institutions, and main street of the surrounding Jungle camp for their everyday needs and social gatheings.
Another example of these related and intersecting typologies is La Linière camp, which was opened in March 2016 in Grande-Synthe, a suburb of Dunkirk around 35 kilometers east of Calais. This camp replaced a muddy, makeshift tent camp near the center of Grande-Synthe where Iraqi Kurds, many of them families with children, spent the winter sleeping in squalid conditions.39 At the time, the local authorities forbade volunteers and inhabitants from bringing anything “permanent” – including light building materials – into the makeshift camp, wishing to avoid replicating the Jungle camp in Calais. La Linière camp was planned and created by the local municipality, led by the Green Party mayor of Grande-Synthe. The new camp was located a few kilometers away from the original site; Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) was invited to design and build the camp, and the organization Utopia 56, which normally manages rock concerts, was put in charge of its management.
The camp, located on a long thin strap of land, was physically enclosed lengthwise by a highway and a railway, and its narrow openings were supervised by police and volunteers. Despite this, it was not a closed camp: volunteers, visitors and migrants were free to enter and to leave it as they wish. Similarly to the container camp in Calais, this camp was constructed in organized rows of identical units – in this case, timber huts – intended to host 1,500 people. Although the refugees nicknamed the huts “chicken houses,” implying an animal-like environment created to hold human beings, the layout of the structures in the camp was much less dense and less sterile design-wise than the Calais container camp. Only a few days after La Linière camp was opened, the timber huts, designed to host four people each, were already under different processes of improvement and expansion. Some almost doubled their original size with the help of volunteers who made serial expansions to the huts (fig. 5).
While La Linière camp was created top-down and is perceived only as a “station” in a migration route in which the final destination is the UK, this in-between space still had a degree of autonomy that allowed spontaneous everyday social and cultural activities to transpire. The residents, who demanded some level of self-sufficiency in regards to their meals, soon began to cook in their own expanded huts, and later, in the communal kitchens built by volunteers from l’Auberge and other organizations.40 Informal playgrounds for children were developed, and small informal stalls selling cigarettes and soft drinks sprouted in the communal area and the high street of the camp. Although this was in essence an institutionalized camp built in a controlled environment outside Grande-Synthe and supervised by the local authorities like the fire brigade, it was founded and continues to be developed with an attitude of solidarity that acknowledges the migrants’ power and specific everyday needs.
Differently from the container camp in Calais, the political agenda that materialized into architecture in La Linière camp involved a much more flexible attitude towards the ways the migrants and the space of the camp are controlled and managed. Access to La Linière camp was not heavily controlled, and the migrants were able to adjust the shelter’s structures to fit their everyday life and needs. What was common to both the Jungle and La Linière camp was the acknowledgment of the migrants’ agency. The resulting flexibility and inventiveness of the spatialities of these camps were a response to the camps’ inefficiencies and lack of adequate provisions, and reflect the migrants’ resistance to their precarious, “in-between” situations.
The Power over Life and the Power of Life (Conclusion)
An effort to fully and comprehensively categorize the intersecting typologies of the camps in Europe with their innumerable and changing relations and actors and their dynamic complexities is doomed to be a failure. They rapidly appear, disappear, and reappear through a mix of violent actions, humanitarian support, and the day-to-day actions of their dwellers.41 The actors who create and change these spaces are also varied: state authorities, local councils, private companies, the migrant themselves, and various voluntary organizations that differ in budget, size, professional experience, and the ways in which they interact with others.
The constant transformations of the migrant routes and the typologies of the camps themselves, however, are not arbitrary. Although it is not always easy to trace the logic behind these rapid spatial and geopolitical changes, it is possible to identify and discuss the two forces that propel them in opposing directions: the power over life and the power of life.42 The word “life” here does not merely refer to biological life, but primarily to human life in its distinct uniqueness; human life that realizes its power and freedom through acting and shaping the world according to its needs and desires. “Biopower,” the power over life, is an ongoing attempt to strip human life from its specific forms and from its ability to create these forms and alter them; it reduces human life to mere biological existence, empties it of power, and enables it to be transformed into exposed, bare life. Contrastingly, the power of life is primarily concerned with life’s unique and multiple forms – not only with the fact that we live but with how we live. The issue of form becomes a key political question as the multiple forms of human life that exist in and around the camps require constant negotiations, which, as we have seen, manifest spatially and visually.
The power of life pushes the refugees and migrants, who arrive in Europe from different parts of the world, to reshape their lives in order to, of necessity, give them a new form in a new place. This power creates a complex and multifaceted flow of migrants who actively resist the restrictions imposed on them by tightening border apparatuses that arise from the decisions and policies of other powers. The power over life restricts the possibility of these populations to move freely within and in between countries by the most convenient way (i.e., by the regular, authorized means of air, sea, and land travel), and prevents them from providing livelihoods for themselves and from living in a usual manner in a new location (i.e., by forbidding them to work legally, to rent houses, etc.); it also poses physical limitations to these informal migration flows by creating borders with walls and barbed wire, and by containing the migrants in camps.
The different typologies of camps, whether distinct or interconnected, are also part of the struggle between the power of life and the power over life. When faced with closing borders, migrants erect makeshift camps, persistently looking for new ways to enter a country or waiting there with the hope that the political situation will change. These camps, as we have seen in the Jungle in Calais and in La Linière camp near Dunkirk, develop according to the everyday needs of the migrants, reflecting their specific forms of life – their particular cultural, social, economic, and political needs, abilities, and resources – as well as those of the non-profits and other actors that support them. On the other hand, when the state, the EU, or other powers try to support and control the lives of the people on the move by restricting them to closed and alienating camps, they often reduce them to biological bodies while neglecting their particular, everyday personal, social, and cultural human needs.
When these two contradictory forces – the power over life and the power of life – materialize in camp environments, they not only contrast with each other, they also create cyclical and ever-changing power relations with one another. The power of life resists the power over life, which, in return, makes every effort to suppress the power of life, and these efforts are again bypassed. These power relations form and change the camp spaces according to the different resources their related actors mobilize; the constraints, and opportunities they face along the way; and the power frameworks they reject or develop. The migrants often refuse to be mere subjects managed by others, even when the others are acting out of mercy and compassion, as this involves control and cultural dominance. Instead, they insist on managing their present situation themselves while simultaneously using all of their power to change it. When state authorities try to impose a prison-like camp reality of dehumanizing technical homogenization solutions, the migrants resist by making their own camps or altering the institutionalized camps. When the migrants are legally banned from participating in any formal economy, they create an informal one. When they are prevented from having a registered identity so they can make it to their desired destinations, they adopt other spatial, graphic, and symbolic forms of expression that communicate their identity in other ways. When they are caught by border control in their efforts to make “the jump” across the Channel or to cross other borders, they keep on trying.
The movements and counter-movements of these multiple powers and actors, which constantly transform one another are manifested spatially in the changing networks of camps and in the dynamic environments of the camps themselves. Their existence exposes the current tension between a growing will and need of free movement across international borders and a reality of growing limitations on international movement – between a crucial need for open borders and an increase of walls, barriers, and sophisticated, non-human technologies used to control borders.43
Many of the people in these camps are one step away from the end of the long-trodden and dangerous journeys in which they were not only fleeing, but also pursuing their goals and dreams. While doing so, they expose the dual face of Europe’s liberal democracies, whose values of openness, equality, and freedom contradict the fortification of their borders and the camps that are either actively or passively created for those excluded from their territory. In their various typologies and changing locations, these camps expose the fact that Europe’s “migration crisis” is not simply a humanitarian crisis, but first and foremost, a crisis of political values and powers – a crisis that until recently has been kept away from the continent, far from reach and sight. As precarious as these camp spaces might be, and as scarce as resources may be, their residents have the spatial capability to create rich environments with a strong sense of place which support their everyday life; this reveals not only their ingenuity and agency, but also their persistent “battle for the border,” which includes the struggle over the very meaning of border spaces.44 Until a more encompassing human solution is adopted to take care of the migrants who are stuck on the thresholds of Europe, these temporary camps will be enduring phenomena on the continent’s architectural landscapes, expressing in their complex spatial typologies one of the most acute moral and political crises of our time.