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Between Control and Assistance: The Problem of European Accommodation Centres for Asylum Seekers

International Migration

Published online on


Accommodation centres are much more than means of securing asylum seekers’ housing needs. They are an embodiment of asylum and immigration policies. To understand these policies and their effects on asylum seekers, we need to ask what interests different institutional actors have in keeping asylum seekers in the centres. Based on the study of accommodation centres in the Czech Republic, in this paper I argue that the centres serve as tools of migration control. The prolonged confinement of a highly diverse group of people produced by the interconnectedness between asylum and immigration policies leads to asylum seekers’ disillusionment about the asylum procedure and nourishes various illicit activities. The centres enable state institutions to determine the nature of assistance available to asylum seekers, including legal aid provided by non‐governmental organizations. By actively promoting the image of accommodation centres as benign places, the state also controls the dominant representation of refugee reception. In everyday practices in the centres, control and assistance are closely intertwined and produce an oppressive environment that engenders asylum seekers’ dependency.