Angeliki Dimitriadi presents her paper 'What kind of asylum and which destination? Afghan asylum seekers transiting from Greece' in Parallel session IV(D) of the conference Examining Migration Dynamics: Networks and Beyond, 24-26 Sept 2013
The paper discusses Afghan asylum seekers in Greece and how migrant agency factors in the context of transit from Greece to other EU member states. Labeled in public discourse as transit migrants, I argue that their mobility, when successfully pursued, is more than the sum of structural constraints; they are not only escaping from specific factors but simultaneously pursuing specific conditions. Thus, an element of choice and active participation in the migratory journey is incorporated in the discussion on asylum. The paper draws from two sources, the fieldwork conducted in the framework of my PhD thesis (2009 - 2012) across Greece and the fieldwork conducted in 2013 in Athens, in the context of the project “IRMA-Governing Irregular Migration” carried out as part of a funded research project. Drawing from interviews conducted with irregular Afghan migrants in Greece, that were ‘in transit’, asylum is discussed not from the perspective of safety, but as a way of acquiring a particular identity and social position coupled with specific benefits. This raises once more the question of whether we can incorporate migrant agency in the context of forced migration, and the case of Afghans shows that agency does not negate the need for refuge; rather the need for refuge can be complemented by the expectations for certain conditions and preferences to be met. From this perspective, it is possible to view the asylum seeker as an active agent of his/her migration, attempting and often succeeding in determining his/her own migration journey.