Migration, waiting and uncertainty at the borders of Europe: Syrian refugees in Istanbul

Osseiran, Souad. 2017. Migration, waiting and uncertainty at the borders of Europe: Syrian refugees in Istanbul. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Based on ethnographic fieldwork carried out in two neighbourhoods in Istanbul, this thesis explores Syrian refugees’ migration processes to reach Europe, which are the result of the revolution in Syria and the protracted fighting there. Syrian refugees present in Istanbul are under the temporary protection of Turkish state, and the thesis examines their experiences of the temporary protection in relation to their border crossings. Crossing the border to Europe entails movements and waits. I focus on Syrian refugees’ endeavours to cross the border to Greece or Bulgaria, or arrive elsewhere in Europe by passing through Istanbul’s main airport. Syrian refugees’ migration processes bring the border with Europe into Istanbul, and their attempts to cross the border foreground the effects of the European Union externalising its border management to Turkey. Syrian refugees experience different waits enforced by multiple actors such as Turkish border guards, smugglers, their families and European bureaucracies. Their relations with these actors produce the different spaces of the detention centres and neighbourhoods in Istanbul as spaces of varying temporariness. I focus on the ways refugees endure and counter the waits to argue that the imposed waits influence their subjectivities in particular ways. While temporarily present in Istanbul, they establish ties with fellow refugees to counter the uncertainty they face in their endeavours - ties that give rise to particular ethical acts and tensions. In the final chapter, I foreground the securitisation of air travel and the racialisation of Muslims by looking at the ways Syrian refugees move through the airport in Istanbul.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):



Migration, Istanbul, Syrian Refugees, Waiting, Passing

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



31 August 2017

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

18 Sep 2017 10:18

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 12:01



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