Refugee Youth in Public Space


IMISCOE 2020 – two panel sessions (30 June – 2 July, 2020)

Cancelled due to covid-19

Two accepted panel sessions: Urban Geographies of Refugee Youth – Public Space, Urban Infrastructure and Everyday Practices

Refugee youth often find themselves in precarious and ambivalent positions in the cities and towns where they have settled. Insecure housing, lack of social networks, employment restrictions, possible exposure to localised regimes of racism and xenophobia, coupled with a lack of money, results in significant challenges in their everyday lives. Moreover, the spatial presence of refugee youth, especially in the public spaces of cities and towns, has been strongly problematized and interrogated in immigration debates. However, the city can also provide solidarity and support, where spaces of reception, humanitarianism and ‘sanctuary’ exist. As such, the city for refugee youth is a space of multiple realities, with challenges and possibilities. There is a growing body of geographical work that examines the roles cities and their infrastructure, rather than the state, play in relation to refugee rights and experiences (i.e. Bagelman, 2015; Caglar & Glick Schiller 2018; Darling, 2017; Darling and Bauder, 2019; Nettelbladt & Boano, 2019).

This session seeks to examine the diverse urban experiences of refugee youth.  We use the category ‘refugee youth’ to not only refer to young people with refugee status, but also those going through the asylum process and those who are considered as failed asylum seekers. The aim is to have papers that are highly attentive to the context of place, unearthing how local urban contexts produce distinct socio-spatial experiences. In particular, we are interested in how refugee youth navigate the city, what role public space plays in their everyday lives and how they experience and negotiate inclusion and exclusion in the city and its public spaces. Moreover, we are interested in papers that examine how refugee youth interact with the varied infrastructure of cities, and the impacts this has on their everyday lives and practices. This can include infrastructure that provides support and solidarity, but also infrastructure that regulate, control and discriminate.

Papers could explore – but are by no means limited to – the following themes:
• Refugee youth and uses of public space.
• Refugee youth and interactions with the ‘arrival infrastructure’.
• Refugee youth and the role of arts, culture and community initiatives.
• Refugee youth and the role of sport and its spatiality in the city.
• Urban green spaces and refugee youth.
• Refugee youth and infrastructures of control, regulation and discrimination.
• Public space and refugee youth identity formations.
• Gender, refugee youth and the city.
• Refugee youth and diaspora networks.
• ‘New ethnicities’ and refugee youth.
• Refugee youth and urban mobility.
• Refugee youth and public transport.
• Refugee youth, everyday routines and navigating the city.

Session Organisers:

  • Mattias De Backer, Université de Liège, Belgium
  • Ilse van Liempt, Utrecht University, Netherlands
  • Robin Finlay, Newcastle University, UK
  • Kathrin Hörschelmann, Leibniz-Institut für Länderkunde, Leipzig, Germany


If interested, please send an abstract (250 words maximum) including title, institutional affiliation and contact details (including email) to and by Friday November 15th, 2019.