David Lagarde is a PhD candidate in geography at the LISST (Laboratoire interdisciplinaire solidarités, sociétés, territoires) in the University of Toulouse.

This post aims to highlight how cartography can be used to shed light on the use that most States make of camps in their migration management policies. I will start by presenting the emergence of such practices within the framework of Migreurop's activities. The presentation of a global map of encampment will then emphasise the growing phenomenon of encampment worldwide. And as a conclusion, a map representing a Syrian family's itinerary between Jordan and Syria will underline the consequences of such a structure on refugees' migratory journeys.

Migreurop is a network of activists and researchers defending migrants' rights. Launched in 2002 during the European Social Forum in Florence, this network denounces the multiplication of administrative retention centres for foreigners. It also intends to alert the civil society on the generalisation of the use of detention of undocumented migrants as a key tool of the European migration policies. Cartography thus represented one of the first instrument developed by Migreurop to shed light on this growing phenomenon. In 2003, Migreurop published its first map of encampment. Since that moment, several versions have regularly been published in order to recall the existence of such structures in Europe and at its borders. The networks have also published an Atlas of migration in Europe in 2009, before a second edition was published in 2012 and translated into English in 2013. Through these atlases and the making of multi-scale maps, Migreurop intends to use cartography in order to make visible the human consequences of the strengthening of the European Union's migration controls on migrants' daily lives and mobility. In December 2013, Migreurop has launched its new close the camps website. Based on an online database and a dynamic map of encampment in Europe, this project aims to better identify, describe and locate detention sites, as well as making practical information available to detainees and people who want to contact and support them.

In 2012, within the framework of a research project coordinated by Michel Agier and drawing inspiration on Migreurop's work and methodology, we have worked on collecting information on the detention of migrants and refugees around the world in order to create a Global map of encampment. In order to give the most rigorous and homogenous image of this phenomenon, we started establishing a list of criteria to determine which structures should be represented. Among them were for instance the capacity of administrative retention centres (only those with a capacity superior to 50 persons have been mapped) and the refugee camps' official status (only refugee camps with an institutional recognition have been taken into account). Only a small minority of camps have thus been mapped. Indeed, structures such as internally displaced people camps, refugee transit centres, self-settled and informal migrant and refugee camps do not appear on this map. Regarding the data collection work, it mainly relied on reports published by International organisations such as the UNHCR, Human Rights organisations defending migrants' rights, as well as research projects documenting the generalisation of encampment. When information about specific territories were lacking, we also established direct contacts via emails with researchers, activists and professionals working in such places. This map highlights the geographical distribution of the different forms of encampment and emphasises the world's division between refugee camps located in the global South and retention centres in the global North.

The generalisation of the encampment of migrant and refugee populations around the world also has important consequences on their migration journeys. Indeed, camps of all sorts are becoming a central step in their individual biographies as they deeply structure their mobility and drastically limit their access to human and social rights. We thus consider that mapping individual itineraries better enables to represent the consequences of the use of camps on the different steps of migratory journeys. In Jordan for instance, the implementation of strict border controls and the development of an encampment policy by the local authorities forced Syrian asylum-seekers to follow much longer routes and to rely on smugglers in order to escape war-torn Syria. On the Jordanian side of the border, transit centres and refugee camps now deeply structure their mobility within this country, as well as their access to resources such as housing and employment. As a consequence, the itineraries they follow are becoming much more dangerous and fragmented. On the other hand, this encampment policy also incites a growing number of Syrians to continue their route toward the territory of the European Union, where hotspots are now being implemented, adding another form of camp on the already long list of existing migrant and refugee detention places located around the world.

Agier Michel (ed.), 2014. Un Monde de camps. Paris : La Découverte, 350 p.

  • Clochard Olivier, Migreurop (ed.), 2013. The Atlas of migrants in Europe. London: The New Internationalist 152 p.
  • Clochard Olivier, Migreurop (ed.), 2009. Atlas des migrants en Europe. Géographie critique des politiques migratoires. Paris : Armand Colin, 144 p.
  • Schapendonk Joris, 2012. "Turbulent trajectories: African Migrants on Their Way to the European Union", Societies, 2(2), pp.27-41.

Migreurop's map of encampment


Global map of encampment