• Mikkel Arboe Lauridsen
  • Isabell Bang Christensen
The purpose of this thesis is to investigate how asylum seekers manage to navigate in their everyday life in Denmark when considering the setting in which they live as asylum seekers. This thesis is a case study of a small closed down hotel in Vigsø where approximately thirty single male asylum seekers live while waiting to receive an answer on their application for a residence permit. The closed down hotel is a unit of the asylumcenter in Hanstholm. To investigate this matter we have conducted a two-week fieldwork at the hotel in Vigsø. The purpose of this fieldwork was to interact with the asylum seekers in which the method of ethnographic has been practiced. Thus, the empirical material consists of fieldnotes from the two weeks at the hotel and semi-structured interviews with three of the asylum seekers who live at the hotel. Two of the three interviews were executed with the help of an interpreter due to the asylum seekers’ lack of proper English language skills.

The theoretical framework is build upon the concept of social navigation by anthropologist Henrik Vigh and the concepts of tactics and strategies by philosopher Michel De Certeau. In our investigation we operate with a threefold analysis with each part giving an answer to how asylum seekers manage to navigate in their everyday life and life in general:

•The relation between the asylum seeker and the institution
•The relation between the asylum seeker and the time
•The relation among the asylum seekers.

To be able to fully understand the asylum seekers’ way of navigating in their current environment we draw on additional theoretical concepts, which we use as heuristic tools. In the threefold analysis, we draw on the theoretical concept of total institutions by sociologist Erving Goffman, several theoretical perspectives on time and finally the concept of epistemic communities by Professor of Political Science Peter Haas.

This thesis concludes how the setting, which surrounds the asylum seekers, is characterised by uncertainty and insecurity due to the waiting time that comes from applying for a residence permit. This leaves the asylum seekers frustrated and with an understanding of time as something worthless. Due to this waiting time a radical kind of freedom permeates the asylum seekers’ everyday life and existence in general. This freedom is explained as the absence of commitment to anything or anyone. Furthermore, the setting is characterised by mistrust among the asylum seekers, which creates a condition of every man for himself. This is characterised by the fearfulness experienced by the asylum seekers for co-residents to pass on information to the asylum seekers native governments or misusing information in regard to obtaining a residence permit. Additionally, the hotel as a part of the setting surrounding the asylum seekers is itself producing limits to how they are able to navigate. These limitations refer to the freedom of movement and freedom of action, which is caused by the rules that must be obeyed being an asylum seeker living in the hotel in Vigsø.

In addition to what characterises the setting this thesis lastly concludes on how the asylum seekers manage to navigate in this setting during their everyday life and life in general, which they do by using different tactics. One of these tactics is related to the mistrust among the asylum seekers that permeates the setting and concerns communicating one’s cases only with relevant authorities. Others use employees at Vigsø actively in their tactic of navigating by discussing their case, which has some kind of therapeutic effect on the asylum seekers. Furthermore, rumour at the hotel has it that some of the asylum seekers lie to the authorities about their religious beliefs as they believe that their chance of receiving a residence permit are enhanced if they are atheist or Christian. Thereby lying becomes another tactic in navigating in this setting. In their way of navigating to the radical kind of freedom that dominates the setting the asylum seekers try to create some kind of structure in their everyday life. To do this they structure their daily routines based on the activities the hotel offers thus creating structure in what seems unstructured.

In navigating with uncertainty and insecurity the asylum seekers use hope as a tactic. Hope is attached to the present as well as to the future. The former is goal-oriented while the latter is open-ended. In present they hope for a positive answer to their application for a residence permit and for the future they hope for something better than their current situation. During their time spent at the hotel the asylum seekers come to realise that their current everyday life and situation in general is just temporary. The realization of this thus becomes a tactic they use both with regard to their everyday life and their existence in general.
Publication date29 Jul 2016
Number of pages91
ID: 237844339