Saving Deportees: Dynamics of Mobilizations Against Deportation in Switzerland

Monday, 11 July 2016: 16:45
Location: Hörsaal 26 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Johanna PROBST, SFM Universite de Neuchatel, Switzerland
Dina BADER, SFM - Université de Neuchâtel, Switzerland, Université de Lausanne, Switzerland
This paper explores the dynamics of mobilizations against the deportation of rejected asylum seekers in Switzerland. Based on a qualitative study of five protest movements that took place between 2006 and 2015 Switzerland, it examines the configurations, the development and the outcomes of these social movements. The five case studies include documents from different media as well as 25 in-depth interviews with the involved migrants and the key actors participating in the protest against deportation.

These data are used to present general patterns of how mobilizations against deportation emerge and evolve. Beyond aspects common to all of the observed cases, we distinguish two ideal types of mobilizations: On the one hand, there are small groups of left oriented activists using the defense of one or several asylum seekers to make claims regarding political reform. Their commitment is framed by ideals of free movement and human rights. The deportees exemplify a collective cause that the activists have been defending before and will continue to defend afterwards. On the other hand, “ordinary” citizens with different political views form a protest group to prevent the deportation of a specific person or family seen as well integrated and thus “meriting” the right to stay. In this case, the actors involved usually have no previous protest experience. Their mobilization ends with the annulment of the deportation decision or its enforcement.

Addressing factors of success or failure to prevent a deportation, the support of political elites and the quality and intensity of the media coverage appear to play an important role in shaping the outcome of the protest. They allow the deportee’s defense to enter the public and political arena, where his or her case will become the object of a battle with a binary outcome: success or failure of the protest movement.