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(In)hospitality: Legitimacy Struggles in the Welcoming of Migrants and Refugees

(In)hospitalité : luttes pour la légitimité dans l’accueil des migrants et réfugiés
Étienne Ciapin


En février et mars 2020, la frontière gréco-turque connait une nouvelle crise liée à l’accueil des migrants et réfugiés cherchant à rejoindre le territoire européen. Dans les espaces publics, les images de gardes côtes grecs armés tirant sur les naufragés d’embarcations de fortune cherchant à rejoindre la rive circulent viralement. Concomitamment, le monde fait face à une menace biologique née en Chine et se jouant des frontières, en l’espèce du Covid-19. Cette menace semble exacerber les tensions sociales liées à la mondialisation et à ces circulations, et les discours et évènements liées à la peur de la pandémie se trouvent d’autant plus associés à l’autre, ennemi extérieur et intérieur devenant qui plus est potentiel vecteur. Ce chapitre interroge comment se mènent dans les espaces publics une âpre lutte de légitimité autour de l’hospitalité et de l’inhospitalité. Nous aborderons les revendications de légitimité dans le sens d’Hélène Hatzfeld, c’est-à-dire comme principes au nom desquels il est possible de vivre ensemble. Cet angle nous semble particulièrement approprié, puisqu’il interroge une relation à l’autre elle-même au cœur de la définition de la cité, comme le soulignent Boudou mais aussi Le Blanc et Brugère.

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  • 1 This word, mostly used in political journalism in France but also appropriated by political scienti (...)
  • 2 This term is used by the no border networks to denounce the logic of closure and borderization agai (...)
  • 3 We sincerely advise the reader who has reached these lines to take a few minutes to do a quick sear (...)

1A sign in a demonstration: on a white background stands the stylised silhouette of a woman running, apparently frightened, chased by three men in red, one of whom wearing a dress looking like a djellaba—an aggressive pack, carrying knives and threatening the woman with their arms and fists. The comment, “Rapefugees not welcome - stay away!”, is included with the thumbnail. We are here at the anti-refugee demonstration organized at the call of the far-right organization Pegida, in Leipzig, Germany on 11 January 2016, and the scandal of sexist assaults and sexual violence in Cologne the same year is very present. This image, where red is sometimes replaced by green—another attempt at a symbolic association with Islam—has been seen at many other gatherings initiated by far-right or right-wing extremist movements. It has spread over the internet, on sites and social network fed by the European “fachosphere1 or by the American alt-right. Regardless of its exact origin and its first author or broadcaster, three points are of particular interest here. The first is that this image has become one of the banners of anti-Muslim, anti-migrant and anti-welcome organizations or demonstrators in Europe. The second is that this image is an answer to an earlier symbol much used by antifascist and pro-welcome groups: originally a white background too, and the stylized silhouettes of a couple with a running child, fleeing from bombs, war or misery, with the black letters “Refugees Welcome”. An image used massively during pro-refugee demonstrations, by multiple collectives promoting solidarity with refugees, on banners against the fortress Europe2 denounced by the “no border” networks. The hijacking and reappropriation are clever3. The emotion is also distorted, and contains an infratext associating rape and sexist violence with refugees who are now “rapefugees”. The third element deriving from the first two is that this symmetrical anti-image illustrates in a particularly powerful way a struggle to de-legitimize the welcoming of refugees and migrants (who would want to welcome potential violent rapists?) and to legitimize anti-migrant supporters (as defenders of women, vouching for the integrity of women in the “homeland”).

2The sign “rapefugees not welcome” refers in particular to the anti-immigrant and anti-refugee demonstrations organized by the German far right after the sexist attacks in Cologne. However, by going beyond the strictly mediatic framework, we can resituate this image in a longer context and at different levels: both in the way different actors in the German public space (politicians, organizations, networks) have fought every step of the way in favor of, or against, a political narrative, and in how the balance of power, impregnation and adhesion to the “culture of welcoming” has been gradually reversed to a “culture of farewell” or even a “culture of expulsion”, both among the elites of the state apparatus and among the German population (Tambarin, 2016).

3This chapter wishes to shed light on how this head-to-head struggle between pro and anti-welcoming of refugees and migrants is being fought. This confrontation is thought more globally as a struggle for legitimization and symmetrical delegitimization around (in)hospitality, by proposing elements of analysis and understanding of the practices, narratives and meanings that construct the dynamics of this confrontation.

  • 4 The approach to these questions, built on the conceptual couple legality / legitimacy, is also one (...)

4From the point of view of political sociology, it seems that this problem is particularly propitious for dealing with the notion of legitimacy. We must begin by saying that claims of legitimacy are defined as a moral idea superior to current settled law (Bastid, 1967) and will be discussed in the sense developed by Hélène Hatzfeld (2014), as principles in the name of which it is possible to live together. This approach is also appropriate to interact with what the concept of hospitality reveals about our societies, since it questions a more general relationship to the other, beyond the simple legal framework—this is at the heart of the definition of the political city and the “social contract”, as highlighted by Boudou (2012) but also Le Blanc and Brugère (2017). The objective is therefore to decrypt and provide more information on the practices, narratives and political imaginaries that are being constructed at the heart of this struggle for legitimacy around hospitality and inhospitality4.

  • 5 These “struggles for legitimacy” are observable on the US-Mexico border for example and more genera (...)

5We will start by showing how an antagonism between two blocks can be formulated, operating a synthetic review of their practices and showing how they tend to legitimize their political lines and to delegitimize those of the adversary. We will then return to the particularly present dimension of the “information war” at the heart of this confrontation, and then finally comment on and highlight more particularly this bitter battle during the crisis of hospitality at the Greek-Turkish borders in times of Covid pandemic, in February-March 2020. The examples used here are essentially European and centered on a recent period, between 2010 and 2020, essentially linked to the migration issues produced by geopolitical conflicts in the European neighborhood (Ciapin, 2018), but parallels are entirely possible with other periods, places and issues5.

Block to block, knock for knock

6From a perspective inspired by Antonio Gramsci’s notion of historical block to highlight the political-historical dynamics of confrontation and the construction of cultural hegemony, we can postulate that the antagonism between the defense of welcoming and the defense of rejecting shapes two protagonist blocks. On the one hand, a “hospitable” block that works to legitimize reception with or against the law. On the other, an “inhospitable” block that works to legitimize the refusal of welcoming or even the rejection, with or against the law. Each of these blocks also works to delegitimize the other, and this fundamental and positional antagonism is one of the elements allowing such a definition and delimitation. Finally, each is composed of organizations and networks, aggregating individuals and meanings. These blocks or poles, are shifting, constantly reconfiguring themselves, regardless of whether their components share a common political consciousness or are merely objective allies.

7There can indeed be a whole world and multiple practical, political and even lexical gaps between the actions and arguments of a humanitarian NGO acting in sea rescue, and the positions and practices developed by a trade union defending an “internationalist class struggle” and supporting a collective of clandestine workers; both are also distinct from anarchist groups involved in no-border networks, which claim autonomy and political radicality; there is also a clear difference with Catholic networks for example, promoting an interpretation of the gospel that encourages welcoming. Yet these multiple networks, practices and narratives work together, or at least form a pole infusing a political narrative under different registers, for lack of being easily identifiable as a common “cause” that would be unanimously called the “cause of migrants” or refugees (Agier, 2016).

8Beyond the multiple possible bridges and porosities, the differences are still there between the components of the “inhospitable” block, oscillating between institutional political parties of the far right promoting a stronger closure of borders, and the reduction of asylum policies—for example by emphasizing the fight against terrorism or national preference; nationalist groupings, promoting more radical discourses and direct action in the form of “vigilantism” or even physical racist attacks on the street; and finally, the most reactionary movements of Jewish or Christian religions preaching differentiation between migrants and refugees to be welcomed or excluded depending on their origins and their real or supposed religion—Islam being directly associated by them with the most sectarian interpretations and jihadism. But these different components complement each other, even though practices or formats may differ and the logics of common public displays and affiliations are very diverse across countries (Simonneau & Castelli Gattinara, 2019).

9Each block aggregating these organizations and networks, individuals and meanings, is therefore fraught with tensions but also convergences that change the points of agreement and the bones of contention—subjective or objective—between its various components, depending on the dynamics of confrontation with the antagonistic block and on the social and political current events.

10One can spontaneously understand how this antagonism between a “hospitable” block and an “inhospitable” one is played out in the political arena: the multi-scalar and multiform mechanisms of lobbyism are used to make the law evolve or to justify actions that go beyond or even confront these frameworks. Of course, the influence on national laws and bills is one of the fields of confrontation, but we should not underestimate the other scales. These can be linked to the regional levels, such as the European level in the framework of the external and internal policies of Schengen for example, or more local ones, as illustrated by the debate and social struggles around “sanctuary cities” made visible by US initiatives (Sanders, 2016), formulating “refuge cities” and “rejection cities” oriented by public action, urban planning, and activism on both sides (Babels, 2018).

11Some arenas of confrontation are more symbolical, such as religion: the visit of Pope Francis to the Greek island of Lesbos on 16 April 2016 was supported by the Christian believers who consider hospitality as a proof of the fidelity of the church to a message of fraternity and hospitality, thus revitalized in act by this pontifical move. But on the other hand, Christians who opposed this symbolical visit responded with various islamophobic and differentialist arguments and speeches, using terrorism as justification for enclosing the Christian “fortress Europe” developed by the most traditionalist and conservative networks.

12But one of the dimensions in which the struggle for legitimization and delegitimization is mostly expressed is the communicational, intellectual and cultural arenas, particularly via digital media. In that particular sphere those in favour of welcoming migrants and those against it respond to each other, and their arguments, meanings, legitimization or delegitimization strategies are developed, refined and spread with the objective of strengthening one’s position in the public space, in public opinion, and of winning over readers and listeners. This is particularly the case for the most radical positions that are sanctioned by law, especially those that are strictly racist and difficult to hold in the street, but which can proliferate on the internet (Froio, 2017). Identitarian far-right networks in particular have become specialists and theorists of this involvement (Bouron, 2017). Researchers who study those phenomena also point out that it is through the use of the Internet and social networks that certain branches of the far right today are developing a strategy for “mainstreaming the hate” based on the virality of content, saturation, cultural impregnation and the traditional forces of fascist agitation (Voirol, 2017).

Propaganda by acts

13In the “blow for blow, knock for knock” confrontation, legitimizing or delegitimizing plays on a certain number of attributes. Firstly, the challenge of humanizing or dehumanizing people in exile, migration or asylum and secondly, the challenge of historicizing or dehistoricizing the causes and consequences of those life trajectories. Those two terms most often work together and create a symbolically charged and diametrically different narrative: to humanize is above all to name, to make sensitive, sympathetic to the sense of the close one, from the social (which profession? which life trajectory?), political (citizen of a country?), and human (which emotions?) points of view. To historicize is, for example, to explain that people leave a house because bombs are falling down on a village or a city, bombs that may have come from French or Italian arms factories, to recall the effects of inequalities structuring international capitalism between the North and the South, to place causes and consequences in an understandable panorama of politics and geopolitics. To dehumanize is to paint the other as an animal, a beast, and often as de-individualized, soluble in a “flow” often depicted as a “wave” or “tsunami”, a “violent pack”, a “horde”, with a thousand gradations ranging from ethno-differentialism to plain racism. To dehistoricize is to put the causes and consequences in the shadows, up to the naturalization of the other, or to construct a biased vision of a historical phenomenon unsuitable for its understanding. This is the case for content associating the anti-migrant struggle with the battles of Thermopylae or Poitiers, for example, presented as “re-information” in spite of all historical relevance, and playing on a mythicized and simplifying narrative, of which the success of certain major cinematic productions such as the film 300 directed by Zack Snyder and released in 2006, is not unrelated.

14Together with these terms is often articulated the double rhetoric of law and justice, the legal and the legitimate, “human rights” versus “migration laws”; universalism versus “national preference” or “European preference”. Sociologist Jean Ziegler refers to “crimes against humanity” regarding the deplorable situation in the camps of Lesbos (Kamenka, 2020); writer Erri de Luca speaks of “war crimes in times of peace” (Confavreux, 2018), two terms subtly associating criticism of the legal with the legitimacy of a struggle for justice that must go further. Those reactions stem from direct actions against migrants or refugees on the borders of Europe today, justifying the use of an ineffective police force, or image of what the police should do, or the use of the fight against terrorism as a justification for refusing to welcome.

15In addition, the arguments often articulate other political issues and topics, as we have seen with the use of the fight against sexist violence following the Cologne aggressions; but this can also be the case with ecological, economic and social arguments, including for reasons of pure opportunism.

  • 6 The images we are discussing, however, are not free of copyright, so we propose that our readers do (...)
  • 7 Synthetically, this operation aimed to charter a ship to “close the Mediterranean road” and “denoun (...)
  • 8 Pia Klemp is a German human rights activist and ship captain, involved in the Sea Shepherd and then (...)

16Moreover, those arguments and rhetorics are often supported and completed by what I call “actions of propaganda”: whether the intention is to welcome or to reject, multiple practices such as producing events and images support such discourses. It is often the conjunction of all three rhetorical aspects that somehow “makes the story” and mobilizes the associated moral or political meanings. One of the most illustrative examples is the media-political naval battle in the Mediterranean, which is always fought between the anti and pro-hospitality blocks. Once again, letting the images speak for themselves is eloquent6. Between the C-Star, an “anti-migrant” ship chartered by the Génération Identitaire network7 with the slogan “No way, you will not make Europe home! Defend Europe” in July 2017, and the Louise Michel, chartered by Banksy and commanded by Pia Klempt in the summer of 2020, flocked with the straightforward slogan “Rescue”8, all the antagonism has often materialized in a battle of flags.

“Hoax” and “fake news”, an information guerrilla

17In this regard, we analyse one of the reactions of the anti-hosting networks to Captain Pia Klemp’s engagement by playing on the tactics of delegitimization through the use of the media. This reaction allows us to underline the fact that hoax and fake news are at the heart of an information war and one of the formats regularly manufactured, used and broadcast by pro-rejection supporters to de-legitimize the pro-access block, especially on social networks and digital spaces.

  • 9 The case in question being under investigation, we will not dwell on its characteristics, but this (...)
  • 10 We cannot reproduce the image because it is a picture that is not copyright free.

18On 29 October 2020, a man undertook a murderous attack with a knife in a church in the southern French city of Nice. This attack was quickly qualified in the media as potentially jihadist9. An anonymous image circulated on social networks a few days after the attack. The image10, very simple in its realization, used the “meme” format, associating one of the iconic pictures of Captain Pia Klemp with a text on a yellow background: “Why do the media abstain from specifying that it is the famous Captain Pia Klemp who rescued in the Mediterranean the Tunisian migrant Brahim Aouissaoui, the murderer of three people in Nice, on the ship Louise Michel chartered by Banksy?” No signature, no other graphic elements. But the message pursued a simple objective: by associating the murderer with Pia Klempt and the rescue ship Louise Michel, and by presenting this element as a truth hidden by the media, it aims was, on the one hand to discredit Pia Klemp, and her person, to discredit rescue operations in the Mediterranean; and on the other hand to identify her, as well as Banksy, as “allies of the Islamists”. At least the message hoped to make her bear some of the responsibility for the fact that the attack actually took place, while giving only two elements about the author of the attack-the fact that he was Tunisian and a migrant, hence associating the two terms with potential jihadism. The subtext developed here can thus be read as “the fact that those who rescue migrants in the Mediterranean allow the arrival of jihadists in France and Europe is hidden from you”.

  • 11 A term coined on the Internet which designates precisely a false information circulating on the Int (...)
  • 12 This information corresponds to the elements of the man’s migratory route provided by the press and (...)

19However, this “information” is fake. It is in fact a typical hoax11, credible but false. The man was not rescued by this ship and he could not have been12. The hoax takes up the codes and formats of the post-truth logics very present on the Internet (Dieguez, 2018), playing with the facts, the spreading itself ensuring effectiveness, aiming only at a fleeting life in a greater and longer battle: first the struggle to delegitimize those engaged in rescuing migrants at sea, and second to legitimize rejection by putting forward the argument of anti-terrorism and exploiting the force of a dramatic event.

Struggle for (de)legitimization and crisis of hospitality at the Greek-Turkish borders in times of global pandemic

  • 13 We recommend listening to the radio program Affaires Culturelles with Olivier Clochard on Erdogan a (...)

20The beginning of 2020 was marked by a serious crisis linked to the larger arrival of migrants and refugees at the Greek-Turkish border, at a time when geopolitical relations were tense between Turkish President Erdogan and the European Union, the latter threatening to “open the floodgates” at the borders13. One image was particularly striking, that of a Greek coastguard pushing back migrant boats with a pole. Gunshots, intimidation, tension were at its height and the refugee camps were in a critical situation.

  • 14 This phenomenon was particularly visible on the social networks of hate groups when the first Covid (...)

21At the same time, a borderless biological threat, the coronavirus, was spreading and reaching Europe. This threat seemed to exacerbate the social tensions linked to globalization and mass circulations. The discourses linked to the fear of the pandemic were often associated with the Other, an external and internal enemy becoming, in addition to everything else, a potential vector of the virus. In this struggle to legitimize rejection, the virus has been a powerful ally: networks promoting inhospitality are working to legitimize the unprecedented European military deployment on the Greek-Turkish border, the violent action of the anti-migrant militias in Lesbos and the Greek islands, and the decision of the Hungarian state to suspend the possibility of seeking asylum on its territory because of the ongoing pandemic. The image of the migrant as a virus appeared briefly on the web, without there being a simultaneous emergence of any symbolic association between “welcome” and “cure” from the other side of the debate14.

22What seems interesting in this conjunction is that it allows us to question how this acute context could reinforce the harshness of the struggle for legitimization and delegitimization. In particular, the last few years have seen the image of the zombie associated with migrants and refugees reinforced in the imaginaries and rhetorics of rejection (Croft & Vogl, 2019): the figure of the zombie, in addition to producing a paroxysmal dehumanization, helps the legitimization of anti-migrant violence as “self-defense”, and to paint oneself as a resistance fighter. It is understandable that when coupled with a bacteriological threat, the effectiveness of those representations could be strengthened and convince more widely, encouraging new volunteers for vigilantism-type of actions. Those imaginaries also become more effective in reinforcing the political narratives of “collapse”. From that perspective, members of the pro-welcoming block argue that human and humanist resilience is necessary from the local to the global levels, beyond the geopolitics of states (the perspective of an increasing number of climate refugees, the necessity to build networks and a variety of mutual aid initiatives). On the other hand, members of the pro-rejection block argue that in order to consolidate walls and barriers and re-actualize the idea of a vital space against others, a new green nationalism is necessary, linking the climate (and health) issue to that of borders (Zetkin Collective, 2020).

23The power of this confrontation also seems to occupy a wider space, since state communications have difficulty imposing themselves as political references in this context of crisis and geopolitical complexity. Even states that have chosen to adopt tougher policies have not been spared: their recourse to devices such as walls in recent decades shows more bluntly than ever their practical ineffectiveness in stopping targeted flows and imposing themselves as reference points for action. Since these walls do not resolve any of the causes that produce them, they ultimately constitute spectacular installations aimed at giving the image of power and “action” to national populations at the risk of permanent escalation (Brown, 2009). Now, in this tense period, what will be the next stage of spectacular action? Without speculating too much, we would like to highlight here that there is indeed a tendency: because of inefficient or even “failed” state practice, the risk of escalation will also come from the blows in terms of the power of attraction and political adhesion of the rejection discourses and imaginaries that the anti-welcoming block will be able to impose. This situation questions the pro-welcoming block on its capacity to respond with alternative political and imaginary practices in order to glimpse at progressive outcomes.

A struggle to define the political city: besieged resisting fortress versus hospitable caravanserai

24The struggle for legitimization and delegitimization regarding the issues at stake in the welcoming or rejection of migrants and refugees is linked to a more global political battlefield, because it participates in the formulation of political narratives, discourses and imaginaries, and in the definition of the relationship to the other, and thus symmetrically to the social contours of the self, but also to the contours of the “political city” and to its geopolitical and symbolic borders. In this sense, through the efforts of those two antagonistic blocks, two drastically opposed political projects are taking shape and confronting each other. The two projects display tensions between the organic or mechanical definitions of social solidarities, in a striking opposition between the jus soli and the blood tie, between culture and civilization.

25Therefore the imaginary of the besieged resisting fortress protecting the organic community from external threats—even if it means portraying them as powerful chimeras—faces the imaginary of the hospitable caravanserai open to the world and built on external exchanges, its vitality depending precisely on the qualities of those links, which are neither necessarily serene nor obvious. Those formulas are certainly simplistic, but they help think about these political imaginaries.

26What will be the contours of the political city that will impose itself? This is a multi-scalar question since it is played out at different interlocking levels. At the most individual level, it is what is played out when a viewer discovers an image of a Greek coastguard harpooning a refugee boat, for example, who needs to question himself and accept being judged on the basis of his social position and his personal decision, hence bringing into play all those eminently political elements. It is the same battle that is being played out on a societal scale in the bustling political arena of social movements defining and redefining institutions and powers. History, as always, will be forged by those struggles and antagonisms.

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1 This word, mostly used in political journalism in France but also appropriated by political scientists, designates the digital nebula of far-right movements.

2 This term is used by the no border networks to denounce the logic of closure and borderization against the free movement of people. European border policies would be comparable to medieval walls, and therefore denounced as authoritarian and anachronistic.

3 We sincerely advise the reader who has reached these lines to take a few minutes to do a quick search on the internet with these two “slogans”, and see for himself through photos of demonstrations the face to face that takes place between the two enemy twin images.

4 The approach to these questions, built on the conceptual couple legality / legitimacy, is also one of the fruitful research themes of the ANR Dispow team, coordinated by Annalisa Lendaro, which aims to analyze the socio-legal controversies related to border management in France in order to understand their origins, the different conceptions of justice that they symbolize, the way they question contemporary migration policies and the principles that underlie and justify them. This work is carried out on three French borders: the Calaisis region; the area between Ventimiglia, Bardonecchia, Briançon and Nice; and the Basque border between Bayonne and Irun. See:<> (17 July 2022).

5 These “struggles for legitimacy” are observable on the US-Mexico border for example and more generally in the mediatic and public space of the US, as the American presidential election of 2020 has shown repeatedly, but also in multiple border spaces and public spaces of territories linked to migration and hospitality issues all over the world. A particular attention to the contexts and protagonists is however necessary to be able to clearly determine the common elements and singularities of these struggles around the world, how they are similar, how they differ, how they communicate, respond, perhaps feed off each other.

6 The images we are discussing, however, are not free of copyright, so we propose that our readers do a quick search on the web for the two ships, abundantly photographed and presented by multiple digital articles from different countries and languages.

7 Synthetically, this operation aimed to charter a ship to “close the Mediterranean road” and “denounce the collusion between sea rescue NGOs and their collaborations with smuggler mafias and the deadly consequences of their actions at sea”, by claiming the fact that “the European coastguards systematically turn back migrant boats”, highlighting Australia’s much tougher migration policy, and justifying and legitimizing it by the drop in deaths at sea due to the dissuasive effect of attempting the crossing. Their objective is therefore “to call the Libyan coastguards as soon as they come across boats so that they can rescue them” and to sink the smugglers’ boats afterwards so that they are not reemployed—something which they denounce. The presentation video in question was published on 9 July 2017 and is still available on the Generation Identitaire.

Youtube channel. This very media-oriented operation, financed by fundraising appeals, has been a complete failure, as the ship and its international crew (French, German, Austrian and Italian activists) have to face administrative hurdles and strong pressure from antifascist groups and NGOs. It worked better from a communication standpoint, because it produced a great resonance. Other “defend Europe” actions since then—such as the operation carried out at the Col de l’Échelle, to “close the border” between France and Italy at Névache in April 2018, or at the Col du Portillon in the Pyrenees, at the French-Spanish border with the same objective on 19 January 2021—have been built on the same storytelling structure.

8 Pia Klemp is a German human rights activist and ship captain, involved in the Sea Shepherd and then Sea-Watch NGO. This NGO promotes sea rescue and pro-welcome activism and has been sued by the Italian justice system for “suspicion of aiding and abetting illegal immigration” in 2019. The Charismatic tattooed woman who embodies direct commitment, she becomes an iconic figure. Bansky is the pseudonym of an anonymous, discreet and mysterious British street artist, active since the 1990s. Some of his works denounce consumer society, social inequalities, authoritarianism. Mystery surrounds the artist and his wealth. The association of the two added to the politically marked signifier of Louise Michel is a powerful storytelling for the supporters of the pro-welcome bloc, especially the younger bangs. And a powerful repellent for the supporters of the anti-welcome bloc.

9 The case in question being under investigation, we will not dwell on its characteristics, but this example is useful to understand the reactions produced, not about the event itself.

10 We cannot reproduce the image because it is a picture that is not copyright free.

11 A term coined on the Internet which designates precisely a false information circulating on the Internet as a rumor (Dictionary Cambridge, “hoax”).

12 This information corresponds to the elements of the man’s migratory route provided by the press and with the fact that the Louise Michel was not operational when the man crossed the Mediterranean on 20 September 2020, as the boat was anchored in the Spanish port of Burriana since 17 September 2020, after a final rescue operation at the end of August 2020.

13 We recommend listening to the radio program Affaires Culturelles with Olivier Clochard on Erdogan and migratory blackmailing (France Culture, 2020).

14 This phenomenon was particularly visible on the social networks of hate groups when the first Covid cases appeared in Europe, groups that are otherwise “invisible” or “discreet”, protected by relative anonymity and without a strong audience, but conducive to very clear-cut discourses of racism. It manifested itself in two main ways. The first—which expresses rejection—appears through semantic associations where the theme of “invasion” was complexified with the sub-theme of “contamination”. The second—which expresses protection—associates a hard and closed border as a “sanitary cordon”, necessary to protect the national and ethnic community from the “foreign disease”. These two rhetorics are formulated by words or images that give a new place to the items of the disease or health. More generally, and moving away from the Greek-Turkish border, recent literature points to the fact that the association of Covid with China and the Asian continent has provoked spikes in racist reactions, targeting particularly groups identified as Asian or of Asian origin (Darling-Hammond et al., 2020; Ya-Han, 2020). The Covid variants are named by the media according to their geographical region of identification. What would happen to these rhetorics if an “Arab” or “African” variant appeared?

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Étienne Ciapin, « (In)hospitality: Legitimacy Struggles in the Welcoming of Migrants and Refugees »ILCEA [En ligne], 50 | 2023, mis en ligne le , consulté le 29 mars 2023. URL : ; DOI :

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Étienne Ciapin

PhD, Sociology and International Relations Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès, CERTOP (UMR5044) & CERDAP (EA 7443).

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