The concept of vulnerability has become central in European asylum and refugee law and policy in recent years. The adoption of special measures designed to offer greater protection to vulnerable asylum seekers might be seen as a positive step. However, the way in which vulnerability has been defined is open to question. Too often vulnerability is reduced to a simplistic and essentialised categorisation, which is also highly gendered and racialized. Women are thus categorized as «vulnerable» a priori, without real consideration of the structural and contextual causes of this vulnerability. Whilst being classed as «vulnerable» can increase chances of protection within EU asylum and refugee systems, the impacts on those who are classified as vulnerable can be felt as forms of symbolic violence which reduce agency and autonomy. Based on interviews with asylum seekers and refugees, as well as an analysis of recent EU asylum directives, this article calls for a re-thinking of the uses of vulnerability in EU asylum policies in order to afford better protection, whilst at the same time recognising the agency and autonomy of asylum seekers and refugees.
Freedman, Jane. (2018). «The uses and abuses of “vulnerability” in EU asylum and refugee protection: protecting women or reducing autonomy?»; Papeles del CEIC, vol. 2019/1, papel 204, 1-15. (http://dx.doi.org/10.1387/pceic.19525).