Collection: Dirty Places, Geographies of Waste


The Fluid Geography of Rubbish: An Analysis of the Patras Refugee Camp (1999–2009)



The city of Patras, Greece, is a major station of contemporary refugee routes from Asia to Europe. Consequently, the city port frequently becomes a battleground between police and refugees trying to board the ships to Italy. Between 1999 and 2009, in a seaside area of the city, a large makeshift camp (of ~4000 inhabitants) was created by the refugees. Τhis small ‘town’ had a square, streets and even a ‘mosque’. The building materials were found in waste from all over the city.

With the garbage of the city being the only source of materials for the refugees, (both for building and eating), a social debate started in the local media. Is it legal or illegal for rubbish to be used in this way? To whom does the garbage ‘belong’? Are the refugees ‘waste people’? Should the police organize a “clean sweep” operation to pick them up?

Ιn this work, we analyze the geographical origin and spread of the waste sources to the camp. Through photographic analysis and geographic documentation, we identify the main categories of garbage used in the refugee camp. Furthermore, we attempt to analyze the public ideological debate on the concept of ‘waste’. Ιn 2009, an arson burned down the refugee camp and the ruins were removed as rubbish. However, before the camp was destroyed, the concept of waste in the public debate had been extended in such a way that even some people, the refugees, were included.


garbagegeographyPatras cityrefugee camptrashifygarbage town
  • Year: 2020
  • Volume: 3 Issue: 1
  • Page/Article: 8
  • DOI: 10.5334/wwwj.34
  • Submitted on 16 May 2019
  • Accepted on 9 Sep 2019
  • Published on 23 Nov 2020
  • Peer Reviewed