This article is the afterword for the special issue of ERQ «Refugee experiences in Europe. Subjectivity, surveillance and control». The afterword underlines the importance of looking at the refugee issue in Europe through the analytical lens of power. The text briefly sketches the literature on refugees and its limitations concerning the dimension of power. The role of ethnography in grasping forms of subjectivity, surveillance and control is here highlighted; ethnography powerfully contributes to understand the interaction between individuals and social structures. Moreover, the article underlines how ethnographic studies are useful to analyse the responsibility of institutions and political authorities, which are involved in the control of migration and in producing marginality and forms of subjugations. Finally, by setting the studies presented in this monographic issue in their historical and political context, this afterword claims for a public role of the social research.