I – Migrant Mortality and Border Policies

PhD candidate Tamara Last

Tamara Last’s contribution to the project is to establish whether there is a relationship between border policies and migrant mortality in the Mediterranean. An unknown proportion of irregular migrants attempting to enter the EU via the Mediterranean Sea arrive dead on European shores. The absolute number of deaths picked up by the media has increased over the last twenty years, but so far this is the only publically available source of data on migrant mortality along this migratory fault line. Meanwhile, Member States such as Italy, Spain, Greece and Malta, have stepped up border control and border management along the southern external border of the EU, so that the region has witnessed an increase in personnel, targeted funding, technology, and diversity of actors involved (such as FRONTEX), with uncertain consequences for mortality rates among migrants attempting to cross unauthorized into the EU. The aims of Tamara’s PhD are fourfold: (1) to compile a database of death certificates of (identified and unidentified) migrants whose bodies have been brought to or found along the EU coasts of the Mediterranean, including Greece, Malta, Italy, Spain and hopefully Cyprus and Turkey, for the period 1/1/1990 to 31/12/2013, (2) to estimate (fluctuations in) mortality rates for the region (and key subregions) over this time period, (3) to compile a comprehensive database of border policies and operational practices in the Mediterranean, and (4) to analyse the relationship between migrant mortality and border control in this region over time.

II – Denationalization of Border Policies through Privatization?

Postdoc Theodore Baird

Theodore Baird studies the sociology and networks of migration management in the European Union. This project investigates the question how has the increased role of private actors in migration management affected the aims of border surveillance policies? The project’s sub-questions are: which firms are involved in the implementation of carrier sanctions and border surveillance, and what financial interests do they have? Since 1990, how many people are and have been employed by private enterprises in the context of carrier sanctions and border surveillance? Since 1990, what is the turnover of private enterprises in the context of carrier sanctions and border surveillance? Are private enterprises involved in shaping the policies which they implement, and if so in which way? Have new aims of border law and policy been formulated in order to make use of the potential of privatization?

In particular the project maps the networks of commercial security and surveillance firms and their links with public bureaucracies throughout the European Union. Using network analysis, Baird looks at which firms are most influential in border surveillance and how they shape the policies which they implement. This project also investigates the socio-legal dimensions of visa restrictions and carrier sanctions in four countries – Spain, Italy, Malta, and Greece – and at the European level. His PhD is based on in-depth fieldwork on human smuggling from East Africa to the Middle East. He is interested in working with multi-disciplinary scholars with interests in migration management, human smuggling and trafficking, and the economic sociology of migration flows.

III – From Border Control to Border Management?

Postdoc Dr. Paolo Cuttitta

Paolo Cuttitta analyses the role of humanitarianism in the transformations of the EU border regime and in the shift from migration control to migration management. The increasing importance of the humanitarian discourse and the increasing involvement of humanitarian actors in the management of migration raise questions regarding both the spatial dimension of border controls (delocalization) and the role of non-state actors in shaping border policies (denationalization).

Geographically the project focuses on the Central Southern Mediterranean (the EU border between Italy/Malta and North Africa).

The key research issues are the following:

  • The establishment of a ‘global migration governance’ is apparent in the multiplication of non-state actors participating in border management. Many of them are humanitarian actors. The project should analyse whether and in how far such humanitarian actors have the power to co-determine (together with state and supra-state actors like the EU) border policies in the Central Southern
  • State authorities increasingly justify their taking action outside their territories (international waters, territories of countries of transit and origin) with humanitarian arguments, such as the need to save human lives or to protect the human rights of migrants from abuses committed by smugglers. Furthermore, the participation of humanitarian organizations (both international and national, both in the EU and in third countries) in migration management contributes to the process of delocalization of border controls. The project should specifically analyse the relationship between humanitarianism and delocalization in the Central Southern Mediterranean.

While they are more and more framed as humanitarian measures, what is the actual impact of (denationalized and delocalized) border controls on the human rights of migrants, also including the right to life?


IV – Human Rights and Migrant Mortality

Prof. Dr. Thomas Spijkerboer

In this sub- project, Thomas Spijkerboer seeks to investigate how human rights analysis is affected by the fact that the role of the state has changed in the process of globalization. He analyzes how state responsibility for border deaths has been influenced by the shift from border control (reactive, focus on individuals, territorial, exclusion from territory) to border management (proactive, focus on populations, delocalised, inclusion in deterritorialised governmentality). Border management is characterised by delocalisation (border control takes place not just at the border, but also abroad or in the interior), de-statisation (private companies, NGO’s, intergovernmental entities, smugglers play a role in border control) and securitisation (reconceptualising borders as criminality and security issues). Existing state capabilities “jumped track” in this shift from one “organising logic” to another, while emerging capabilities were inserted in the new organising logic as well. In Europe, these developments took place in the context of – but were not caused by – Europeanization.

The research questions for this sub-project are:

  • What is the content of a (conventional) human rights analysis of migrant mortality which relies on the hypothesis that European states and private enterprises are not accountable for migrant mortality?
  • What is the content of a (functional) human rights analysis of migrant mortality which relies on the hypothesis that European states and private enterprises are accountable for migrant mortality?
  • How do the differences between these two analyses relate to the postulated shift from migration control to migration management, and to the hypotheses of denationalisation of the state, increased administrative powers, and increased importance of law as a source of state legitimacy?