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Europe’s failed 'fight' against irregular migration: ethnographic notes on a counterproductive industry

Andersson, Ruben (2016) Europe’s failed 'fight' against irregular migration: ethnographic notes on a counterproductive industry. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 42 (7). pp. 1055-1075. ISSN 1369-183X

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Identification Number: 10.1080/1369183X.2016.1139446


Despite Europe's mass investments in advanced border controls, people keep arriving along the continent's shores under desperate circumstances. European attempts to ‘secure’ or ‘protect’ the borders have quite clearly failed, as politicians themselves increasingly recognise – yet more of the same response is again rolled out in response to the escalating ‘refugee crisis’. Amid the deadlock, this article argues that we need to grasp the mechanics and logics of the European ‘border security model’ in order to open up for a change of course. Through ethnographic examples from the Spanish-African borders, the article shows how the striving for border security under a prevailing emergency frame has generated absurd incentives, negative path dependencies and devastating consequences. At Europe's frontiers, an industry of border controls has emerged, involving European defence contractors, member state security forces and their African counterparts, as well as a range of non-security actors. Whenever another ‘border crisis’ occurs, this industry grows again, feeding on its own apparent ‘failures’. This vicious cycle may be broken, the article concludes, once policy-makers start curtailing the economies of border security underpinning it – yet the challenges are formidable as the industry retrenches along with the political response to the drama it has itself produced.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2016 The Author © CC BY 4.0
Divisions: International Development
Conflict and Civil Society
Subjects: J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
Date Deposited: 08 Jan 2016 11:37
Last Modified: 22 May 2024 03:21
Projects: ES/G01793X//1
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council, AXA Research Fund

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