Dossier Border Politics – Migration in the Mediterranean

Dossier Border Politics – Migration in the Mediterranean

Coverfoto des Dossiers Border Politics

The articles in this dossier shed critical light on several related sites of Euro-Mediterranean border management. They look at the “border within” as well as the effects of the exterritorialisation strategy in the Libyan example. They show both the deadly and the “productive” aspects of the border regime. And they analyse the rationale and impacts of such measures as the mobility partnerships between EU and African states or new attempts of cooperation in the Central Mediterranean.


Cover Border Politics - Migration in the Mediterranean

Das Dossier beleuchtet die humanitäre Katastrophe an den EU-Außengrenzen und fragt nach einer Grenzenpolitik, die menschenrechtliche Standards einhält und die gemeinsamen Interessen Europas und Afrikas in den Vordergrund stellt.

Realities & Responses

Foto: Adrian Paci, Centro di Permanenza Temporanea (2007) Video still, courtesy francesca kaufmann, Milan.

How is it possible that thousands of people drown every year in the Mediterranean Sea, while the protection of individual life is a core value in Europe’s self-perception? How do European immigration policies and practises impact on Africa? What are the reasons why young people from coastal Senegal decide to leave their home? Why is it that so many Colombians are migrants to the Canary Islands, what should be done to help them in their situation? What are the specific political conditions under which refugees and undocumented migrants have to live in Germany, and what do they do to oppose their manifold discrimination?

Migration into Europe is a multifaceted issue with a deep impact on European and African societies, as well as cutting across virtually all social fields, from the labour market to health issues to questions of national or European identity. Yet equally varied are the responses by the people directly affected.


Auf dem Gebiet der internationalen Migration, ihrer Bekämpfung oder vermeintlichen Steuerung ist die Sicht selten klar: Sie wird behindert durch Mythen, Legenden, falsche Annahmen und Worte – sagt Charlotte Wiedemann.

migrants arriving on the island of lampedusa in august 2007

Johannes Krause shows how discursive means allow governments and EU institutions to portray the death of thousands of migrants as “normal”.

The Italian coastguard rescuing two refugees from Africa in Lampedusa

“Gazing northward” Loren Landau points out that migration within Africa is more important than towards Europe – but European policies and practises still have an immense impact.

Flüchtlingsmütter mit ihren Kindern

In her interview, Yayi Bayam Diouf relates the lack of economic opportunity in her fishing region and her group’s activities to keep young men and women from leaving the country.

Old woman protesting

Sunny Omwenyeke writes on the “Fortress Within”, the repressive conditions undocumented migrants and refugees have to live under – and struggle against.

migrants arriving on the spanish canary islands in 2004

Manuel Ferrer Muñoz calls for a better understanding of the reasons for migration and the conditions in which migrants live, illustrated by case of the Colombians in the Canary Islands.

Policies & Impacts

Foto: Adrian Paci, Centro di Permanenza Temporanea (2007) Video still, courtesy francesca kaufmann, Milan.

The agreement between Italy and Libya coming into force in May 2009 has put the issue of border and migration policies back at the centre of European public attention. Among others, the treaty includes joint Libyan-Italian patrols in Libyan waters and commits Libya to step up efforts and increase heavily investments against irregular migration flows through its territory. But is this agreement a first step towards cooperation in the interest of the people concerned, or rather increasing the suffering for undocumented migrants?

More generally, the issue of migration from the South into Europe extends beyond bilateral diplomacy, and also beyond the daily drama in the (Central) Mediterranean. Policy fields such as the labour market or the role of the European Union can be mentioned in this respect. Besides causing the humanitarian failures of the border management, within and beyond the EU’s borders, the continued security orientation of migration policy weakens the rare examples of partnership and cooperation.

Demonstration for the human rights of the Libyan Refugees, victims of the Libyan war.

Derek Lutterbeck looks at how the countries in the Central Mediterranean and the EU have been ready to shift blame on each other for the “migration crisis”.

Demonstration for the human rights of the Libyan Refugees, victims of the Libyan war.

Jean-Pierre Cassarino analyses the rationale and impact of Mobility Partnerships and questions how far developmental goals have supplanted the security-orientation.

foreign workers fleeing Libya

Gabriele Del Grande reveals in his investigative piece the horrendous conditions in Libya’s prisons and refugee camps.

Libyen border

Mustafa Attir describes Libya’s border management system as a “Mission Impossible” because of a lack of facilities and resources, as well as geographical and socio-economic reasons.

Critical Perspectives

The LineThe Line. Foto: Adrian Paci, courtesy francesca kaufmann, Milan.

Frontex is of the devil, migration only knows victims, and Europe –we all know it- is a fortress. Quick conclusions and half-cooked criticism of migration and border policies in Europe are not hard to come by. But it does not help to reproduce well-meaning but misguided claims, especially if the aim is to change the status quo.

Thus, looking a bit more closely, one could find some new insights: the EU shares more features with a gated community, its border regime function more akin to a network firewall. It would show that Frontex is not Homeland Security, but nevertheless significantly impacting Europe’s institutional landscape. It could reveal that migration and migrants’ struggles have a deeper impact on the constitution of European societies than superficially assumed. And it could point to ways in which the fate of those “liminal people” could store perspectives for a continent truly without borders.

The European Union: a fortress or gated community? Clearly its member states are deciding who is allowed to enter - and who to stay out

Henk van Houtum and Roos Pijpers argue that the European Union is less a fortress and shows more resemblance with a gated community - an intricate system based on fear, judging on economic reasons who is allowed to enter- and who to stay out.

DemonstrantInnen in Hamburg

Vassilis Tsianos und Aida kritisieren, dass Libyen mit der Neukartierung des mediterranischen Migrationsraumes den realistischeren Plan einer geopolitischen Hegemonie innerhalb der „Euro-Afrikanischen Partnerschaft“ gewinnen könne. Dies gehe auf Kosten der Menschenrechte von (Transit-) MigrantInnen.

Anti-Frontex DemonstrantInnen

Bernd Kasparek zegit, dass die mangelnde demokratische Verfasstheit der Agentur Frontex kein Zufall ist, sondern der Tatsache geschuldet, dass sie ein Schengener Produkt ist und damit selbst eine Grenzgängerin. Ein Neu-Denken von Schengenland und Europa wird dabei die Tatsache ins Zentrum stellen müssen, dass beide zutiefst von der Faktizität und Autonomie der Migration geprägt sind.

"Reisepass" der Refugee Republic

Juliane Karakayali und Serhat Karakayali zeigen, dass Migration als Heterotopie gefasst werden müsse, d.h. als ein Raum, in dem die nationalen Grenzen des Politischen und Sozialen hinterfragt werden und über das Neue nachgedacht wird.