Home News Humanitarianism and Securitisation: Contradictions in State Responses to Migration

Humanitarianism and Securitisation: Contradictions in State Responses to Migration


Prior to now many years, more and more restrictive, securitised, and militarised border regimes have rendered transnational migration a riskier and deadlier endeavour for migrants worldwide (Williams, 2015). Assemblages of non-governmental organisations and volunteers have due to this fact emerged in borderlands to mitigate the corporeal repercussions of states’ border enforcements, resulting in the ‘delivery of the humanitarian border’ (Walters, 2011, p.145). Humanitarianism, which historically upholds ‘the preservation of life and the assuaging of struggling as the very best worth of motion’ (Fassin, 2011), is deployed by non-state actors to denounce the violence of borders (Dembour & Kelly, 2011), problem infringements to migrants’ rights (Williams, 2016), and expose the securitisation of migration in hostile political and media discourses (Moreno-Lax, 2018). Concurrently, nevertheless, the identical humanitarian ideas have been more and more embraced by liberal democracies (Aas & Gundhus, 2015). Inside their politics and governance, state actors are progressively utilising ‘ethical sentiments’ of compassion, help, and empathy, which has led to the parallel improvement of the ‘humanitarian authorities’ (Fassin, 2011).

Whereas seemingly mutually contradictory, these inhumane/humane state commitments have oftentimes been enacted concurrently in modern migration debates. Solely not too long ago, the UK’s Dwelling Secretary Priti Patel promised to ship each in her proposed New Plan for Immigration (Dwelling Workplace, 2021). The Plan will allegedly ‘save lives’ (p.35) but ‘goal individuals smugglers’ (p.17), ‘defend the lives of these they endanger’ (p.5) but ‘pace up the removing of significant criminals’ (p.32), and ‘assist refugees fleeing peril’ (p.2) but make it tougher to acquire refugee standing (p.33). This peculiar co-existence of securitisation, which contributes to the precariousness of migrants’ lives (Williams, 2015), with the progressive integration of humanitarian beliefs in migration governance seems inherently paradoxical, incoherent, and incompatible.

How are securitisation and humanitarianism capable of coexist in states’ responses to migration? On this paper, I show these purported state commitments as not solely entwined but in addition considerably contingent upon one another. I accomplish that by tracing how the re-problematisation of border fatalities from a ‘safety disaster’ right into a ‘humanitarian disaster’ permits states to obscure and deflect their accountability onto smuggling networks, thus giving means for the framing of border enforcements and border businesses as essential for preserving life and assuaging struggling. By presenting repressive border enforcements as caring and lifesaving, I then argue that states’ securitising agenda can proceed and be ever expanded, whereas enabling them to safe themselves in opposition to denunciations on humanitarian grounds and reinforcing the territorialised logic of rights and sovereignty of border regimes.

Migrants have been dying in makes an attempt to cross borders for years (Steinhilper & Gruijters, 2018). But, modern liberal democracies’ predominant response to the struggling of migrants has lengthy been the ‘governing of indifference’ (Basaran, 2015). Deeming migrants to be abandonable ‘naked life’, states generally sanctioned rescue makes an attempt or ignored people in misery at sea (Williams, 2016). This inaction within the face of migrant border vulnerability and fatality merged with the securitisation of migration in media, political, and public discourse (Moreno-Lax, 2018). By recourse to the pictures and discourses forming the ‘border spectacle’ (De Genova, 2013) and to feelings of concern, anxiousness, and hate (Sirriyeh, 2018), state actors framed, or inspired a notion of, migration as a nationwide safety ‘disaster’ and migrants as undesirable and ‘unlawful’ threats or criminals (Philo, Briant, & Donald, 2013). Framing migration on this means has meant that, till not too long ago, restrictive border enforcement insurance policies have been wholly justified as essential for shielding Western international locations from a migrant ‘invasion’, and thus introduced as in the most effective curiosity of nationwide residents (Huymans, 2006).

It is just not too long ago that state actors have begun qualifying border fatalities as a humanitarian concern (Williams, 2016). Certainly, the 2013 Lampedusa shipwreck, the 2015 large-scale lack of lives within the Mediterranean Sea, and the mediatised drowning of Alan Kurdi have resulted in a shift from the ‘pure’ securitising logic of states’ responses to migration to the start of the ‘humanitarian flip’ (Cuttitta, 2014). Mounting criticism from human rights organisations and politicians in direction of ‘Fortress Europe’ (Little & Vaughan-Williams, 2017), rising media consideration to the violence of borderlands, and public requires a extra ‘compassionate and humane’ response to the lack of lives at borders prompted a shift in political discourse on immigration (Sirriyeh, 2018, p.12). Accordingly, states moved away from sheer dismissal and securitisation to the progressive characterisation of migrant border fatalities as a ‘humanitarian disaster’ and the incorporation of a discourse of compassion (ibid., 2018). Fassin’s (2011) ‘humanitarian authorities’ thus prolonged into the realm of migration governance.

By speaking their purported concern for migrants by way of invoking a human-rights-friendly discourse, state actors establish the smuggling and trafficking commerce as the reason for the ‘humanitarian disaster’. From 2015, the language deployed by governmental elites to explain the mounting demise toll in border areas grew to become largely alarming and affective, characterising it as a ‘horrible tragedy’ (European Fee, 2015) of ‘unnecessary struggling’ for ‘susceptible’ migrants (International Secretary Assertion, 2015). This portrayal of migrants as weak and disempowered victims ‘in danger’ displays the transfer away from their securitising portrayal as ‘a threat’ to frame safety (Aradau, 2004). Whereas typically framed as the results of pure and uncontrollable forces akin to the risks of the ocean, the reason for migrant victimhood in border areas is overwhelmingly recognized by governmental elites as being smugglers and traffickers (Williams, 2011).

As an alternative of recognising the excellence between the 2, state actors current each varieties of people as exploitative and profit-driven (Williams, 2016). This discursive conflation between smugglers and traffickers obscures important variations within the diploma of company that migrants can train in organising their border crossings, as a substitute emphasising their purported naivety and vulnerability.

By figuring out smugglers/traffickers because the goal of their ‘humanitarian’ outrage in political discourse, state actors strategically displace accountability for migrant border deaths and accidents away from the bona fide systemic and securitised causes. Certainly, the ‘humanitarian’ tragedy in borderlands is, in truth, the consequence of states’ repressive border insurance policies as a lot as that of ‘callous’ individuals smugglers. Together with more and more securitised and militarised borders, it’s the closure of protected and common channels of transnational migration because the Nineteen Nineties that has rendered migrants’ journeys extra precarious by funnelling them into harmful routes (Little & Vaughan-Williams, 2017). Visa restrictions and border controls are thus the explanation that migrants necessitate the usage of human smuggling networks to ‘safely’ and covertly cross borders (ibid., 2017). Therefore, by advancing a story of border fatalities as a ‘humanitarian’ situation and transferring culpability to smugglers, state actors strategically invisibilise the ‘structural violence’ of border insurance policies, insurance policies that push migrants into lethal terrain, trigger or amplify struggling and create the disaster within the first place (Weber & Pickering, 2011, p.94).

In deploying this purported humanitarianism, governmental actors interact in a type of ‘interpretive denial’ (Cohen, 2001, p.7). Certainly, due to public outcry, they’ll now not deny that migrants are dying or struggling on their journey. Thus, as a substitute, they cleanse themselves of guilt by shifting the blame onto smuggling ‘evildoers’. By absolving themselves of blame by way of framing border fatalities throughout the context of smuggling, state actors are capable of current pre-existing repressive border management measures as protecting and benevolent.

For the reason that pronouncement of a ‘humanitarian disaster’ in 2015, ‘stopping the lack of lives’ and ‘saving lives at sea’ have grow to be key purported goals in migration coverage paperwork (Council of the European Union, 2015). To this finish, nevertheless, governmental elites have argued that ‘probably the most compassionate factor you are able to do is to cease the boats’ and goal smugglers to keep away from migrants falling prey to their ‘criminality’ (The Guardian, 2015). As such, deterrence insurance policies, which purpose to forestall potential migrants from leaving their nation of origin within the first place, are framed as essential life-saving units (Carling & Hernandez-Carretero, 2011). Equally, surveillance and detection practices at sea are introduced as facilitating the rescue of migrants in misery, and thus as protecting measures (ibid., 2011). It’s due to this fact clear that the purpose of state actors stays the discount of migration to uphold state sovereignty and nationwide safety, and interdiction the instrument to achieve it. As an alternative of remodeling practices on the bottom to make border crossings safer for migrants, what modifications is merely the way in which that state actors current pre-existing border controls: as humanitarian, benign, and carried out within the curiosity of defending the ‘susceptible’, reasonably than defending nationwide borders (Moreno-Lax, 2018). By deploying humanitarianism in a fashion that doesn’t contradict elementary assumptions and goals of securitising practices, migrant security and border safety are purportedly reconciled and discursively introduced as mutually attainable (Williams, 2016).

In casting border controls because the humanitarian resolution to frame fatalities, reasonably than the trigger, state actors are capable of implement, justify, and legitimise additional repressive insurance policies in opposition to migrants. While humanitarianism is historically related to acts guided by ‘an altruistic want to supply life-saving aid’ and the precept of ‘do extra good than hurt’ (Barnett & Weiss, 2008, p.1), it’s co-opted and repurposed by state actors to rationalise their border enforcement efforts. For example, as a substitute of reviewing the violent border controls that led to Abdulfatah Hamdallah’s latest demise in his try and cross the Channel, Priti Patel, after characterising his demise as a ‘tragic loss’ (Richards, 2020), instrumentalised the tragedy to justify the militarisation of the Channel. She tweeted ‘this horrendous incident serves as a brutal reminder of the abhorrent prison gangs and other people smugglers who exploit susceptible individuals’ (ibid., 2020). Following the mediatised demise, the UK Authorities appointed a ‘Clandestine Channel Menace Commander’ assigned with making the Channel crossing ‘unviable for small boats’ within the title of look after migrants (Dwelling Workplace, 2020). Therefore, as Pallister-Wilkins (2018, p.995) argues, humanitarianism’s conventional concern with ‘look after distant Others’ has been re-appropriated by state actors into caring by ‘preserving Others distant’.

By directing their outrage in direction of ‘international’ smugglers and justifying repressive border insurance policies as ‘finest apply when it comes to humanity’, state actors are capable of forged themselves because the reputable and ethical ‘saviours’ of migrants portrayed as victims in want of safety (Pallister-Wilkins, 2015, p.65). Historically, humanitarianism at sea has been undertaken by depoliticised and unbiased actors, with the only objective of aiding people in want (Doty, 2011). Nevertheless, states more and more criminalise non-governmental types of help by presenting them as facilitating the entry of migrants and thus likening them to smugglers (Williams, 2016). Search and rescue operations are due to this fact more and more delivered and monopolised by border businesses akin to Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Company, and the US Border Patrol (Doty, 2011). Whereas beforehand solely tasked with securitising the border, state businesses like Frontex have institutionalised and operationalised a brand new purported dedication to ‘the safety of human life’, to be fulfilled alongside ‘dealing with the issue of unlawful immigration’ (Aas & Gundhus, 2015). Accordingly, Pallister-Wilkins (2015) notes the latest incorporation of humanitarian ideas in Frontex’s official insurance policies, in addition to in the way in which it presents itself publicly. To fulfil its purported ‘migrant-centred’ strategy, Frontex erected a ‘elementary rights officer’ place, a session on human rights issues, a grievance mechanism to report violations dedicated by the company and educated its employees on asylum and the rights of refugees (ibid., 2015). As well as, Williams (2011) finds that US Border Patrol promotional movies body border patrol officers as chivalrous and civilised males who ‘enterprise into harmful paths, putting themselves in hurt’s technique to save the lives of unlawful immigrants’ (p.422).

This ‘saviour’ portrayal in border businesses’ communications is sharply contrasted with that of the smugglers. They’re dehumanised as any motivation they’ve past profit-seeking is obscured and are portrayed by way of gendered and racialised representations as harmful uncivilised non-Western prison males (ibid., 2011). Of their public communications, border businesses usually legitimise their presence by arguing that their absence would end in extra fatalities (Williams, 2015). Therefore, not solely do state actors obscure their accountability in migrant vulnerability and the formation of smuggling networks however in addition they then produce themselves as the only and legit dispensers of humanitarian help with an unique declare to ‘care’ in borderlands. This begs the query of whether or not Walters’ (2011) ‘humanitarian border’ is coming to an finish, as state actors are more and more tasking themselves with mitigating the corporeal repercussions of their very own border enforcements.

But, having to steadiness guaranteeing migrant welfare whereas concurrently limiting migrant mobility signifies that, in apply, Frontex delivers a type of ‘restricted humanitarianism’ (Waerp, 2019). Pallister-Wilkins (2015) describes how migrants found by Frontex border patrols in Evros are supplied with water and blankets, ‘life-saving’ provides, solely to be arrested and despatched to a detention centre after they finally try the border crossing. Equally, Williams (2015) notes how the US Border Patrol has grow to be answerable for administering medical remedy to injured or sick migrants, regardless of its officers having little medical coaching. Officers thus present migrants in border areas with minimal life-saving help, preserving them alive lengthy sufficient to deport them. In enacting this type of ‘minimalist’ humanitarian intervention, which merely preserves the organic lifetime of migrants, it’s clear that border brokers’ goal is facilitating migrants’ apprehension, detention, and deportation (Cuttita, 2014). On this means, Vaughan-Williams (2015, p.119) likens the stress between securitisation and humanitarianism to an auto-immune sickness of the physique, as ‘though border safety could seem to protect life through humanitarian practices, it additionally threatens the identical life it’s supposed to guard’.

Moreover, whereas border businesses forged themselves as ‘protectors of human life’ (Pallister-Wilkins, 2015, p.65), they continue to be complicit and virtually concerned in deeply inhumane practices that negate human life. For example, US border patrols routinely make use of the apply of ‘dusting’, by way of which they chase and scatter border crossers from one another and from smugglers by flying a helicopter low to the bottom (NMD, 2011). As soon as remoted, and with fewer choices for help due to the criminalisation of non-governmental organisations in borderlands, migrants have an elevated threat of dying (Williams, 2016). Equally, a brand new report by The Guardian revealed that Frontex assisted European international locations in illegally pushing again 40.000 migrants in the hunt for asylum because the starting of the Covid-19 pandemic (Tondo, 2021). 2.000 migrant deaths are linked to those unlawful practices, together with accounts of people being brutally overwhelmed, robbed, stripped naked at borders or abandoned at sea (ibid., 2021). Thus, regardless of deploying humanitarianism and the necessity to alleviate struggling of their migration discourse, state actors trigger additional hurt to migrants and contribute to creating borders a ‘web site of struggling and demise’ (Jeandesboz & Pallister-Wilkins, 2016, as cited in Waerp, 2019, p.4). In stopping people in the hunt for security from reaching European borders, in addition they breach the non-refoulement precept and negate their accountability to uphold the 1951 Geneva Conference on Refugees (Waerp, 2019).

Not solely does it allow their positioning as reputable rescuers however deploying ethical sentiments to justify their securitising practices additionally serves state actors in enhancing their ‘ethical alibi’ within the face of migrant deaths (Doty, 2011). Civil society entities and human rights teams denouncing border-related violence historically invoke humanitarianism when condemning the dearth of humanity and compassion that state actors present to people crossing borders in the hunt for security (Doty, 2006). As such, by mobilising the identical ‘morally indeniable’ claims of saving lives and assuaging struggling which are put in opposition to them, state actors outflank the normal grounds on which they’re held to account, regardless of their ‘humanitarian’ insurance policies generally violating human rights norms and rendering migrants’ lives more and more insecure (Williams, 2015). As well as, the seemingly benevolent and benign nature of those ‘humanitarian’ border controls makes it tougher to render human rights abuses seen or the topic of debate. Certainly, the enchantment of this human rights discourse is that it’s deemed highly effective and efficient in influencing modern politics, because it ‘presents itself past politics’ and thus appeals to each ethical and sensible considerations (Barnett & Weiss, 2011, p.4). As Pallister-Wilkins (2015, p.65) places it, ‘who, in spite of everything, is in opposition to saving lives?’. The merging of securitisation and humanitarianism additional helps the reconciliation of heterogenous political pursuits (Sirriyeh, 2018), interesting to each anti-immigration teams’ safety considerations and to pro-immigration teams’ humanitarian considerations.

Lastly, by mobilising ethical sentiments in direction of ‘susceptible’ migrants ‘in want of safety’, state actors reinforce the territorialised framework of rights and sovereignty of border regimes. The reductionist framing of migrants as susceptible and naïve victims of smugglers, who shouldn’t have left on the journey within the first place, renders invisible the company of migrants in elaborating coherent and knowledgeable migratory methods (Pécoud, 2010). It additional negates the advanced historic, political, social, and financial elements that gas migration, presenting it as a substitute as a tragic ‘sport of destiny’ (Musarò & Parmiggiani, 2017). As such, and by portraying efforts to save lots of and rescue migrants as benevolent and altruistic humanitarianism, state actors deny the legacy of ongoing practices of colonialism, neo-colonialism, and neo-liberalism and their relationship to asylum and migration (Sirriyeh, 2018). The compassionate discourse deployed strengthens the concept that states don’t have any formal obligation, or political debt, to help migrants. By framing their efforts as an act of generosity to struggling victims reasonably than a authorized obligation (Fassin, 2011), state actors symbolically negate migrants as rights-bearing topics, along with usually virtually excluding them from the appropriate to hunt asylum by way of pushbacks and deterrence insurance policies within the title of security.

By portraying alleged ‘efforts’ to curtail border fatalities as benevolent, the belief that migrants are ‘completely different’ and fewer deserving than nationwide residents is strengthened. This in the end legitimises the divide between ‘us’ and ‘them’, invokes a politics of pity (Boltanski, 1999), and provides gas to the xenophobic sentiments prevailing in public debate and media protection of migration (Sirriyeh, 2018). Whereas humanitarianism is premised on the ideology that each particular person deserves aid from struggling, when deployed by state actors it ‘concurrently upholds the territorialised framework of differential rights upon which border enforcement relies’ (Williams, 2016, p.34).

While it generally ‘presents itself as past politics’ and as relieving human struggling (Barnett & Weiss, 2011, p.4), on this paper I’ve proven that, when co-opted and deployed by state actors, humanitarianism is way from benign or apolitical: it has very actual and harmful results on the lives and rights of migrants. Moderately than being mutually unique, humanitarianism buttresses securitisation in implementing and delocalising the border and justifying symbolic and bodily violence in direction of migrants. Certainly, utilizing the discourse of ‘caring’, ‘saving’ and ‘defending’ to border their missions and their establishments permits state actors to legitimise repressive border interventions, spatially delocalise their exclusionary insurance policies and practices, and monopolise the supply of care in borderlands. Not solely that, nevertheless it additionally works to supply them with a ‘ethical alibi’, overlaying up state actors’ minimalist humanitarian interventions and inhumane practices that negate the lives of migrants, and upholding the belief that migrants are undeserving, non-rights-bearing and ‘different’ to ‘our’ nationwide neighborhood.

In consequence, understanding modern border enforcements requires analyzing the more and more entangled relationship between humanitarianism and securitisation in discourse, insurance policies, and on a regular basis border practices, as they perform in tandem to create a extra complete and insidious border regime. Because it turns into more and more troublesome to untwine the supply of care from states’ securitised agendas, and the belief as soon as afforded to humanitarianism as a direct opposition to repressive, hierarchical, and violent options of border controls is lessened, activists and students dedicated to extra simply border enforcement insurance policies should frequently query the invocation of humanitarian rhetoric inside border enforcements, beginning with Priti Patel’s New Plan for Immigration (Dwelling Workplace, 2021). However, so long as the very businesses that implement and defend borders are tasked with guaranteeing migrant security, humanitarian interventions can be joined to exclusionary and unjust border efforts. A very compassionate response would dismantle repressive border enforcements and as a substitute present protected routes for migration.


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