Humanitarian Borderwork? : An Analysis of Frontex’s Discourses and Practices

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Humanitarian Borderwork? : An Analysis of Frontex’s Discourses and Practices

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Title Humanitarian Borderwork? : An Analysis of Frontex’s Discourses and Practices
Author Wærp, Eline
Research Centre Malmö Institute for Studies of Migration, Diversity and Welfare (MIM)
Editor Hellström, Anders
Date 2019
English abstract
The concept of ’humanitarian borderwork’ (Pallister-Wilkins 2017) entered the social sciences the last couple of years, in the wake of the 2015 migration crisis to the EU. With roots in the ’humanitarian border enforcement’ discourse (Williams 2016) that developed in the US post-9/11, the concept suggests that the goals of ‘migrant safety’ (i.e. human security) and ‘border control’ (i.e. state security) are mutually attainable. This ‘humanitarian-security’ (Andersson 2017, De Lauri 2018) or ‘safety/security’ (Williams 2016) nexus casts increased border control as not the cause of, but the remedy to, migrants’ vulnerability and death. ‘Humanitarian borderwork’ further implies a convergence between two seemingly distinct concepts: ‘humanitarianism’ and ‘borderwork’ (Walters 2011). Whereas ‘humanitarianism’ has traditionally been associated with a concern for humanity, human rights, alleviation of suffering, and the principle of ‘do no harm’; ‘borderwork’ has been preoccupied with exclusion, control, security and monitoring/surveillance (Pallister-Wilkins 2015b). And whereas humanitarian action has traditionally been carried out by depoliticized, independent actors (notably NGOs) with the sole purpose of providing humanitarian assistance (Redfield and Bornstein 2011); humanitarianism is now increasingly being delivered by (supranational) state-actors, such as the EU’s Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) – which claims to be just as preoccupied with saving lives as protecting the EU’s external borders. This begs the questions: are ‘humanitarianism’ and ‘borderwork’ compatible concepts? And if so, in the case of the EU, how humanitarian is Frontex’s borderwork? Informed by a literature review of the genealogy of the concepts of ‘humanitarianism’ and ‘humanitarian borderwork’, the paper problematizes the latter and seeks to answer those questions by analyzing and comparing Frontex’s humanitarian discourses and practices to the understanding of humanitarianism within anthropology – a field that has studied it extensively. The paper thus provides part of the literature review and theoretical- and conceptual framework for the dissertation, to be complemented with more empirics at a later stage. Arguing that while Frontex’s ‘humanitarian borderwork’ fails to meet the criteria in the traditional understanding of humanitarianism, it does succeed in situating itself within the ‘new humanitarianism’ (Nascimento 2015) that emerged after the end of the Cold War – where state actors play a larger role, and militarization and securitization of borders increasingly shape humanitarian action.
DOI https://doi.org/10.24834/9789178770540 (link to publisher's fulltext.)
Publisher Malmö Institute for Studies of Migration, Diversity and Welfare (MIM), Malmö University
Series/Issue MIM Working Paper Series;19:3
ISBN 978-91-7877-054-0
Language eng (iso)
Subject Humanitarian borderwork
Frontex
Discourses and practices
New humanitarianism
Humanities/Social Sciences
Research Subject Categories::SOCIAL SCIENCES
Handle http://hdl.handle.net/2043/30744 Permalink to this page
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