Why Europe's border security approach has failed and how to replace it

Using ethnographic examples, anthropologist Ruben Andersson in this study goes against the grain of conventional approaches to migration as "crisis" and "security problem". What other options are there beyond migration as security problem and crisis perpetuated by an ever growing border security market?

The strategy of the European Union during times of increasing numbers of refugees was and still is the prevention of migration and the free movement of people instead of shaping migration. Yet, the European border security approach has failed. What other options are there beyond migration as security problem and a crisis?

Based on ethnographic research spanning a period of five years in Africa and Europe, Ruben Andersson shows a history of making migration into a European security problem as the author of a publication supported by FES and partners.

The study “Why Europe’s border security approach has failed” implicates the European community of states since the 1990s Schengen agreement, the fight it waged against “irregular migration” on its external borders and the market in border control it has generated. The consequences of this approach continue to this day, securitizing migration further and feeding costly border systems and movement restrictions that continue to fail.

In building momentum for a genuinely global strategy for mobility with recommendations for novel, social coalitions to push the course, Andersson starts by mapping where we have failed so far:

“The closure of legal pathways into Europe in the past two-and-a-half decades has strongly contributed to the development of irregular land and sea entry routes. However, while the migratory ‘flow’ along these routes has long been small in comparison with other entry methods, large sums have been spent on manpower, technology and new systems to keep these people out even before the latest sharp increase amid the global refugee crisis. Yet the resulting initiatives have clearly not worked. Fatalities have sharply risen, smuggling networks keep growing stronger, and arrivals are swiftly increasing. In its disproportionality and deleterious effects, Europe’s ‘fight against illegal migration’ here seems to mirror the global ‘war on drugs’, which is now widely perceived as a costly failure in financial, human and political terms. A different approach is needed – but for that we first need to understand the mechanisms of failure through which today’s counterproductive investments in ‘border security’ keep being perpetuated.”

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