The Humanitarian Frontier in the Mediterranean. Border Work and the Right to Presence
thesisposted on 21.10.2015, 00:00 by Glenda Garelli
This dissertation explores the Mediterranean Sea as a site of migration, border enforcement, and struggle for migrants and refugees. Focusing on the central Mediterranean route into Italy in the aftermath of the Arab Uprisings, I map the restructuring of migration control toward a “humanitarian frontier”—i.e., the deployment of human rights rationales and humanitarian technologies to govern migration. Analytically, I chart new configurations of sovereignty, rights, and territory; the new struggles they produce for migrants and refugees; and the impasse that these configurations create for advocacy. Diagnostically, I identify several junctures where such “humanitarian” border enforcement becomes socially, normatively, and politically friable and where it becomes possible to contribute to a democratization of contested border geographies. To carry out this research, I spent three years engaging with local and nonlocal ethnography at arrival docks in Italy, at the refugee camp of Mineo (Sicily), and on the island of Lampedusa. I interviewed 60 people, among them migrants, refugees, policymakers, border patrol and police agents, coast guard officers, refugee processing center operators, Italian Navy officials, Red Cross volunteers, NGO and IGO employees, lawyers, and activists. Moreover, I worked on a critical policy analysis of the different scales at which migrants’ access and presence in the EU is regulated (the urban, national, EU, and Mediterranean macro-regional scale). Each chapter directs analytical attention to one specific site of the “humanitarian border work” in the central Mediterranean: the sea, and particularly the stretch of waters connecting Tunisia, Libya, and Italy to a persistently growing number of border-deaths and military initiatives of migration management; the refugee camp, with a focus on the processing center of Mineo, Sicily, opened in the context of the Italian “North Africa Emergency” in 2011; the Schengen Area, particularly the controversies around its internal borders in the aftermath of the Tunisian Revolution; and the Euro-Med neighborhood, with a focus on the regulatory landscape that followed the Arab Uprisings and, particularly, the EU-Tunisia Mobility Partnership. From these sites, I contribute a new conceptual toolbox for conceiving Mediterranean migrations beyond “b-ordering” paradigms and for grounding migrants' claims to presence.