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Crossing the Mediterranean Sea by Boat final project report

The final project report of the Crossing the Mediterranean Sea by Boat project is now available. The report provides a unique, in-depth analysis of the impact of EU policies in addressing the so-called European migration or refugee ‘crisis’ in 2015 and 2016, drawing on the findings from 257 in-depth qualitative interviews with a total of 271 participants across seven sites in two phases: Kos, Malta and Sicily from September-November 2015, and Athens, Berlin, Istanbul and Rome from May-July 2016.

Uniquely, the project report focuses directly on the impact of policies upon people on the move, drawing together policy analysis and observational fieldwork with in-depth analysis of qualitative interview data from people making – or contemplating making – the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean Sea. As such, the report provides previously-unconsidered insights into the effects of policy on the journeys, experiences, understandings, expectations, concerns and demands of people on the move.

In addition to providing seven site-based case study analyses, the project also provides the first detailed assessment of policies associated with A European Agenda on Migration in terms of policy effects both across routes (eastern and central Mediterranean) and over time (2015 and 2016). The findings and analysis summarised in this report are presented with the aim of informing policy developments, moving forward.

To read the final project report, follow this link.

Crossing the Mediterranean Sea by Boat interactive story map

The Crossing the Mediterreanean Sea by Boat interactive story map is now available. This map allows audiences to view complex and fragmented migratory journeys, while also reading about the experiences of people making the journey. Users can click on key arrival points to see stories of people that the research team interviewed at each site.

To view the interactive story map, follow this link. Please also leave feedback on our Feedback page.

Transcript of 'Dead Reckoning / Crossing the Med: Thinking and Feeling Migration Differently' symposium

The transcript of the 'Dead Reckoning / Crossing the Med: Thinking and Feeling Migration Differently' symposium, held at the Tate Exchange on 15 March 2017, is now available. The event brought together a panel of artists, academics and practitioners to engage with each other and the public on questions of how we understand and respond to migration.

To read the full transcript and view photos from the event, follow this link.

Project Briefs
First evidence briefing

Evidence briefing on the first research phase, presented in Brussels on February 16th, 2016:

This briefing paper provides an overview of research findings across each of the three sites in Phase 1, and proposes policy suggestions on the basis of the analysis to date. The research findings provide rich insights into migratory journeys and experiences across the three sites, and shed light on policy effects by addressing the knowledge and expectations informing migrant/refugee decision-making. The analysis will be developed in Phase 2 in order both to capture changing migratory dynamics as well as to deepen the understanding of policy effects by exploring their negotiation those migrating in their implementation over time.

The brief puts forward four policy suggestions:

  1. Replace deterrent border control policies with interventions that address the diverse causes of irregular migration
  2. Revise migration and protection categories to reflect the multiple reasons that people are on the move
  3. Open safe and legal routes for migration, and improve reception conditions and facilities
  4. Improve rights-oriented information campaigns across neighbouring, transit and arrival regions

To read the full brief, follow this link.

Second evidence briefing

Evidence briefing on the second research phase, presented in Athens on November 11th, 2016:

Crossing the Mediterranean Sea by Boat has conducted over 250 in-depth qualitative interviews with migrants and refugees, in two phases. This briefing paper is based on Phase 2 of research, which involved 121 in-depth qualitative interviews with a total of 131 participants, carried out during May-June 2016 in Athens, Berlin, Istanbul and Rome.This briefing paper provides an overview of research findings across each of the four sites, and proposes policy suggestions on the basis of the analysis to date. The research findings provide rich insights into migratory journeys and experiences across the four sites, and shed light on policy effects by addressing the knowledge and expectations informing migrant/refugee decision-making.

The brief puts forward five policy suggestions:

  1. Replace deterrent border control policies with interventions that address the diverse causes of irregular migration
  2. Revise migration and protection categories to reflect the multiple reasons that people are on the move
  3. Open safe and legal routes for migration
  4. Invest in reception facilities and halt policies that violate rights
  5. Improve rights-oriented information campaign

To read the full brief, follow this link.

Academic Articles
The anti-policy of European anti-smuggling as a site of contestation in the Mediterranean migration ‘crisis’

Perkowski, N. and Squire, V. (2018), Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies

This article analyses the European anti-smuggling agenda as an anti-policy that derives legitimacy from fighting ‘bad things’, in terms that mask political disagreement. By juxtaposing the agenda to the experiences and understandings of those whom such measures affect most directly – people migrating without authorisation to the EU – it uncovers the productivity of anti-smuggling and the political contestations surrounding it. Based on a qualitative analysis of 257 interviews carried out with 271 people who travelled – or sought to travel – across the Mediterranean Sea by boat using smuggling networks, the article highlights the complicity of governing authorities and officials with smuggling networks and practices, as well as the diversity and ambivalences of relationships between smugglers and the smuggled. Going further, the article points to the specific ways in which anti-smuggling is contested by those on the move, which expose a central political disagreement over the legitimacy of mobility across borders.

To read the full article, follow this link.

Crossing the Eastern Mediterranean Sea in Search of 'Protection'

Stevens, D. and Dimitriadi, A. (2018), Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies

This article examines two particular aspects of the 2015 “migration crisis”: the implications of EU laws and policies for refugee protection and the manner in which policy fluctuated in response to the movement of people. It explores the legal and conceptual challenges posed by protection and addresses an often-neglected dimension– that of “agency” of the individual. This contribution examines the response of policymakers/lawmakers to the “migration crisis” and contrasts this with the expectations of those migrating in search of safety and a life of dignity. The piece draws on rich interview data with new arrivals to Kos in September 2015.

To read the full article, follow this link.

Migrating borders, bordering lives: everyday geographies of ontological security and insecurity in Malta

Vaughan-Williams N. and Pisani, M. (2018), Social & Cultural Geography

In this article, we seek to challenge some of the ways in which the ‘2015 Mediterranean migration crisis’ has been scripted by elites. Situated within – and contributing to – a flourishing research agenda on everyday geographies and ontologies of personal (in)security, we aim to bring non-elite knowledge and experience to the foreground. We do so by examining the diverse grounded perspectives of those on the move who are arguably the key dramatis personae in the so-called ‘crisis’ and yet whose voices are often absent in dominant representations of it. Specifically, we focus on the dynamic interplay between contemporary European Union border security apparatuses and mobile subjects who encounter, negotiate and challenge these apparatuses. Drawing upon 37 in-depth qualitative interviews with recent arrivals as part of a multi-sited research project across the Mediterranean region, we offer a historicized and geographically situated analysis of the contested politics of ‘irregularity’ on the island of Malta. As a geopolitically significant site along the central Mediterranean route, the changes in migratory dynamics witnessed in Malta over the past two decades offer an instructive lens through which the ‘crisis’ narrative can be usefully problematized and disaggregated.

To read the full article, follow this link.

Mobile Solidarities and Precariousness at City Plaza: Beyond Vulnerable and Disposable Lives

Squire, V. (2018), Studies in Social Justice

This article explores how mobile solidarities are forged through precariousness at City Plaza, a disused hotel and collective refugee accommodation space in Athens, which has become a notorious site of resistance in the midst of the so-called “European migration crisis.” Drawing on qualitative research carried out during 2016, the article explores how solidarities are created at this space in terms that not only challenge the abandonment of lives rendered disposable through camps, but also the rendering of lives vulnerable through humanitarian accommodation initiatives that seek to integrate those most in need of protection. While pointing to the significance of critical analyses of abandoned and disposable lives in the context of current migratory conditions across Europe, the article highlights the limitations of a frame of vulnerability specifically. It draws on the work of Judith Butler to argue that the relations of solidarity which are forged at City Plaza are better understood in terms of a form of precarity or precariousness that is shared, yet unevenly distributed.

To read the full article, follow this link.

Governing migration through death in Europe and the US: Identification, burial and the crisis of modern humanism

Squire, V. (forthcoming, 2017), European Journal of International Relations, early view online

Border deaths have become an established feature of contemporary migratory politics in both Europe and the US. This article examines the similarities and differences in practices of ‘governing migration through death’ across the US–Mexico (Sonoran) and in the EU–North African (Mediterranean) contexts. Instead of taking a conventional comparative analysis of two distinct sites, the article draws on critical scholarship in the field of border studies in order to examine biopolitical, thanatopolitical and necropolitical dynamics of bordering that cross contexts. It argues that these operations of power converge in both European and US bordering practices, specifically through a form of biophysical violence that operates directly on the biological functions of migrating bodies. The article suggests that the establishment of this violence represents a crisis of modern humanism, which becomes implicated in the toleration of such violence through processes of denial, displacement, rejection and compensation. By focusing, in particular, on the ways that the treatment of the dead functions as a means of compensating for (yet not redressing) biophysical violence, the article highlights the deficiencies of contemporary practices of identification and burial, and raises questions about the limitations of contestations that emphasise dignity only to perpetuate a hierarchy of ‘worthy’ and ‘unworthy’ lives. In so doing, the article concludes by suggesting that contemporary ‘migration crises’ are better understood in terms of the crisis of modern humanism, grounded in Graeco-Roman and Judaeo-Christian traditions, which can no longer deny its implication in practices of governing migration through death.

To read the full article, follow this link.

Divided seas, parallel lives

Squire, V. (2017), Women's Studies Quarterly, 45(1&2): 69-89.

This photo essay examines the sea as a divided space and as marked by the existence of parallel lives. Images taken in 2015 during fieldwork on the small Mediterranean island of Lampedusa are used to examine the ways in which these divisions are experienced, questioned, and problematized both by inhabitants of and visitors to the island. Lampedusa emerges here as a site of contested memorials and hospitalities, where lost lives are, at best, imperfectly recovered. The essay shows how a series of familiar gendered dynamics play into this division of places and lives, yet in multiple, fragmented, and contested ways.

To read the full article, follow this link.

Unauthorised migration beyond structure/agency? Acts, interventions, effects

Squire, V. (2016), Politics, early view online

What are the most appropriate conceptual tools by which to develop an analysis of ‘unauthorised migration’? Is ‘migrant agency’ an effective critical concept in the context of a so-called European migration ‘crisis’? This article reflects on these questions through a detailed exploration of the ‘structure/agency debate’. It suggests the need for caution in engaging such a conceptual frame in analysing the politics of unauthorised migration. Despite the sophistication of many relational accounts of structure-agency, the grounding of this framework in questions of intentionality risks reproducing assumptions about subjects whose decision to migrate is more or less free from constraint. The article argues that such assumptions are analytically problematic because they involve a simplification of processes of subjectivity formation. Moreover, it also argues that they are normatively and politically problematic in the context of debates around unauthorised migration because discussions of structure/agency can easily slip into the legitimisation of wider assumptions about the culpability and/or victimhood of people on the move. Drawing on Michel Foucault’s theorisation of subjectification, the article proposes an alternative analytics of acts, interventions, and effects by which to address the politics of unauthorised migration in the midst of a so-called ‘migration crisis’.

To read the full article, follow this link.

Policy Evidence
Overview of project findings relating to family reunification

Findings pertaining to family reunification differ widely across research sites. Here we present findings from Phase 1 of our research project in Kos and Sicily, comprising a total of 51 in-depth qualitative interviews in Kos and 50 in Sicily (101 in total). Whereas many interviewees in Kos had family members already in the EU whom they often sought to join, many of those in Sicily did not know anyone who had moved to the EU. Several interviewees – particularly among arrivals in Kos – had left family members behind, hoping to reunite with them once beginning their asylum procedure within the EU. Beyond family networks, many interviewees in Kos also had friends who had moved to the EU, whom they often sought to join.

To continue reading, follow this link.

Written evidence on unaccompanied minors in the EU

Written evidence submitted to House of Lords Inquiry by Dr Vicki Squire and Nina Perkowski, 10 March 2016

Responding to a call for evidence by the House of Lords' EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee, the Crossing the Med research team submitted written evidence pertaining to the situation of unaccompanied minors in the EU, which has now been made available online. The submission presents evidence based on research in Kos and Sicily, and argues that policies on unaccompanied minors need to be coupled with a thoroughgoing revision of European policy on unauthorised migration at large, including the provision of adequate reception conditions, accurate and timely information, full access to family reunification mechanisms, and comprehensive mechanisms to ensure the best interest of the child at all times, regardless of immigration status.

To read the full evidence submission, follow this link.

Evidence briefing on unauthorised migration to the EU

Evidence briefing on unauthorised migration to the EU, presented by Dr Vicki Squire to the All Party Parliamentary Group on October 28th, 2015:

Unauthorised migration to the EU has reached unprecedented levels over the past year, yet this is not a new phenomenon. Representations of the ‘crisis’ as a recent phenomenon are problematic because they ignore the longer-standing history of precarious migration to the EU across the Mediterranean.

This briefing presents preliminary findings from the ‘Crossing the Mediterranean Sea by Boat’ research project, and are based on an initial overview analysis of research interviews in Kos (Greece), complemented by an initial overview analysis of research in Malta and Sicily, and substantiated by the researchers’ combined knowledge and experience in the field of EU border security, migration, and international refugee law.

To read the full evidence briefing, follow this link.

Online Articles
"EU’s Efforts To Prevent Migration From Libya Does Not Respect or Value Lives"

by Dr Vicki Squire, The Globe Post, 8 September 2018

The sustained effort by the EU to reduce arrivals from Libya is an approach whereby the lives of people on the move are neither respected nor valued.

To read the full article, follow this link.

"Asylum processing centres in North Africa would merely mask the EU’s migration failings"

by Dr Vicki Squire, The Conversation, 27 June 2018

As European leaders speak out against each other in an increasingly desperate scramble to find a way forward on the contentious issue of migration, their collective failure to listen to those who have made the migratory journey is striking. So long as the testimonies of people on the move are ignored, the EU will continue to struggle to deal with a crisis of its own making.

To read the full article, follow this link.

"'I never thought to come in Europe': unpacking the myths of Europe’s 'migration crisis'"

by Dr Vicki Squire, openDemocracy, 31 May 2017

With the so-called European ‘migration crisis’ showing no signs of abating, a new report and interactive story map by the project Crossing the Mediterranean Sea by Boat unpacks some of the myths on which policy-making is based, and demonstrates the need for a new approach based on an appreciation of the journeys, experiences and testimonies of people on the move.

To read the full article, follow this link.

"Debunking myths about why people migrate across the Mediterranean"

by Dr Vicki Squire, The Conversation, 30 May 2017

As people on the move continue to make the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, and as relations between the European Union and Turkey face imminent meltdown, fears that Europe is being “flooded” with desperate refugees and migrants seeking a better life continue to abound.

To read the full article, follow this link.

"Academics collaborate with artists to ask: who are we to fear refugees?"

by Dr. Vicki Squire, The Conversation, 14 March 2017

Who Are We? This is the question that London’s Tate is asking at its free six day cross-platform event spanning the visual arts, film, photography, design, architecture, the spoken and written word and live art. The aim of the programme is to foster collaboration and exchange between artists and researchers, with a view to exploring what is becoming of the UK and Europe. How can “another we” be created, one less susceptible to the fear and suspicion currently dominating the continent?

To read the article, follow this link.

“5083 boats: a dead reckoning: a dialogue between Bern O'Donoghue and Vicki Squire”

by O’Donoghue Bern and Vicki Squire, openDemocracy, 13 March 2017

The dialogue below emerges from a collaboration between artist, Bern O’Donoghue, and scholar, Dr Vicki Squire. Their installation, Dead Reckoning / Crossing the Med, will be free to visit at Tate Exchange on 14-16 March 2017. It forms part of Who Are We?, a week of participatory installations, conversations and learning labs curated by Tate Exchange Associates: Counterpoints Arts, The Open University, University of Warwick and Loughborough University from 14-19 March 2017.

To read the article, follow this link.

"Humanitarian corridors: beyond political gesture"

by Dr Vicki Squire, openDemocracy, 17 October 2016

Events such as the horrific shipwreck of 3 October 2013 off the coast of Lampedusa are now commonplace in the Mediterranean. With over 6,000 people reported to have been rescued on 3 October 2016, a new approach is long overdue. This is why a programme of safe and legal passage, already underway in Italy, is so important. In pressing for an effective response to deaths at sea, Corridoi Umanitari – humanitarian corridors – appears to provide a new way forward for Europe’s so-called ‘refugee crisis’.

To continue reading, follow this link.

"Flights to Italy for refugees offer a humanitarian way forward for Europe"

by Dr Vicki Squire, The Conversation, 5 October 2016

Three years after a shipwreck off the island of Lampedusa killed more than 360 people, a programme is underway in Italy that seeks to save lives by providing an air route to Europe. In contrast to moves in some European countries, the Corridoi Umanitari (humanitarian corridors) project strives to put a more humane approach into action. It does so by providing flights to people in vulnerable situations from the Middle East and North Africa to Europe. These humanitarian corridors are the result of an ecumenical collaboration between Catholics and Protestants, including the Community of Sant Egidio, the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI), and the Waldensian and Methodist churches.

To continue reading, follow this link.

"Welcome to City Plaza, Athens: a new approach to housing refugees"

by Dr Vicki Squire, The Conversation, 16 August 2016

There are now around 55,000 people stranded in Greece as a result of Europe’s failed response to the so-called migration crisis – and many refugees are losing hope. Many languish in camps dotted across the Greek islands, and others have decided to stay in Turkey rather than face the bleak conditions in Europe. But there is a new accommodation project in Athens called City Plaza which is providing refugees with much-needed hope. City Plaza is a disused seven-storey hotel near Victoria Square, which has been occupied by the Economic and Political Refugee Solidarity Initiative. The hotel has been closed for business for around seven years, but the building remains fully equipped and is now being used to house nearly 400 people who arrived to Greece from Turkey in the past year.

To continue reading, follow this link.

"Fleeing Europe?"

by Dr Vicki Squire and Vasiliki Touhouliotis, openDemocracy, 3 August 2016

Europe’s dire politics of deterrence is leaving people in a social and legal limbo while others consider escaping what they had previously believed to be a place of safety and rights.

In the summer of 2015 there were many people preparing to go to Europe in Istanbul. This year, a local interpreter explains, things are different. Some consider alternative routes to Europe in light of changing visa regulations for Syrians, intensified border controls, the Balkan route closure, the EU-Turkey agreement, and the development of hotspots on Greek islands. Others are stuck in Turkey, with the Turkey-Greece sea crossing no longer an option open to them.The conditions that people experience in fleeing to Europe and Crossing the Mediterranean Sea by Boat are dire in many respects. People are often escaping situations of violence, conflict, repression and extreme poverty. Moreover, individuals often experience further violence, conflict, repression and poverty en route, in transit or neighbouring regions. Turkey is one of these places.

To continue reading, follow this link.

"City Plaza: a way forward for the European ‘migration crisis’?"

by Dr Vicki Squire, openDemocracy, 14 June 2016

A novel migration and refugee accommodation project in Athens organised by refugee, student, and solidarity activists is offering crucial assistance where governments and international agencies are not.

The situation for people on the move in precarious situations is getting worse in Greece. As the summer heat intensifies, people’s lives are put at further risk as they are stranded in camps with inadequate conditions. The limits of protection have never been more clear. There are currently around 55,000 people stranded as a result of Europe’s failed response to precarious migrations. Although Greece is an extreme case, it is not alone in the inadequate provision of protection and support for people on the move in precarious situations. Despite attempts by some European partners to isolate it within the European Union, and despite a history of poor reception conditions that led to the longer-standing suspension of returns to the country under the Union’s Dublin regulation, Greece merely represents a more extreme example of the current European situation.

To continue reading, follow this link.

"Hotspot stories from Europe's border"

by Dr Vicki Squire, openDemocracy, 7 June 2016

A response to testimony from an unaccompanied minor whose long journey culminated in a perilous boat journey, the author discusses Europe’s failure to address the rights of those it renders precarious.

I met the author of this story in September 2015, just a few days after he had arrived to the notorious European island ‘entry point’, Lampedusa. It was also a few days after I arrived for first time to the island. I was visiting the island to begin research for my project Human Dignity and Biophysical Violence: Migrant Deaths across the Mediterranean Sea. We initially met on opposite sides of a wire fence that contains the people within the centre in which he was staying. We clumsily attempted to shake hands through wire that is designed precisely to prevent any movement beyond its confines. Since that time, we have worked closely together to write his story.

To continue reading, follow this link.

"Lampedusa: red letter days"

by Gabriel, a 17 year old unaccompanied asylum seeking minor in Italy, openDemocracy, 7 June 2016

'The journey to make my life easier has actually been the most difficult experience I have ever faced in my life'. An unaccompanied minor recounts his journey to safety in Europe.

I am a child from a small west African country called the Gambia. Both my parents are from the same tribe. I am from a small town where fishing is the main industry. My father cooks and sells meat at the ferry terminal.I am the first-born male child of my mother. I have a younger brother and two younger sisters. I used to live with my father and my mother, as well as my brother and my two sisters. My father abandoned us to our mother about 3 to 4 years ago, with no assistance.By the way, my father married two wives, and my mother was the second wife. My father’s first wife has four children, and two of them are older than me.

To continue reading, follow this link.

"Scholars support UN Refugee Global Compact: open letter"

by the ESRC Mediterranean Migration Research Programme researchers, openDemocracy, 10 May 2016

We welcome the report by the UN Secretary General In Safety and Dignity: Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants and support its recommendation to create a Global Compact for Refugees. It is only through such collective support that effective protection may be achieved.The report affirms that all migrants are entitled to the respect, protection and full enjoyment of their human rights under core international human rights treaties, regardless of their human rights status and emphasises the need to protect migrants en route, at sea and at borders. Our research on migratory routes and experiences records the precarious journeys refugees undertake in order to reach a place of safety.

To continue reading, follow this link.

"Migration evidence shows how badly the EU needs to rethink its strategy"

by Dr Vicki Squire and Nina Perkowski, The Conversation, 7 March 2016:

European leaders continue to be stumped by the so-called migration crisis. Fences are going up in the east and warnings are being issued that there is no more room. But people keep coming. Europe’s agenda on migration is primarily focused on preventing people from reaching Europe. It seems to rest on the assumption that an unending number of people want to come to the EU, and that deterrent measures are therefore necessary. But our new research shows that these are flawed assumptions. It suggests that people don’t always move with the aim of reaching Europe as an ideal end goal. Often they simply seek a place of safety.

To continue reading, follow this link.

"Europe's Border Crisis as an Autoimmune Disorder"

by Professor Nick Vaughan-Williams, Green European Journal, 20 April 2016

A crisis point has emerged, whereby the figure of the ‘irregular’ migrant is seen as both a security threat to the European Union (EU) and its borders and as a life that is itself threatened and in need of saving by the EU and its agencies. This contradiction leads to paradoxical situations in the field of EU border politics whereby humanitarian policies and practices frequently expose ‘irregular’ migrants to dehumanising and sometimes lethal security mechanisms. The dominant way of thinking critically about this problem today is one that blames a ‘gap’ between the EU’s humanitarian rhetoric and the realities on the ground driven by security imperatives. However, this framing fails to address the deeper issues at stake and runs a risk of perpetuating the very dynamics that lead to migrant and refugee deaths. An alternative lens for thought, critique, and action is thus required – one that recognises and engages with the complex ways in which humanitarianism and securitisation have become so problematically entangled.

To continue reading, follow this link.

"EU leaders seek to share responsibility for migration in Malta"

by Dr Vicki Squire, The Conversation, 11 November 2015:

European and African leaders are in the Maltese capital Valletta to discuss how they can better cooperate on migration. Attendees will discuss ideas about how to deal with the devastating consequences of people trying to enter Europe by unauthorised channels. European leaders have agreed to provide African partners with resources to manage migration. But this, like so many other measures to be discussed at this summit, seems a lot like one side trying to persuade another to take a problem away. Cooperation on this issue is by no means new, but the events unfolding on European shores over the past year show just how limited the results of this co-operation have been.

To continue reading, follow this link.