Mare Nostrum, Triton and the UK

Yesterday night (30 October) I spoke on BBC Radio 5 Live on why the UK government decision to opt out of rescue operations in the Med is not only morally wrong but also grounded on a false understanding of the causes of migration. Here the link to the podcast: bbc.in/1E6RTVv22.38-29.44]

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Opting out of Mediterranean rescue condemns desperate migrants to death

By Nando Sigona, University of Birmingham

[This article was originally published on The Conversation, 29 October 2014]

Strait_of_gibraltarThe UK government is seeking to defend its decision not to support rescue missions for migrants making the dangerous crossing to Europe via the central Mediterranean. And even though Europe professes to be stepping up to the plate, the emphasis is now being placed on monitoring European waters rather than actually helping those in trouble. Unless all of Europe faces what is, in reality, a shared problem, many more tragic deaths are likely to follow the thousands that have occurred in the past few years.

According to a recent report by the International Organization for Migration, more than 3,000 have died trying to cross the Mediterranean in 2014 alone. Before then, in October 2013, 366 migrants drowned in a single incident when a boat taking them from Libya to Italy sank off the coast of the island of Lampedusa. As the IOM report shows, Europe has become “the most dangerous destination for irregular migration in the world”.

In the immediate aftermath of the Lampedusa tragedy, the Italian government launched Operation Mare Nostrum, which has seen the Italian Navy rescue well over 100,000 migrants from the sea. But while the operation has been commended as “a great humanitarian success” by the UN refugee agency, it has had significant economic and political costs. Reports on the future of Mare Nostrum are unclear but there have been suggestions that it will be either shut down or significantly downsized.

In any event, the Italian authorities have repeatedly warned EU partners that the country could not carry the €10 million monthly cost of the programme alone. A European-wide programme called Triton has emerged as a result but this is a very different operation.

Although Frontex, the agency in charge of Triton has reported being overwhelmed with offers of equipment to help it in its work, it has a significantly smaller budget and a much narrower remit. Triton is charged only with border control rather than rescue (including in international waters). This has led to fears that migrants will be left to drown off European shores.

Where’s the solidarity?

The UK has publicly spelled out why it is not prepared to support a search and rescue operation like Mare Nostrum. It argues the operation created an unintended “pull factor” and encouraged more people to attempt the dangerous sea crossing in the knowledge that they would be rescued.

But while it is possible that Mare Nostrum has had a marginal pull, the UK Foreign Office has mistaken causes and means of migration in its criticism. As well known in migration scholarship, migration routes change over time, adapting to opportunities and policy openings. Closing down the route across the central Mediterranean is unlikely to reduce the overall number of migrants seeking to reach Europe as it does nothing to address the causes of migration, instead it will merely force them to pursue different and possibly even more dangerous routes.

As the British Refugee Council has pointed out: “The British government seems oblivious to the fact that the world is in the grip of the greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War”. People will not stop trying to escape unlivable lives in their own countries in the hope of something better in Europe and we have already seen that thousands think it’s worth the risk. If we stop rescuing migrants, others won’t be deterred and even more are likely to die.

The Conversation

Read the original article.

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Towards a sociology of everyday statelessness

In the first weeks at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (EUI) I’m finalising an article for a special issue on ‘Markers of Identity’ linked to the Oxford Diasporas Programme and its sister programme at the University of Leicester. The article draws on the work I have done for the ‘Stateless Diasporas in the EU’ project with Dr Elena Fiddian Qasmiyeh and Dr Barzoo Eliassi. I’ve presented a draft version of the paper last June in Oxford and was very well received. I’ve now sent the manuscript to the editors, Professor Joanna Story and Dr Iain Walker, that have waited patiently (despite the deadline had passed a few weeks ago). Look forward to hearing their feedback.

Here is the abstract:

This article is an invitation to reflect sociologically on statelessness, to date mostly absent from an otherwise burgeoning sociological debate on citizenship, rights and legal status. Millions of stateless people worldwide challenge a core tenet of state-centric teleological imagination – that in order for the hegemonic state system to work everyone must be a citizen of a state – confirming instead the need for a more nuanced understanding of contemporary forms of membership attentive to the interplay of different rights regimes.

It argues that the experiences of Roma families who have lived for years in Italy in absence of any formal citizenship complicates Hannah Arendt’s powerful and insightful characterisation of stateless people as rightless; the lack of any citizenship doesn’t make them bare life, it reveals instead political subjectivity as an as embodied and emplaced process, where subjects negotiate individually and collectively their position in the world and vis-à-vis the state.

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From superdiverse contexts to superdiverse subjects: Report on IRiS conference (23-25 June 2014)

Nando Sigona:

Excellent summary of the conference, the title of the blog post captures an important tension in superdiversity scholarship

Originally posted on The Age of Superdiversity:

Superdiversity: Theory, Method and Practice. Rethinking society in an era of change.

23-25th June 2014, University of Birmingham

Report by Rachel Humphris @rachel_humphris

The Conference on ‘Superdiversity: Theory, method and practice. Rethinking society in an era of change’ took place at the University of Birmingham from the 23rd to the 25th of June. The event, organised and hosted by the Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS), was the first international multi-disciplinary conference on superdiversity. It brought together more than 120 academics, policy makers and practitioners from different specialisms, theoretical perspectives and disciplinary backgrounds. The overarching aim of the conference was to explore the opportunities and challenges provided by pioneering research that seeks to explain our complex social realities in new ways.

From the left: Adrian Blackledge, Kiran Trehan, Jenny Phillimore and Nando Sigona

From the left: Adrian Blackledge, Kiran Trehan, Jenny Phillimore and Nando Sigona

Although the term superdiversity could be considered relatively new, it has rapidly evolved and gained recognition…

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