Cover, Sans Papiers by Bloch, Sigona & Zetter, Pluto Press 2014 forthcoming
A lot of my time in the last few weeks went into writing, revising, restructuring the manuscript of Sans Papiers. Eventually, the manuscript will be ready to go to Pluto Press by the end of this week. Exciting to see another editorial project almost completed. All going according to plan, the hard copies will be out by Summer 2014. Writing a book takes always a bit longer that one anticipates. Co-authorship can be challenging at times, but it is also inspiring and very reassuring to be able to share ideas, drafts, endless editing with two colleagues and friends I have known for many years.
[Caveat: A few unrefined thoughts likely to change over the next few hours]
BBC Radio 4′s Moral Maze
Tonight I am an ‘expert witness’ on the BBC Radio 4′s programme Moral Maze, the topic is immigration and I have been invited to reflect on the moral issues raised by the tragic incident off the coast of Lampedusa. As a constructivist sociologist, questions around ethics (especially my own) are not often at the forefront of the work I do. They are of course in the background, inspiring the kind of questions I ask, the people I choose to interview, the methods I use. I tend to look at normative framings (including human rights) as a subject of investigation rather than as a given. My recent review essay on globalization, rights and the non-citizen is an example of the work I am doing in this direction. But now, I am facing with a philosophical question on morality (which given my anthropological background sounds at times Euro-centric and paternalist) and in thinking on it I can’t avoid to go back to history instead, to colonial and post-colonial legacies, to how the world is inextricably interconnected. The paradox of a human rights framework which governments like the UK are happy to use only when it doesn’t affect them comes inevitably to mind, so at the end I’m back to an immanent critique of the state and the EU who commit on paper to principles they then only uphold selectively.
The death of migrants in the Mediterranean is a truly ‘European’ tragedy
[Article for LSE EUROPP Blog, 14 Oct 2013]
Cemetery of migrant boats in Capo Passero, Sicily. Photo by Nando Sigona
Over 300 migrants travelling from Libya to Italy died on 3 October when the boat they were travelling in caught fire and sank in the Mediterranean. I argue that efforts to prevent further disasters taking place must focus on the reasons why migrants choose to risk their lives by travelling to Europe. The EU has not taken on its fair share of asylum seekers in comparison to developing countries in Africa and the Middle East, and opening up safe and legal pathways to apply for asylum should be a key priority. Finally, I argue that the Europeanization of Lampedusa is a strategic asset for the EU Commission at a time when the EU legitimacy is under unprecedented attack in many EU member states. It is up to the EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom to make it a truly EU ‘home’ affair [continue reading]
As I wrote in my comment piece on The Conversation, smuggling is not the cause of migration. It is ‘a reaction to borders control’, to use Hein de Haas‘ words, the symptom of an unfulfilled demand for migration that can’t find other legal routes, which would be safer and possibly also cheaper. This reminds me of the advert on citizenship planning for wealth ‘citizens of the world’ I saw on a transatlantic flight last August.
For someone seeking asylum and international protection, crossing a border without authorisation is often the only way for them to be able to claim asylum legally. Of course, not every migrant is a refugee.
The point is that immigration governance is not rocket science and it is not a zero-sum equation. There is no one-off solution that a single country or even the EU can take that would stop the arrival of boat migrants. Migration is the product of complex systemic (and historical) and personal factors, with relative wealth differentials being one of them. No single receiving country or group of countries is in control of all these factors. A few more boats patrolling the Mediterranean can certainly have an impacts on the routes pursued by smugglers who transport migrants and refugees but, for example, would not stop the exodus from Syria as it does little to solve the civil war. Instead, it can push smugglers and migrants to take even more risky routes and, as a result, increase the number of deaths at sea.
Deaths per thousand at European borders, Migreurop, 2013
There is also a further more complex interaction that it is worth some consideration. The closure of legal immigration routes to the EU has taken away for many households in North Africa and more widely an important source of income, namely the remittances of young migrants sent abroad. Has this contributed to create the conditions for the social and political movements that have changed the face of North Africa and the Middle East? In an article for Forced Migration Review (FMR 39, 2012)I co-authored with Hein de Haas we discuss the interactions between migration and revolutions.