European Restabilization of the Border Regime. A report from the contested borders in the Aegean region. Βy S. HESS & G. HECK


European Restabilization of the Border Regime. A report from the contested borders in the Aegean region. Βy S. HESS & G. HECK

Cite as:Hess S. & G. Heck,  2016, "European restabilization of the border regime. A report from the contested borders in the Aegean region". 

After months of massive refugee movements that have breathtakingly struggled their way towards Northern Europe last year, European Union member states have started to launch diverse actions and measurements to regain control. A coalition of Eastern European states led by Austria proclaimed the closing of the Balkan route in March this year that led to massive national re-bordering activities and the blatant construction of fences. Additionally, the EU commission together with Germany set up a so called action plan with Turkey1 and pushed the so-called “EU-Turkey Deal” via a “statement” on 18 March 20162. And indeed, the numbers of those still arriving in Austria and Germany, daily using the Balkan route for their flight/migration projects, have decreased drastically compared to the summer months of last year. However, we all know that the global refugee population is not on the decline, given the old and new, simmering and open wars, as well as the destruction of nature and it's resources. What the present regional and EU-European professed solutions are doing and, in particular, what the EU-Turkey Deal is doing, is an externalization of border controls and thereby an externalization of the “pressure” on Greece and Turkey. The deal particularly transforms them into Europe’s border guards and parking lots all the while Turkey itself being entangled in a gory civil war in the East! Greece, on the other side, has been subjected to harsh austerity politics since 2010, accompanied by a heavy social and political crisis, and was not willing and/or able to install an asylum system consistent with EU standards for at least the past 15 yeas! On the contrary, both countries have focused on transit as a political strategy of migration governance up to now. 

In the following, we will take a look at the EU-Turkey Deal and its repercussions on Greece and Turkey, focusing on the effects of the deal on refugees, and present some preliminary considerations on how to theorize and understand the attempts of EU-Europe to regain control over the movements of migration. We draw on our recent experiences during a first four-week field study in Chios and Izmir at the end of April and beginning of May 2016, that we were able to carry out in the context of the transregional research project on the „Restabilization of the Border Regime“ at the Institute for Cultural Anthropology in Göttingen (Germany), funded by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation. The motto of the EU’s current restabilization attempts and of the Northern European states is: out of sight, out of mind. This has worked relatively well ever since the past 15 years of externalizing border controls as one of the main maxims of the EU-European border politics – even though the movements of migration have again and again been successful in attracting public attention.

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