A German newspaper recently released a forty-eight-page document that identifies the names and details of the 33,293 people who have died while trying to reach the shores of Europe between 1993 and 2017, most of whom drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. The document seeks to include every incident in that period of people fleeing oppression, violence, and poverty in their home countries. The data is imperfect and its impact is questionable, but it is important in presenting the question of migration, and more specifically, violence in migratory transit, as long predating the increased exposure it has received in the past four years. While current migration flows should be understood as continuities of broader constrictive migration patterns determined by Euro-American colonialism and empire, what does need to be further scrutinized and highlighted is how the framework of securitization has come to dominate current conceptions of global migration.
In both discourse and policy, the forced displacement of people in the Global South has been formulated by international political elites less as a complex humanitarian issue and more as an assault on the nation state and national security. More pointedly, such a “crisis” is produced as an existential threat to a state and its society, authorizing the suspension of regular protocols and restraint in the name of an emergency politics.
To assess the power of the securitization framework in European Union (EU) migration policies, we must understand it in relation to the transnational backdrop in which it emerges against: European states externalizing their borders, far right-wing white nationalist populist parties gaining popularity, and free market capitalism increasingly facilitating the flow of goods, services, and capital while subjecting the movement of (some) people to tighter restrictions. While much has been written about the mechanisms of securitization at large, I aim to specifically understand how the project of securitization impacts migrant women who are in transit and/or are precariously settled.
Policymakers often evade discussion of how power operates in security frameworks. Far from creating safer conditions or protective measures, such technologies of control become new ways for those with power to police the marginalized and displaced. As Inderpal Grewal notes, “’Security experts’ do not generally incorporate gender or sexuality in their analysis, preferring to think about threats and national security undisturbed by considerations of the impacts on groups not in power.”
While a growing number of practitioners in the international political arena (known as “gender specialists”) give a nod to women’s “vulnerable” position in crisis and conflict situations, I highlight the limits of such protection and vulnerability discourses that do not question the overarching framework of securitization. Securitization most often welcomes expanded militarization, policing, surveillance, and other carceral mechanisms. It trades in due processes, rights, and protective channels in exchange for closed borders, raised barbed wire fences, detention centers, biometric technologies, and arbitrary managerialist bureaucracy. It is these tradeoffs that motivate my interrogation of expanding securitization networks as ones that can address, let alone support, women in transit and their needs.
The refugee category and system are contingent on a specific political history and a particular understanding of western liberal state paradigms of political organization. The international refugee system arose in the post-World War II era. Far from being a universal or neutral category, it reified and reflected the deep ideological divisions between the West and the Soviet bloc. The heavily politicized category of “refugee” was crafted by the West to promote certain rights and views, especially those that would de-legitimize non-western/liberal regimes. As Scott Watson notes, the “refugee” was used as an instrument of power and refugee policy “served as an instrumental role in that the West used it to embarrass communist states or to frustrate communist revolutions and destabilize nascent community governments.”
Other scholars have also pointed to the constructivist and contingent nature of securitization by pointing to historical junctures where the need for migrant labor took precedent over concerns of national security or xenophobia. As Laleh Khalili notes, “One such moment was the post-Second World War reconstruction era when the devastated country needed people to aid in the reconstruction of the national economy (much like the rest of Europe). The importation of guest workers from the colonies, followed by decolonization and the migration of former colonized subjects to the metropole have triggered virulent xenophobic and racist responses in Britain.”
The EU-Turkey Deal
In 2015, at the peak (thus far) of this emergency, more than one million refugees and migrants arrived in Europe, escaping conflict, oppression, and persecution. Of these, 3,771 migrants en route to Europe by sea did not make it to their destination, and perished in the Mediterranean (IOM); 805 of those deaths occurred while crossing the eastern route of the sea from Turkey to Greece, known as the Aegean, while the central Mediterranean accounted for the majority of deaths, 2,892, with crossings from North Africa, especially Libya and Tunisia, to Italy, Sicily, Malta, and to a much lesser extent, Spain.
In 2016, the number of sea arrivals dropped to 362,376. However, deaths at sea surged, surpassing 5,000 people—the deadliest year on record. The most common nationalities of Mediterranean sea arrivals were Syria (twenty-three percent), Afghanistan (twelve percent), Nigeria (ten percent), Iraq (eight percent), Eritrea (six percent), Guinea (five percent), Cote d’Ivoire and The Gambia (four percent each), and Pakistan and Senegal (three percent each). Women constituted seventeen percent of these arrivals. What happened to significantly decrease the number of sea arrivals to Europe? And why, despite the fewer number of attempts, did the number of deaths at sea en route to Europe increase?
In early September 2015, there was a standoff between refugees and state officials in Austria, Hungary, and the Balkans. In response, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that refugees were welcome to Germany. Thousands of refugees in transit in various parts of Europe eagerly made their way to Germany as news circulated of this temporary border opening for those stranded en route nearby. Media institutions circulated heartwarming images and videos of Germans welcoming the first set of a hundred or so refugees coming off the trains, who altogether would amount to eight thousand. In fact, before they could get to Germany, thousands of refugees trekked on foot through Hungary to get to the Austrian border. This occurred in response to Hungary shutting down its train service, allowing the only transport mechanism for migrants to lead them to reception camps where they would be forced to request asylum in Hungary. Under pressure, Hungary finally allowed one hundred or so buses to facilitate the transfer of migrants from its Keleti station to the Austrian borders, “with the Hungarians making the migrants walk the final distance to the border, about 500 yards, in the rain.”
These prolific images of Germany welcoming refugees set a powerful narrative to the international community. As Maytha Alhassen notes, “What this did is create a folklore of safe migration for refugees,” where refugees saw this as an opportunity to flee the violence of their own homes and the violence in transit, while Germany could showcase its benevolence in contrast to the east European states tightening their borders. In fact, in many ways, the mass displacement and migration of communities from the Global South has offered capital for Western Europe to tap into. In the case of Germany, such an act promised good public relations (Merkel, dubbed “Chancellor of the Free World,” was selected as TIME’s Person of the Year) while also facilitating economic growth via low-skilled, cheap labor.
Representational politics around refugee inclusion and exclusion is not new, but dates to the crafting of the international refugee regime. As Watson notes, “Western states essentially constructed two types of states in the international system, refugee-producing states that endangered international stability and refugee-protecting states that ensured stability.” Thus, the refugee and the international refugee system become important mechanisms for states to constitute themselves and others through a wide host of descriptors (as benevolent, degenerate, incompetent, efficient, perilous, etc.). However, Merkel’s announcement was an exception in Germany, and certainly not the rule across Europe. It was not formulated as a long term strategic policy but emerged as the result of pressure amid ten days of utter chaos, protest, and suffering. Additionally, within Germany and across Europe, Merkel’s open-door policy roused the violent fantasies of populists, who blamed her for diluting western civilization (side by side with the Euro crisis and Ukraine crisis). Merkel recently agreed to limit the number of asylum seekers to Germany to two hundred thousand in attempt to work in coalition with her conservative allies.
Among the most important EU proposals set forth, is the so-called EU-Turkey Deal adopted in March 2016. With this deal came the shutting down of borders, and the closure of Balkans routes that many refugees had embarked on to get to Western Europe. As evident by the increase in deaths even after the deal, the new policy has not stopped the movement of people even as such multilateral arrangements aim to deter, prohibit, and criminalize irregular travelers. This negotiation is a politicized one and is part of a broader pattern of European states offering economic rewards to “third countries” (which includes Turkey, and to a lesser and more controversial degree, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Niger, and Nigeria) who block migrant flow into Europe, and help externalize and reseal EU borders. Through the deal, all refugees of all nationalities entering Europe after March 2016 would be returned to Turkey. In exchange, Turkey was offered quicker accession into the EU, more lax visa travel for its citizens in the EU’s Schengen passport-free zones, and financial assistance of 3.25 billion dollars for migration support.
The effects of this deal are most visible on the shores of the Greek Islands, where sixty-two thousand refugees are trapped as a result of the Balkans closing their borders and sealing off the route to the EU’s richer nations. Those who thought they would be in Greece for a short transitory period have now been there for over a year. Additionally, the deal has had negative implications for the unification of families who began their journeys at separate times. It is common for some male members to first make the trip to Greece toward western Europe (toward Germany, Sweden, Austria, Luxembourg, Norway and Holland) and then have their families follow them once they secure the right smugglers or confirm the routes for the rest of the family to follow. As a result of the deal, thousands of women and their families have not been able to reconnect with their partners and are left stranded in these liminal spaces.
Additionally, the deal outlines a one-to-one resettlement policy where, for every Syrian returned to Turkey from Greece, one Syrian will be resettled in an EU member state, with the number of resettled capped at seventy-two thousand and priority given to those who did not try to enter the EU illegally. However, the number of both returns and resettlement is happening at an alarmingly slow rate, with only one thousand refugees returned to Turkey since the deal. Overall, thirty-five hundred refugees have been resettled from Turkey to EU member states, and fewer than ten thousand have been resettled from Greece to the EU. Meanwhile, refugees whose claims have not yet been processed are relegated to detention centers that lack adequate basic services. It can take months for an EU member state to decide whether it will accept the case of a refugee individual or family for resettlement, with the decisions, according to asylum officials and international experts, for the most part resting on “arbitrary” reasons rather than on the specific needs and merits of the case. Thus, even though the EU-Turkey deal sought to hasten asylum and resettlement claims, humanitarian organizations stress that the ever-changing relocating laws as well as lengthy delays and choppy communication channels leave refugees in a state of limbo, without access to rights or services in the interim.
In general, for those refugees who were in Turkey before the March 2016 deal, their options are either to be given asylum in Greece, returned to Turkey, or resettled in a European country. Meanwhile, the options for refugees who arrived in Greece from Turkey after 20 March 2016 is to: 1) request asylum in Greece if the migrant is proved to be entitled to international protection 2) return to Turkey if Greek authorities determine this is appropriate, and 3) request to be reunited with family in another EU member state.
Refugees returned to Turkey are brought to “removal centers”—with Syrians brought to the Düziçi center in a remote site in the Mediterranean southern region of Turkey, while non-Syrians are brought to the Kırklareli center near the Bulgarian border in Eastern Thrace. At such centers, refugees are not permitted to leave, their possessions are routinely confiscated, and services of legal counsel as well as medical care are not offered. In the case of Turkey in particular, lack of transparency keeps migrants from knowing their status, when they will be released, or what is to follow. It is extremely difficult for NGOs or journalists to access these removal centers. A delegation of members of the European Parliament visited the centers in May 2016 and noted that in Turkey, “detention is under a prison-style regime, including for children. The delegation witnessed overcrowded bedrooms, for example twenty people in a room with twelve beds. People, including families, were locked in bedrooms. The delegation identified unaccompanied minors who had not been identified as such and had been put in the same bedrooms as adult men.” These removal centers also include refugees who had not gone to Greece at all, but were arbitrarily detained from within Turkey for unclear reasons.
Demographics and Hierarchies within Refugee Communities
While the refugee crisis is marked as a Syrian or Middle Eastern crisis, this is not accurate because the national and ethnic backgrounds of refugees are varied. While “refugees” are often referred to as a monolith, the community is actually very stratified in ways that are not necessarily legible to an international audience. The group of people making this journey to Europe is incredibly diverse; half of them are Syrian, with large numbers from, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Khursheed Wadia and other scholars have noted the ways in which refugee policies reify divisions and hierarchies, which become a source of tension and insecurity within camps and detention centers. International watchdogs have documented the specific EU practices that cause discrimination in terms of treatment, access, and protection choices. The Women’s Refugee Commission’s findings from an August 2016 field report notes that, “The ‘one-to-one’ scheme as well as other legal and procedural provisions have created first and second class refugees, with a privileged route to resettlement for Syrians only, fast-tracked registration and prioritized aid deliveries.” Indeed, information, services, food aid, and legal counsel, while lacking for all refugees, are distributed unequally among them. Such differences based on nationality ignore measures of due process and specific treatment of cases (especially for vulnerable determinations of the sick, elderly, disabled, and pregnant). Instead, the competition for resources and attention in refugee sites become a microcosm of ethnic and national power relations on a global scale. Marcy Hersh of the Women’s Refugee Commission notes that not all migrants have the same level of prioritization that Syrians do, and that officials “are trying to create camps for Syrians, and then everyone else,” and that such practices predate the EU-Turkey deal and were manifest in prior EU relocation systems. Additionally, the question of who is worthy or deserving of asylum is a highly politicized one, which feeds into the creation of an arbitrary informal hierarchy of migrants by government officials. Hersh noted that the Greek government has essentially created a legal hierarchy “that says something to the effect that all Syrians are refugees, all Iraqis are probably refugees, all Afghans are probably not refugees, and all Africans are probably not refugees. It is problematic to automatically base someone’s refugee status based on their nationality. None of this is research-based. It is sort of just assumed and told.”
There are likely also ideological reasons for why Syrians are privileged or centered, in addition to the obvious reason of their high numbers and global attention. Much of this is rooted in the politics of memory, complicity, accountability, and legibility of wars, violence and political conflicts. “The Syrian is seen as the perfect refugee. In the way that Europe is then allowed to pat itself on the back, and become the parent to human civilization,” Alhassen notes that European policies that privilege Syrians reflects how Europe sees itself in relation to conflicts. “Europe adopts Syria because it is able to say ‘I didn’t cause what’s happening there. Those people are just fleeing terrorism,” and Europe is a neutral bystander willing to help. There are also essentialist and racist underlying justifications for why Syrians should be prioritized—because they are seen as geographically closer to Turkey and therefore should be hosted there. “It is a serious logical leap considering how different Turkey is,” from Syria—culturally, linguistically, politically and in all ways. In fact, many Syrians express that they would rather stay in Greece (where at least more English is spoken) than be forcibly returned to Turkey for a variety of reasons (including the fact that they were smuggled into Turkey in perilous ways, so returning is not a good option), even if that makes the return or movement to their homeland more difficult.
Alhassen notes that there may be practical reasons behind what on the surface seems like arbitrary discrimination. “Syrians are usually interviewed first because they are supposed to be sent back to Turkey, if it is not dangerous for them, as part of the EU-Turkey Deal,” she notes. However, this creates tensions about whose requests and applications get processed first, especially between Afghans and Syrians. Under the EU plan, divisions and hierarchies based on nationality are very prevalent, where refugees who arrived before the March 2016 EU-Turkey deal are given special options if they are of Iraqi or Syrian nationality. Essentially, they have an added option of submitting an application to be relocated to another EU member state—as opposed to other nationalities who can only 1) request to return to their home country 2) request asylum in Greece or 3) be resettled in another EU member state only if they are trying to reunite with their family. Additionally, in light of the EU-Turkey deal, once refugees arrive to Greece, they have to obtain a “police note” which, for Syrians and Iraqis, is valid for six months, and for all other nationalities, is valid for 30 days. Police notes are not renewable, and once they expire, refugees are subject to arrest by law enforcement.
In her field work with the Women’s Refugee Commission, Hersh noted the prevalence of anti-Black and anti-African racism, which blatantly comes out during times of food distribution. For example, in the refugee site in Lesbos, food lines are based on nationalities. They are also ranked, “The Syrians go first, then the Iraqis, then the Congolese, who are literally at times told to go back to the line. Some of them wait for three to four hours before they can get meals.”
Gendered Impact of EU Securitization of Migration
To examine how securitization affects women migrants, it is worth considering a number of arenas that shape women’s experiences in transit. Here I examine the various structural antagonisms women in transit face including sexual violence, corporeal and reproductive care, economic exploitation, and detention.
Sexual: Once borders shut down and migrants lose their mobility, the prolonged stays of refugee women in unsafe environments as well as their increased engagement and dependence on others for help exposes them to more opportunities for harassment and assault from opportunistic offenders. Opportunistic sexual violence has been documented on borders and train stations. Transactional sex and sexual favors become especially commonplace for women in exchange for safe passages, document orders, and other requirements for mobility.
Increased securitization of camps and reception centers does not automatically yield protection. Detention centers may be ringed with barbed wire and have a heavy police presence, but little is done to secure the basic needs of women inside. In the case of Macedonia and Greece, there is no provision or access for women’s various health and wellness needs, including post-rape care. WRC notes that men and women’s latrines are not separated, and that men use all facilities indiscriminately. Indeed, this is a common trend recorded by rights groups both in refugee camps as well as transit centers. Additionally, in refugee shelters in the Moria detention center in Greece, tents are shared between men and women of different nationalities and languages. No separate accommodation for women exists. Even in Germany, accommodation centers in Berlin and Cologne offer little privacy or security, with showers not specifically designated for women.
A lack of privacy allows men to “loiter outside the toilets and showers, leaving women feeling exposed and unsafe.” Most sites do not have specific entry requirements, and are relatively porous in terms of who can enter. Additionally, holes in fences where women are housed leave them exposed. Since interventions to these problems are relatively straightforward and can be solved through a reconceived design of these sites (e.g. where are latrines located, can they be better marked and enclosed, who inhabits the center of the site versus the periphery, etc.), one is left to wonder whether this is more an issue of political care rather than capacity.
In addition to opportunistic offenders in their new environment, migrant women navigate further violence in their interpersonal relationships. Feminist scholars for decades have noted the ways in which domestic violence increases in situations of displacement as accumulated stress and traumatic conditions exacerbate unequal power relations. Women in abusive relationships cannot leave their family member if they are applying for asylum together. Additionally, gender oppression in this circumstance is often compounded by poor responses from military and police officials. For example, WRC notes how military and police officers handle domestic violence cases. They note the case of a gender-based violence (GBV) survivor in a Greek site who wanted to be moved to a different location from her abusive partner. A military officer tried to move her to a tent in a remote, unlit site with holes in the fence near the margins of the camp. Rather than move to a new place of new insecurity, she decided to stay with her abusive partner.
Greek law stipulates that all GBV offenses must be reported to police in order for people to receive post-rape medical care. Placing GBV issues for refugee women in the hands of police and military officers does not take into account the hesitation of many women refugees in dealing with state agents, especially in light of one’s uncertain legal status, and especially when we consider the carceral responses of law enforcement agencies who might arrest or dismiss the asylum cases of abusive family members even if this is against a survivor’s wishes.
Reproductive: The securitization of transit has a particularly nefarious impact on pregnant women and people in need of reproductive, neonatal, and postpartum care. Many NGOs including MSF and WRC have documented the scarce access to primary and secondary health care both in transit and at refugee sites. Premature illness and death is brought on by dehydration and starvation of nursing mothers, who are then unable to breastfeed their children. MSF coordinators in the Greek Islands have noted the ways in which pregnant women, who make up ten percent of refugee women in Greece, are left for days in soaking mud and rain, and then suffer musculoskeletal diseases and respiratory tract infections. Additionally, there is general lack of clarity and information about where pregnant people can give birth. Refugees who have used public hospitals to deliver babies are returned to tents prematurely with no postnatal care.
Economic: Additionally, the types of economic challenges heaped onto women make them more vulnerable targets for exploitation. By refusing to implement safe and legal ways to move through the continent, everything is done through smugglers, most of whom are men. Far from creating a more manageable system, externalization policies fuel an illicit, lucrative, organized industry for smugglers and middlemen to offer refugees alternative pathways. According to Sarah Martin, a GBV in emergencies researcher, it can cost up to fifty-thousand dollars for refugees from the Middle East and Africa to get to Germany. Such nonstate actors promise refugees to help them reach their destination in exchange for a deposit. Many ordinary people are incentivized to become involved in this economy, including taxi drivers, cigarette sellers, travel agents, and small store owners.
Marcy Hersh has noted how in Macedonia and Serbia, “exorbitant amounts of money” are charged in order for migrants to charge their cell phone or to purchase new sim cards every time they move to a different country. Border guards who often are underpaid and lacking in capacity also partake in smuggling through bribes, sexual extortions and other corrupt mechanisms, including the repeated arrest and release of migrants in exchange for favors and currency. Families often are told not to wait for trains or buses, and that they can be transported by taxi instead, opening the way for abduction, robbery, and violent assaults.
Detention: The line between what counts as a refugee camp, a reception center, and a detention center has become blurred in light of the EU-Turkey deal. The common practice in all these sites, however, is the constant threat of deportation. With the introduction of the EU-Turkey deal, Greece and Turkey were responsible until the EU could figure out how to process migrants stranded in Greece—either to relocate them, send them back to Turkey, or deport them to their country of origin. Reception centers (which already were insufficient as transit facilities) were converted into detention centers. These detention centers have become liminal, carceral spaces of uncertainty, intimidation, and bureaucratic proceduralism. Referring to such sites through the often used and purportedly neutral phrase “reception center” obscures the unequal material conditions and discursive structures in such identification.
Residents of these centers are treated more like prisoners, and their movement more restricted. Once the deal was formalized, Greece transformed derelict warehouses and factories into living spaces for refugees. Such industrial spaces are not fit for human habitation as they are made to house goods, not people. In fact, UNHCR and a number of other international organizations have pulled out from refugee centers in Turkey and Greece due to the prevalence of mandatory detentions in these prison-like facilities near industrial sites and toxic waste areas. For example, the industrial town of Oinofyta in mainland Greece, which houses around six hundred Afghan refugees, is a sign of how “those with the least hope of staying in Europe are housed in rougher camps.” Others are more makeshift sites, built near abandoned gas stations, or in the case of Elliniko, in place of a dilapidated abandoned airport outside Athens.
In the past two years, there has been considerable effort to keep refugees in Greece in the shadows. This is noticeable in the way that Greece has shifted to creating more refugee centers in the mainland and away from the islands so as not to disturb the tourist vacation image of these spaces. The camps themselves are also kept small to not draw attention, and, as Alhassen notes, to stay out of sight and out of mind. Most of the camps in the mainland are about forty-five minutes outside of Athens, making them inaccessible and expensive to get to and from. Some are in remote villages near the Pindus mountains, or are in areas difficult to inhabit where there is a prevalence of snakes and rats.
A peculiar example of one of these sites is the detention center in Skaramagas, which houses around thirty-two hundred refugees, most of them Syrian. Alhassen notes the psychologically manipulating ethos of the site, which is enclosed through manmade walls on one side but also the sea. “You go in and it’s a barbed wire camp, but then you have the sea at your fingertips.” The center is enclosed with barbed wire enclosure all around and is staffed by Greek police. Alhassen notes that no interpreters were there, an absence that MSF and other international groups confirm in their reports as well. Instead, guards persistently shout in English repeatedly for migrants to verify their papers and IDs.
Bureaucratization and Managerialism
A common practice that comes with the securitization of migration is the emergence of a managerialist discourse and proceduralist framework which aims to paint detention as a matter of what Laleh Khalili has described “social engineering,” one that is occupied with policy, not politics. Data and metrics, especially biometrics, become especially important in establishing this masculinized bureaucratic ethos, which is viewed as more objective and precise than qualitative data. Khalili notes how the “impersonality” of bureaucratic procedures authorizes brutality. Such proceduralism makes it easier to see refugee bodies as entities that can casually be transported, poked, prodded, dragged and pushed around.
Thus, the implementation and repetition of mundane practices, the hurdles to gaining information on registration and asylum processes, the drawn out mechanisms it takes to obtain official claims from refugees, the instrumentalizing of detainee screening processes, and the emphasis of many NGOs, legal aid, and international agencies to just “do the work” without establishing any sort of relationships to migrants, reinforces how security, as Foucault notes, is ultimately about “organizing.” In doing so, asylum and law enforcement authorities build their surveillance capacities to make refugee populations more legible.
Additionally, while the Greek Ministry of Migration Policy is supposed to have ultimate jurisdiction over the open sites, it is often the Greek military that manages these spaces. This is problematic for a number of reasons, first of which is that most military personnel are not equipped or trained to handle the intricate needs of refugee humanitarian assistance. Placing these open sites in the hands of the military is an overt example of how securitization operates—displaced people seeking asylum are portrayed as foreign entities that only the military can be entrusted to deal with. A striking example of the extent of managerial proceduralism in managing refugees is a system that was set up by the Greek Asylum Service (before the EU-Turkey deal) where refugees were supposed to contact officials through Skype to register themselves (for seeking asylum, family reunification, relocation). This program was staffed by a handful of people responsible for making appointments for tens of thousands of refugees. Such a system intended to make the process more efficient clearly impersonalizes interactions with refugees while creating more hurdles as most refugees did not have access to technologies for a Skype interview. (This system has been replaced with one that seems more promising in which refugees are screened by persons rather than through Skype, and upon successful screening are given asylum seeker cards that is valid for one year while they pursue their claims for asylum, relocation or return).
The entire purpose of the EU-Turkey deal was to stem the flow of migrants. Therefore, Greek authorities are under pressure to process claims hastily, and to return migrants to Turkey. The swift and surface-level approach of such determinations do not allow officials to assess asylum cases individually. Additionally, legal counselors are not provided to detainees to help them understand what they are signing up for when they pursue their claims, or which options are in their best interest. The lack of legal aid offered to refugees reveals the contradictory nature of the bureaucratic proceduralist dimension of the asylum process. While the abundance of banal practices of filing and document recording are done in the name of greater professionalism, efficiency, or even care, these practices in no way translate into shifts in structural efficacy. Instead, new departments, ministries, and offices are constantly created and repurposed to perform quickly for the sake of a “tactical government,” which operates with no long-term planning.
Beyond Securitization, Beyond Borders
The project of securitization is patriarchal in that it is configured as a means of “protection,” when in reality it is a method of control that increases and consolidates power disparities and leaves little room for negotiation. Ultimately, securitization is a way of maintaining structures of domination, and of reproducing them at every turn. In the realm of migration policy, it is an attempt to reinforce a model that is constructed, outdated, and imperial, namely borders. The issue of borders—domestic and external—comes up again and again in many realms and not just on the question of refugees; this is because it is a system that needs critique and re-imagining. As Alhassen notes, “It is the nation state that is the problem. Not the refugee. The refugee becomes a problem because she disrupts/traverses borders. The refugee is a radical change. It is a state of becoming.” Indeed, the refugee, in her liminal existence, is in a state of becoming and is also preparing a different world for its becoming.
AUTHOR: Zeinab Khalil specializes in critical development studies, global governance, and state-civil society relations in the Middle East and North Africa. She completed her BA at the University of Michigan in Modern Middle Eastern Studies and Gender Studies. She completed her Master's at Yale University in international relations and public policy. She is the founder of theQUWA Project, an anti-violence and political organizing collective for displaced Arabic-speaking women. She previously lived in Turkey working with refugee women, and has also spent time working at the Arab American Association of New York as a community organizer. She has worked atNazra for Feminist Studies,The Century Foundation, the UN Development Program, and currently works at theOpen Society Foundations. Her research focuses ongender policy in international organizations as well as securitization mechanisms in civil society.