Europe’s borders in 2015: a visual review

Undoubtedly this has been an annus horribilis for European borders. Here are some visual highlights of the last 12 months…

 

February 2015

The Other Exodus: Kosovars heading North

The other exodus - Kosovar heading north - February Getty

April 2015

Sunk: the deadliest drowning in the Mediterranean (so far)

Sinking off Malata -April Reuters

April 2015

Calais’ waves: migrants try to enter the Eurotunnel

Eurotunnel April

April 2015

All along the watchtower: Poland proposes border posts around Kalingrad 

Poalnd-Kalingrad watchtower proposal April- Reuters

April 2015

Born to be wild: Pro-Putin bikers stopped at Polish border

Pro puting bikers

June 2015

Terra nullius: migrants stranded at Italy-France border

migrants stranded -italy france border June Reuters

August 2015

Greek tragedies: migrants landing in Lesbos

To Lesbos  oct 2 2015 - Reuters

September 2015

Aylan

Aylan september 2

September 2015

No (Of)fence: migrants making their way trough Serbia-Hungary border

Hungary border fence september

September 2015

Tripping: foul play at the Hungarian border

Trippincamerwona sept Getti image

September 2015

The long march: migrants heading to Austria

HUngarain -Austrian border

 

September 2015

Guardian Angel(a): Germany opens the doors to migrants

 

Merl

November 2015

Suspended! Schengen area under pressure after Paris attacks

French italian border after Paris Nov

 

December 2015
Øresund blues: Sweden closes its border with Denmark

Sweden closes Oresund bridge with Denmark Dec- Getty

 

 

European borders in 2016?

Schengen future

The elephant in Europe’s living room: or how (not to) tackle the current migration crisis

EU

It has become a well-established European ritual. What to do when facing a major crisis? Call a special summit! Then talk, and talk again, well into the night. Disagree on pretty much everything, until you get a ‘breakthrough’ — i.e., a list of generic commitments dressed up in the language of the mythical “European common spirit”. Wait a few months, and, if the plan does not work — because it surely won’t work — call another summit!

The latest instalment of this ongoing European political saga is centered on the issue of migration.  Hot topic of late, and for good (or, I should say, bad) reasons. Europe has become the backdrop for harrowing, and often tragic, stories of thousands of individuals who are fleeing conflict and misery and trying to reach the Old Continent. Some of these stories, such as that of Alan Kurdi, the Europe-bound three old Syrian who drowned just before reaching the Turkish coast, are so shocking as to shake, at least temporarily, the conscience of an otherwise anesthetized European public. At the same time, a collective anti-immigrant hysteria has spread throughout the Old Continent like wildfire, pushing migration at the top of the political agenda. What to do in these circumstances? European leaders have an answer. Yes, you guessed it: a special summit.

I am not holding my breath that something revolutionary will come out of the latest gathering of European grandees. Most likely, the summit will result in a declaration acknowledging the plight of European-bound migrants and a call for action. My sense is that, in practice, the planned response will be filled with a new batch of security-oriented measures aimed at strengthening the continent’s external borders and at expanding controls on movement within Europe. And the plight of would be migrants, who will still do whatever it takes to look for a better future? Well, we’ll figure that out later. Remember Lampedusa? The infamous October 2013 migrant shipwreck led to alarmed calls for action similar the ones we hear today.  Cecilia Malmström, then European Commissioner for Home Affairs, said: “Let’s make sure that what happened in Lampedusa will be a wakeup call to increase solidarity and mutual support and to prevent similar tragedies in the future”. We all know how things turned out…

It is, of course, easy to target elected officials. They are the ones who must make the difficult decisions, and feel the wrath of an angry and disillusioned electorate. And the internally-focused policy responses European leaders will likely propose to address the current crisis – a greater burden sharing of refugees among European countries and a more flexible approach to the refugee determination process are indeed necessary. They are, however, also a patchwork of short term solutions that will do little to prevent other crises from popping up again in the near future.

The alternative? I have one. Go to the source of the problem! In other words, try to make sure migrants either do not leave their country of origin, or, if they do leave, they do so in a regulated manner. Easier said than done, you might say. You can add naïve. And haven’t Europeans already tried this route before? These are valid points. Solving the complex economic, social and political problems that encourage emigration in faraway places, not to mention ending protracted conflicts such as the one in Syria, is not something Europeans (or anybody else for that matter) can — and should — do by themselves, nor something that can happen in the short term.

Talks about creating a more ‘progressive’ migration policy that includes not only sticks but also carrots —  fostering economic development, opening up of legal migration channels — have been going since the late 1990s, when Europe was facing another major refugee crisis originating from the conflict in the Balkans. These themes, for instance, are a central component of the EU’s Global Approach to Migration and Mobility, since the mid-2000s the main policy framework of EU external migration and asylum policy. The problem is, European policy-makers have not seriously tried to put into practice the progressive vision that this approach entails. When it comes to its implementation, the emphasis has systematically turned to the negative aspects of the plan — how to prevent migrants from arriving –, not the more positive ones — how to create incentives to either stay or move through official channels. This is apparent if we look at European attempts to ‘externalize’ migration management to the continent’s neighbors or further afield.  These ‘remote control’ policies include the ‘offshoring’ of border checks beyond Europe, the imposition of stricter visa requirements, the processing of asylum claims in neighboring countries, the interdictions of migrants on the high seas, and migrant detention in transit countries outside the region. The externalization of border management is not a new phenomenon.  Some of these practices (e.g. the imposition of visas) date back to the origins of immigration policy at the turn of the 20th century. Other initiatives (e.g. the interdictions on the high seas and migrant detention) were introduced in the post cold war era. Since the millennium, however, these practices, and the context in which they unfold, have experienced significant transformations. As a result, remote control policies have become more complex, widespread and prominent in migration strategies around the world than ever before. These practices, for example, are at the core of current migration policies in the United States and Australia.

For governments, externalizing migration policies represents a politically expedient way to circumvent domestic legal obligations that liberal democracies claim to uphold. As the adage goes, out of sight, out of mind… The upcoming European summit on migration will probably include a discussion on how to strengthen these ‘externalizing’ practices. This approach, however, is, to put it mildly, contentious. Besides the lack of accountability for governmental actions that occur beyond national borders, externalizing migration controls often have negative repercussions on migrants’ lives and their rights, as in the case for those kept in limbo in offshore detention centres. It is also questionable whether they are really effective. Yet, despite the mounting critiques and number of challenges governments are facing, these policies remain a popular approach to manage international migration in Europe.

Which leads me to the point about the elephant in Europe’s living room – namely, the root causes of migration. Certainly, some of the situations that lead to population movements (e.g. instability and conflict in the Middle East, authoritarianism and lawlessness in the Horn of Africa) are so intractable that even talking about ‘solutions’ seems out of the question at the present time. This state of affairs, however, should not be an excuse not to talk about what Europe can and should do to render less likely the re-occurrence of the current crisis, or at least mitigate its size and impact. The upcoming European summit should put the root causes of migration at the core of its plan of action. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Some of these ideas are already present in Europe’s existing policy frameworks. This is especially the case for plans targeting countries where migrants move primarily for economic reasons. Europe should be more actively foster local economic development, render its common market more accessible and offer more meaningful channels for legal migration. In the case of individuals fleeing conflict and political repression, Europe should offer greater economic support for transit countries, and expand its now limited commitment to resettle displaced people living in refugee camps. European leaders should also seek greater coordination and support to implement these policies not only within Europe, but also with other international partners, especially in North America.

Putting these ideas into practice requires not just time and money, but also a great dose of political will and courage, qualities that are currently in short supply around European capitals. Without them, however, I’m afraid the images of desperation and anger that we are witnessing today across Europe are likely to haunt us for a long time to come.

 

Mapping Schengen Art – Part VII

Here is the seventh instalment of Schengen border art, an ongoing project in which I map the multifarious ways in which the Old Continent’ (real and imaginary) frontiers have been represented/performed/subverted.

 

Freedom Bus Project – Crossborder – International Network of History and Art (2015)

 

http://www.cross-border-network.eu/freedombus-home.php

 

Art Bridges Europe – AA.VV. (Itinerant multimedia project 2015)

 

https://artbridgeseurope.wordpress.com/

 

Residenzpflicht – The invisible borders – Philipp Kuebart (2012-14, exhibition)

berlin_DSE6182_fadenmodell

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.invisibleborders.de/main_en.html

 

The Mediterranean Tunnel  – MTO (street art, 2015)

Med tunnel

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.streetartnews.net/2015/07/the-mediterranean-tunnel-by-mto-in.html

 

Immigration –  Daniel Garcia (2015; mixed media)

Daniel-Garcia-Art-Immigration-Africa-Europe-Boats-Migration-Mediterranean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.danielgarciaart.com/immigrats/

 

Surprising Europe – African migration experiences (multimedia project ; 2013)

http://www.surprisingeurope.com/

 

Breaching Borders: Art, Migrants and the Metaphor of WasteSteyn and Stamselberg (book; 2014)
Breaching borders

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.ibtauris.com/Books/Society%20%20social%20sciences/Society%20%20culture%20general/Cultural%20studies/Crosscultural%20Identities%20Art%20Migrants%20and%20the%20Metaphor%20of%20Waste.aspx?menuitem=%7B4BBEF2AD-7935-412A-ADEC-60A9409023F6%7D

 

Row Row Row your boat (people): what the France-Italy squabble means for the future of Schengen

No real silver lining at Ventimiglia

No real silver lining at Ventimiglia

Here we go again! These days France and Italy are at loggerheads over migrants trying to cross the two countries’ shared borders. Not that long ago (2011) Paris and Rome clashed over the very same issue. Back then it was North African migrants moving north in the wake of the ‘jasmine revolutions’. Today it is Libya’s implosion and the record number of ‘boat people’ who made it through the Mediterranean since the beginning of the year. Then, like today, France (temporarily) shut its borders with Italy. With panic engulfing the continent, then, like today, gloomy predictions about the end of the Schengen, the policy regime that guarantees the free movement of people across Europe, started to swirl around. So, are we there now? Does the latest intra-European brouhaha really represent the soon-to-be death of Schengen?

My answer is the same that I gave in response to the 2011 row, namely, NO! Despite these ominous signs (the tone of the discussion, for instance, is getting nastier by the day, with reciprocal accusations of breaching the ‘Schengen spirit’), this crisis might not prove to be as fatal as some doom-sayers suggest. On the contrary, Schengen might actually emerge from the present turmoil stronger than before. Indeed, if we look at the history of the regime (which, by the way, has just turned 30 this week) we can notice other examples of ‘crises’ whose features in terms of cast of characters, content and dynamics bear striking similarities with the present predicament. Then, as today, France (the ‘sceptical yet loyal member’), Italy (the ‘recalcitrant victim’) debated the effectiveness of existing border controls in the face of (perceived and actual) growth in illegal cross border activities, traded reciprocal accusations of either laxness or lack of trust and good faith, re-imposed – or threatened to re-impose – internal border controls, and evoked the possible end of the regime. In the end, however, Schengen not only weathered the gathering storm and survived the threat of a possible demise, but came out even stronger from these challenges. Indeed, the regime, which started as an intergovernmental initiative developed by a group of European governments in the mid 1980s, by the end of the 1990s had doubled in membership and, with its incorporation in the EU’s institutional architecture, became one of the central pillars of the European integration project.

From an institutional perspective, these recurrent crises can therefore be understood as cyclical adjustment mechanisms that have helped the regime withstand new challenges and consolidate its institutional presence in Europe. The current crisis’ patterns and dynamics are consistent with the trajectory that Schengen has followed in the past. It might be overly optimistic, but my guess is that last chapter of the chronicle of a death foretold (Schengen’s)  might have a different ending after all…

Mediterranean nightmares and Freudian ships: how Europe externalizes its migration anxiety

Written some months ago, but sadly still relevant these days…

Schengen-alia

EU interdiction

These days news outlets around the world are plastered with images of Southern European countries’ coastguard vessels intercepting rickety dinghies trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. This practice is one of the most notable instances of what Aristide Zolberg calls ‘remote control’, or the array of policies and practices aimed at managing migratory flows before they reach a country’s territory. The externalization of migration management is not a new phenomenon, and not unique to Europe. The Unites States, after all, ‘invented’ the concept of interdiction in the high seas as way to stem the flow of Haitians, Cubans and other undesired migrants heading to El Norte. Yet there is something new about recent developments, both in terms of breath and scope. More problematically, these policies remain highly controversial, raising various ethical and legal issues for the governments that implement them.

All this raises the question: why are these policies so popular?…

View original post 513 more words

Mapping Schengen Art – Part VI

Here is the sixth instalment of Schengen border art, an ongoing project in which I map the multifarious ways in which the Old Continent’ (real and imaginary) frontiers have been represented/performed/subverted.

White Crosses – Centre for Political Beauty (Art installation, 2014)

ZPS_Add_Exp-2

http://www.politicalbeauty.com/wall.html

Bordergame – National Theatre Wales (2014, live/online performance, role-play)

Bordergame by National Theatre Wales

http://nationaltheatrewales.org/bordergame

Borrando La Barda/Erasing the Border – Ana Teresa Fernandez (2001, visual performance)

EU-MAN – European Union Migrant Artists Network (1997)

EU- Man pic

http://www.eu-man.org/index.htm

And to conclude, some Schengen pop culinaria…

Schengen Restaurant – Delhi

The Indian Schengen

The Indian Schengen

Echoes of Europe in a review of Delhi’s Schengen restaurant:

“Schengen is unmissable, with its bright lights, all-white exterior… (…). Yet as you enter there is a nagging sense that there is way too much space. (…) Schengen is a massive space to fill…”

Europe’s borders in 2014: a visual review

It’s been an eventful year for border-related matters in Europe. Here are some visual highlights of the last 12 months…

February 2014

EUhh! The Swiss vote no to more European migrants

Eu Swiss referendum

March 2014

Crime(a) and punishment: Russian crimeans can’t apply for Schengen visas

Crimea Schengen 2

May 2014

All’s quiet on the Eastern front: Polish-German border 10 years after enlargement

Polish-German border

October 2014

Surreal Melilla: Golfers vs migrants in the Spanish enclave

Melilla vs golfers

October 2014

Parking Lot Desperation: Syrian cars at Turkish border near Kobani

Kobani cars

November 2014 

The new marshmallows: ISIS fighters burn French passports

french-passports-isis-fighters.si

December 2014

The answer my friend…: anti-migrant Calais fence blown by the wind

Calais fence

January-December 2014

Mediterranean Blues: more boats, rescues and drownings…

Mediterranean rescue

See you all in 2015!!!

Mapping Schengen Art – Part V

Here is the fifth instalment of Schengen border art, an ongoing project in which I map the multifarious ways in which the Old Continent’ (real and imaginary) frontiers have been represented/performed/subverted..

Isaac Julien – Western Union: Small Boats (The Leopard) (Video Installation, 2014)

Isaac Julien, “Western Union Series no. 1 (Cast No Shadow)”

http://www.isaacjulien.com/installations/smallboats

Mimmo Paladino – Porta di Lampedusa, Porta D’Europa (sculpture, 2008)

Paladino Lampedusa

http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/africans-remembered-a-memorial-for-europe-s-lost-migrants-a-560218.html

Lena Malm, Sarah Green – Borderwork: A visual journey through periphery frontier regions (2014 photo-book)

jasilti_border-kannet-1070_large

http://www.jasilti.com/se/borderwork-bok

The Splendours and Miseries of the Schengen Zone (theatre performances, Riga, 2014)

Eurovision1

http://www.riga2014.org/eng/news/52867-the-splendours-and-miseries-of-the-schengen-zone-in-four-plays

Schengen Schege (band, Brussels)

Malik Nejmi  – “4160″ (video installation, 2014)

Mediterranean nightmares and Freudian ships: how Europe externalizes its migration anxiety

EU interdiction

These days news outlets around the world are plastered with images of Southern European countries’ coastguard vessels intercepting rickety dinghies trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. This practice is one of the most notable instances of what Aristide Zolberg calls ‘remote control’, or the array of policies and practices aimed at managing migratory flows before they reach a country’s territory. The externalization of migration management is not a new phenomenon, and not unique to Europe. The Unites States, after all, ‘invented’ the concept of interdiction in the high seas as way to stem the flow of Haitians, Cubans and other undesired migrants heading to El Norte. Yet there is something new about recent developments, both in terms of breath and scope. More problematically, these policies remain highly controversial, raising various ethical and legal issues for the governments that implement them.

All this raises the question: why are these policies so popular? The typical answer offered, the one favoured by politicians – is that it is a very efficient way to address the challenge of unwanted migration. If migrants cannot be managed after they reach their destination, why not contain them before they get there? These policies have also the great advantage of taking place outside the legal boundaries that constrain liberal democracies, thus relieving receiving countries from potential liabilities. They also allow to shift the burden to countries of origin and transit, which are invested with the sole responsibility (with only limited financial and logistical support) of dealing with unwanted migrants.

It is a very simple and appealing logic. It also seems very rational. In this sense it echoes what economists would call ‘externalization’, the idea that in order to maximize profits a business may  off load indirect costs to a third party. Whether this strategy is really effective when applied to the migration realm is, however, debatable. The cost of setting up remote control operations and supporting them with all the latest technological gizmos is ballooning. There is also no easy way to measure success. (More detections on the high sea? Or less?). Certainly, it raises serious issues of fairness. While they do receive some (meagre) compensation, sending and transit countries often do not really have a choice when confronted with their powerful counterparts’ requests. And opposition from various quarters (not just the usual suspects, such as the NGOs galaxy, but also greater sections of the European population) is mounting as well. I wonder, however, if the answer to the question of why these policies are so popular among policy-makers has not much to do with rational calculations, but something more subtle and thus less apparent. After all, economists are not the only ones talking about ‘externalization’. This concept has been famously explored by the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. From a Freudian perspective, externalization is an unconscious copying mechanism aimed at soothing the anxieties that engulf our daily lives. This process occurs when we find a target – be it a person or an object – in which we project our own characteristics, often negative ones. This mechanism has an important ‘positive’ function. Without the relief that it offers, we would soon reach a state of chronic neurosis. Its sides effects are equally nasty, however, since it can have deleterious consequences on the subjects of our projections, our relations with them and, more generally, on our public image. The silver lining in this phenomenon is that it is typically temporary and that it can be reversed when our level of anxiety gets under control. Whether this is possible when dealing with cases of collective externalization (that is, when it is not just an individual involved but an entire community) is another story. Envisioning Europe’s remote control saga through a psychoanalytic lens, however, points to the fact that politicians’ fascination with these highly toxic policies has more to do with ‘internal’ reasons than external ones. If Europe really wants to confront its uncomfortable relationship with migration, it might have to start by looking at itself in the mirror.

Waging the Euro-Russian ‘visa war’

download

It would be a bit of an understatement to say that relations between Russia and European governments have recently turned rather frosty. Indeed, we now typically hear references to a new ‘Cold War’, with Ukraine acting as battleground in this revamped East-West rivalry. Despite the militaristic undertones that characterise their relationship, the growing tensions between the two sides have not led to open conflict. Both, after all, would have a lot to lose from this confrontation. This state of affairs, however, does not mean that another type of war, one not involving tanks and missiles, is being waged. It is a war over mobility of people, fought through an unlikely weapon of mass disruption, namely visas.

European governments have in fact created a ‘black list’ of Russian public officials who are deemed personae non gratae and banned from entering the EU. European officials present this move as an initial warning shot before harsher measures (i.e. economic sanctions) are introduced as a means to put pressure on their Russian counterparts. Whether these threats of escalation will materialise is a matter of debate. It is no secret that Europeans are divided on what to do with Russia, and it is unlikely that they would irreparably antagonise their bilateral relations with Moscow. There is a good chance then that visas will remain Europe’s sole offensive instrument deployed in this conflict. Europe’s mighty arsenal may therefore largely consist of nothing more than a piece of paper.

Still, we should be careful not to underestimate the power of this ‘soft’ weapon. For the Russian elites (be they tycoons or well-connected public officials) access to Europe is a sensitive issue, given their enduring fascination and extensive (and often murky) economic dealings with the Old Continent. Europeans are well aware of this soft spot, and it is therefore not surprising that they are trying to take advantage of it as much they can.

There is another aspect of this conflict that often goes unnoticed, however. The visa issue is not a matter of concern only for Russian elites. The most recent statistics published by Frontex, the EU border agency, are revealing in this regard. As shown in Chart 1 below, by far the largest percentage of short-term uniform visas issued for Schengen countries are for individuals who are based in Russia, at 41.7 per cent of the total in 2012. The country with the next largest percentage of visas issued is Ukraine, at only 9 per cent of the total.

Chart 1: Percentage of short-term uniform visas issued for Schengen countries by country of issue/application (2012)

Visa 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: European Commission Directorate-General Home Affairs

In turn, as Chart 2 shows, the rejection rate for Russian applicants is among the smallest of the top 20 countries where visas are issued. Of those applications for a Schengen visa made in Russia in 2012, only 0.9 per cent were refused. For comparison, the country with the largest refusal rate, Algeria, had 26.7 per cent of applications being refused.

Chart 2: Visa refusal rate for top 20 countries where Schengen visas were issued in 2012

Visa refusals 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: European Commission Directorate-General Home Affairs

This being the case, a cynic might argue that an appealing alternative avenue to intensify the pressure on the Kremlin could well be making it harder for ordinary Russians to obtain the sought-after pass to Europe. And yet banning a rich source of income for a continent still recovering from a devastating crisis does not seem be such a smart move. The potential for such a move to backfire is undoubtedly high.

This route should not be completely dismissed, however. European officials could use the visa issue as a bargaining chip in their dealings with Russia. Indeed, something along these lines is already happening. One example of this is that the EU has refused to allow residents of Crimea to apply for visas via Russian institutions and instead will only provide visas to these citizens if they apply in Ukraine – despite the annexation of the peninsula by Russia. The Commission has justified this by stating that it will issue visas via Ukraine because “Crimea is a part of this country”.

European officials could also include in the mix a possible revival of the longstanding discussion over the lifting of visa requirements for Russian nationals, which even before the latest events in Ukraine had hit some road blocks. The EU suspended negotiations over a visa-free arrangement with Russia in March, after the Crimean crisis began. All things considered, the story of the EU-Russian visa war may just be getting under way.

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