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FRIHUMSAM-Fri prosj.st. hum og sam

Humanitarianism, Borders, and the Governance of Mobility: The EU and the Refugee Crisis

Alternative title: Grenser, Kontroll av Mobilitet og Humanitære situasjoner: EU og "Flyktningekrisen"

Awarded: NOK 5.6 mill.

Over the last years, the external borders of the European Union have become the centre of attention with what has come to be known as the "refugee crisis". The increased control of these borders over the last two to three decades has aimed at regulating and preventing what is defined as unwanted or irregular migration. Overall, these policies also make the access to Europe, and possibilities to seek international protection, more difficult for many populations who for different reasons have been forced to flee their homes. The risks that many take to cross these borders, coupled with the European governments' willingness to control and prevent such movement of people, has led to the appearance of different forms of humanitarian suffering outside, along and within the European borders: from the drownings in the Mediterranean, to the camps in Calais in Northern France or the dire situation of refugees stranded in Greece. This project aims to investigate the role that borders, and the policies to manage them, play in the creation of humanitarian situations, using Europe as a case study, but also studying the role of borders in humanitarian crises internationally. It does so by investigating different dimensions of the borders - land, air and sea - to understand how they function, how they are managed and what type of humanitarian situations they lead to. It also examines specifically the humanitarian responses, whether from established humanitarian organisations or new volunteer initiatives, to situations as they have appeared in Greece, France and Norway. In discussions around different responses towards migrants crossing the Mediterranean, mostly from Libya to Italy, the project has looked more closely at what is often set up as a tension between needs for border control on the one hand and humanitarian rescue operations on the other. Hereunder, the project has also given increased attention to processes of criminalization of humanitarian aid, as well as criminalization as a mode of governing humanitarian space. The project has organized seminars covering different aspects of the responses to the 'refugee reception crisis': a first seminar looked at the relationship between new volunteer initiatives and established humanitarian organizations, and how their roles as "humanitarian" or "social movements" are understood; and a second one looked at criminalization, both of humanitarian aid and by humanitarian actors. A project workshop at the end of 2021 will gather project members and key scholars in the field, to take stock of recent years' study of "humanitarian borders" and identify needs for further research. The third and fourth year of the project has focused on completing a number of written output, including an edited volume gathering contributions on how citizen humanitarian initiatives across Europe, and beyond EU borders, have sought to bring assistance to refugees and other migrants, and in the process also reshaping borders and how humanitarian aid is conceived. The volume, "Citizen Humanitarianism at European Borders", was published in May 2021. The project frequently engages with actors in the humanitarian field, and is affiliated with the Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies (NCHS) and the PRIO Migration Centre, through which it also disseminates its findings. We have in 2020 and 2021 also followed the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on different protection mechanisms for refugees.

The external borders of the European Union (EU) have come under increased scrutiny in recent years, especially with what has become known as the 'refugee crisis'. New situations of humanitarian suffering have emerged, outside, along and inside the European borders, in different ways related to the difficulty or impossibility for some individuals to cross these borders. This has led to the emergence of new 'humanitarian spaces' alongside the border security agencies with a mandate to control the borders, as well as inside Europe. These new 'humanitarian spaces' differ in many ways from how they have been understood traditionally in the global borderlands. The HumBORDER project examines these new humanitarian spaces, and how they in different ways are due to and how they relate to border regimes and the politics destined to govern mobility. It takes a global scope to understand the role of borders in humanitarianism, and the European Union and the 'refugee crisis' as a specific case to study the new issues that arise. It does so through a three-pronged methodological approach: (1) It examines the role of borders in constituting humanitarian crisis, and how state vs. humanitarian governance responds to them; (2) It takes a three dimensional approach to the borders, through its land, sea and air spaces, as a means to understand the way the EU borders function (socio-politically and legally), and how these create different forms of humanitarian suffering, responsibilities and responses; and (3) It studies specific humanitarian responses to the 'refugee crisis', by established humanitarian organizations and new volunteer initiatives that have emerged, through case studies in Greece, France and Norway. By investigating these issues through a multidisciplinary approach, at the core of contemporary humanitarianism, the HumBORDER project will contribute to further developing the emergent thematic sub-field of a Political Sociology of Humanitarianism.

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FRIHUMSAM-Fri prosj.st. hum og sam