Interventions on the concept of externalisation in migration and border studies

About twenty years have passed since initial research on migration-related border externalisation began to be published (Andreas, 2003; Lahav & Guiraudon, 2000; Zolberg, 2003). Externalisation is the process through which states directly or indirectly operate activities related to border control outside their sovereign territories, namely in other countries or on the high seas. Practices of externalisation illustrate that the state itself is a dynamic and multi-scalar process “spread both inside and outside of state territory” (Moisio & Paasi, 2013: 257). Border functions are thus detached from the official demarcation lines of state boundaries (Casas-Cort´es et al., 2015; Cuttitta, 2015) and extend into forms of dispersed management practices turning from fixed-continuous lines to mobile and intermittent points or zones. Along with the spatio-temporal reconfiguration of state borders, externalisation entails a multiplication of the actors involved in border management, including non-state ones. Thus, sovereignty is extended and reworked in important ways (Jones et al., 2017; Mountz, 2013; Paasi et al., 2022), inevitably transforming externalisation in the process (Marino et al., 2022).

Two decades ago, the European Union (EU)’s policy of expanding migration management through “partnership with third countries” (European Council, 1999) was in its infancy. Today, externalisation remains high on the agenda of European policymakers. Similarly, many countries around the world have engaged in attempts to expand their borders outside their own territories in different ways. The US and Australia have been forerunners with their offshore temporary protection schemes (Lawler, 1994) and asylum procedures (Fleay & Hoffman, 2014), which arguably serve as ‘models’ (Scarpello, 2019) for Europe. Moreover, externalisation of migration control is also increasingly visible in relations within the Global South (Adamson & Tsourapas, 2020; Landau, 2019; Winters & Mora Izaguirre, 2019).

Research on externalisation has multiplied in the last two decades. Initially a niche area of study, externalisation has come to resemble a subfield, arguably leading to the rise of ‘externalisation studies’. Thanks to this emergence, externalisation literature has begun to identify lacunae in its approaches. For example, recent special issues have identified the need for studies of externalisation that center dynamics in countries – mostly in the Global South – which are supposedly the ‘objects’ of externalisation (Gazzotti et al., 2022; Stock et al., 2019), along with studies that examine the effects of local actors in transforming externalisation projects (Savio Vammen et al., 2022). These specific questions form part of a broader set of issues regarding how to conceptualise border externalisation (FitzGerald, 2020).

Full titleUnspecified
PublisherPolitical Geography 105 (2023) 102911
Media typeArticle
Topics European Externalization Policies & Cash Flows
Regions All Regions

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