Humanitarianism, human rights, and security in EUropean border governance: the case of Frontex
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This thesis explores the (re-)positioning of the EU border agency Frontex within a wider shift towards humanitarianism and human rights in EUropean border governance. By examining Frontex’s public self-representation through time, it shows that the agency has gradually appropriated humanitarianism and human rights, while at the same time continuing to rely on a conceptualisation of migration as a security issue. The thesis traces this development, outlining how the agency has increasingly mobilised all three discursive formations in its public narratives about itself, border controls, and unauthorised migration to EUrope. Seeking to move beyond analysing Frontex through its public documents and statements only, the thesis complements this analysis with insights gained through interviews and informal conversations with Frontex staff and guest officers, as well as participant observations at Frontex events and in joint operations between May 2013 and September 2014. Exploring the perceptions of those working for and with Frontex, it complicates common portrayals of Frontex as a unitary, rational actor in EUropean border governance. Instead, it argues that Frontex is better understood as a highly fragmented organisation situated in an ambiguous environment and faced with inconsistent and contradictory demands. Situated at the intersection of critical security studies and critical migration and border studies, this thesis seeks to make three contributions to these literatures: first, it argues that critical security studies would benefit from a cross-fertilisation with insights gained in new institutionalism, which add organisational dynamics as an additional layer of analysis to developments in broader security fields. Second, it provides insights into the relationships between the discursive formations of security, humanitarianism, and human rights in contemporary border governance. The thesis argues that the three formations, at times seen as opposed to one another, share a number of important commonalities that create the conditions of possibility for the appropriation of humanitarianism and human rights by security actors such as Frontex, and for the emergence of new coalitions of actors in the EUropean border regime; as security, humanitarian, and human rights actors share the goal of rendering EUropean border controls less (visibly) violent. Third, the thesis provides rare empirical insights into the security actor Frontex, which has remained relatively opaque and elusive despite attracting much interest within academic and activist communities alike.