A Humanitarian Battlefield

Redefining Border Control as Saving Victims

Authored by: Pierluigi Musarò

The Routledge Companion To Media and Humanitarian Action

Print publication date:  September  2017
Online publication date:  September  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138688575
eBook ISBN: 9781315538129
Adobe ISBN:


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With more than a million migrants and asylum seekers reaching Europe, 2015 has become known as the year of Europe’s “migration crisis.” Nevertheless, crisis narratives represent a form of appropriation by policymakers to manage the migration flow, while justifying their restrictive interventions. Focusing on how the militarization of migration and border controls has been explicitly bound with notions of humanitarianism, the chapter explores how the current focus on both the securitarian and humanitarian sides of the phenomenon supports a more complex logic of threat and benevolence that allows for a security–humanitarian response. Drawing upon the role of the media in war and humanitarian crisis management, the article analyzes how representation strategies and discursive practices enacted by the Italian Navy during the operation Mare Nostrum transform the threatening spectacle of the “migrant invasion” into the compassionate spectacle of the “humanitarian battlefield.” It concludes with remarks on the double-sided nature of humanitarian governance of migration concerned with care and control.

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