Montesquieu Instituut: van wetenschap naar samenleving

The EU's Proxy Wars on Refugees, Den Haag

Ridderzaal in Den Haag
© Kevin Bergenhenegouwen
datum 4 juni 2015 13:00 - 14:00
plaats Den Haag, Egypte
locatie Room 4.01 Toon locatie
zaal Room 4.01
organisatie International Institute of Social Studies (ISS)


Research in Progress Seminar by Helen Hintjens (ISS) and Ahmed Pouri (Stichting PRIME, The Hague):

"The Mediterranean Sea has for centuries been the cradle of...civilisation. It has today become a huge graveyard, as thousands of migrants continue to drown under Europe’s distracted look" (Nils Muiznieks in Open Security blog, 22.4.2015).

We hear a lot these days about ‘proxy wars’, fought for example in Syria between Iran and Saudi Arabia, themselves proxies of Russia and the US, or in Yemen. As armies and armed groups backed by Saudi and Iran, the US and Turkey, wreak havoc across the fertile crescent, in Libya, there is said to be emerging a: “…proxy war…between Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Algeria on one side and Qatar and Turkey on the other side" (as reported by Mohamed Eljarh of the Atlantic Council, in Middle East Eye).

These kinds of proxy wars are also underpinned by a longer-term war of exclusion and containment - a proxy war on refugees. This worldwide war has specific manifestations around the EU, a region that seems to specialise in setting a bad example. Those defined away as 'unwanted humanity' are increasingly confined to camps, kept as a proxy for protecting the 'values of the modern world'. Meanwhile, the lives and bodies of refugees who flee danger and insecurity, are caught in a permanent limbo, from which no escape appears possible unless attitudes and policies change fundamentally. Besides Security and Development, a third 'leg' of the triangle - the angle of Containment.

This seminar presents some collaborative and exploratory research which draws on critical security studies, especially the work of Mark Duffield, and the sociology of Zygmunt Baumann. It positions the unwanted bodies of refugee men, women, children, at the axis of tensions within the Security-Development-Containment 'triangle', in relation to the politics of Containment, deterrence has been the main approach in the past.

In mid-May 2015 it was reported that: “EU leaders have accepted that using force will kill adults and children boarding boats in Libya”, and yet the Ministers showed a willingness to contemplate the use of force nonetheless. Meanwhile, development policies which ought to prevent refugee and migrant movements have also failed to 'stem the tide' of refugees and migrants. There are signs of a possible turnaround, however, There are calls for opening up the borders considerably, to avoid further massive losses at sea. Surely nothing can justify military intervention against smugglers and traffickers, the new terrorists of the contemporary 'moral panic' that has beset EU leaders. Humanitarian agencies and NGOs have also started rescuing people at sea, not waiting for the coastguard or others to do so. Will 'unwanted humanity' and their 'wasted lives' become wanted again in future, or will their bodies and their lives remain less valuable to the EU member states than ordinary cargo?

See for more information Kristen Cheney


International Institute of Social Studies (ISS)

To be an institutionally-independent, research-led graduate school in the social sciences, teaching-based, contributing to public debate, influencing public opinion and policy-making on issues of development, equity and human rights worldwide. It is to maintain high standards of quality, training students from developing and transition countries in particular with its international, top-level staff.


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