Faculty of law blogs / UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD

Everyday Violence and Resistance in Europe’s ‘Migration Management’ During the Covid-19 Pandemic



Time to read

2 Minutes

Introductory post by Dr Marta Welander and Dr Susanne Jaspars. Marta is a critical border and migration scholar and activist, and Susanne is an independent researcher and research associate at SOAS, University of London, focussing on the politics of food security, humanitarian crisis and forced migration. In this post, the authors introduce a Border Criminologies blog series dedicated to ten unique research and practice-inspired blog posts exploring everyday violence and resistance at Europe’s borders.

Calais Jungle (Photo: Sarah Story, Refugee Info Bus)

Welcome to this blog series on everyday violence and resistance in Europe’s ‘migration management’ during the Covid-19 pandemic. People on the move across Europe are continuously met by a heavy-handed state response. EU-wide and national-level policies and practices are causing widespread human suffering and countless human rights infringements across the continent. The situation for people on the move deteriorated during the Covid-19 pandemic, when states adopted increasingly strict border control policies and when the public health situation in border zones reached critical levels. These practices are worsening the protection and humanitarian crisis at the heart of Europe. 

The European Union was founded on the values of human rights and human dignity, with the conviction that adherence to these values is crucial to avoiding the atrocities that scarred Europe during the first half of the 20th century. In the context of people on the move, these very values are now being eroded, as Europe’s asylum and migration system is increasingly centred on securitisation, criminalisation and exclusion. We are witnessing ever-increased funding for restrictive border management and the externalisation of asylum responsibilities through ‘cooperation’ with third countries, as well as illegal pushbacks at internal and external European borders. 

Identifying not only as academics but also as practitioners and activists, with years of immersion into the current situation for people on the move in Europe, we have come to develop the concepts of ‘everyday cruelties’ (Susanne) and the ‘politics of exhaustion’ (Marta) – as a way to seek a conceptualisation of some of the most insidious and invisibilised forms of structural and state violence perpetrated against humans seeking sanctuary in Europe.

Based on these concepts, we hosted a panel session at the International Humanitarian Studies Association’s global conference in Paris in November 2021. It was due to the synergies between our work – both theoretically and practically – that we decided to come together to host this conference session which looked further into the everyday violence faced by people on the move. We were delighted and honoured to be joined by a group of fantastic contributors in this panel; scholars, practitioners, advocates and activists, some of whom had lived experience of seeking asylum in Europe.

This blog series, kindly hosted by Border Criminologies, presents the key issues from ten of the conference papers. Some of the blogs present a rather bleak picture of the state of affairs, looking at some of the most insidious forms of violence endured by people on the move. However, several of the blogs in the series allow us to shift our attention to the many ways in which migrants, activists and other allies respond to the apparatuses of power, to the everyday violence and the technologies of the politics of exhaustion. As such, we also find the possibilities of articulating new political subjectivities and forms of resistance within border zones. This is, therefore, a necessary but hopeful discussion about where we need to go from here to collectively denounce and resist the violence and injustice and humanitarian crisis unfolding before us.

On that note, we invite you to dive into this blog series and welcome any thoughts you may wish to share through the comments section. Thank you.

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How to cite this blog post (Harvard style) 

Welander, M. and Jaspars, S. (2022) Everyday Violence and Resistance in Europe’s ‘Migration Management’ During the Covid-19 Pandemic. Available at: https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/centre-criminology/centreborder-criminologies/blog/2022/02/everyday-violence [date]

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