Borders & Refugee Women – Overview

This project was completed as a Doctoral thesis by Alison Gerard in 2012 through Monash University, and examines the impact of policies and practices of the ‘securitisation of migration’ (Husymans 2006) on women’s experiences across four key stages: exit, transit, arrival in Malta and onward migration.

Securitisation permeates migration by influencing discourses, policy and in constructing migration by selected groups of people as a security risk that requires a security response. European integration has driven the securitisation of migration and three themes are identified by Husymans (2006) as internal security, cultural identity and competitive access to welfare within the EU.

The securitisation of migration seeks to illegalise particular transnational migrant subjects (Kapur 2005) through: enhanced border policing capacities and controls (Andreas 2000, 2003; Nevins 2001; Pickering 2005, 2011; Pickering and Weber 2006; Anderson 2000; Bigo 2002, 2005); the construction of migration as a security risk (Huysmans 2000; Koslowski 2001; Huysmans 2006); and ‘selective and targeted’ re-bordering as regards migration (Rumford 2006; Wonders 2006, 2007; Cunningham and Heyman 2004; Carpenter 2006; Khosravi 2010).

This research likens the manifestation of reasserted sovereignty through border securitisation, to punitive ‘law and order’ approaches that seek to affirm the myth of a sovereign’s ability to control crime (Garland 1990, 1996). In doing so, it argues the elements of the securitisation of migration policies, discourse and practices coalesce to produce dynamic but familiar criminal justice responses –risk-reduction, punishment and deterrence.

Somalia represents one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world. Violence, insecurity and instability in Somalia have contributed to expanding refugee populations in neighbouring countries and also in Malta.

Based on qualitative interviews with Somali women who have travelled irregularly to Malta, and key state and non-government organization (NGO) stakeholders, this research considers the layers of exile and vulnerability engendered by crossing various borders to successfully arrive in the European Union. This project understands that efforts to secure the EU’s external border result in a lived experience of gendered and racialised violence, separation from family, and heightened exposure to risk and harm for transnational migrant subjects.

Finally, this project traces the gendered and racialized processes of immobilizing irregular migrants in Malta through legal and administrative policies of mandatory detention and the Dublin II Regulation, and through social and economic policy in Malta.