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Survival and predation in the everyday political economy of the refugee emergency in Lesvos

Konferensbidrag (offentliggjort, men ej förlagsutgivet)
Författare Anja K. Franck
Publicerad i Contested borderscapes: Transnational Geographies vis-à-vis Fortress Europe
Publiceringsår 2017
Publicerad vid Centrum för Europaforskning (CERGU)
Institutionen för globala studier
Språk en
Ämneskategorier Social och ekonomisk geografi, Internationell Migration och Etniska Relationer (IMER), Freds- och utvecklingsforskning


The humanitarian emergency that has unfolded in the Island of Lesvos over the past couple of years has echoed in media outlets the world over. Images of refugees in over-crowded rubber dinghies landing on the northern beaches and the appalling conditions in different reception and detention camps across the island have come to symbolize the European Union’s fundamental failure in handling the so-called ‘refugee crisis’. In the Island of Lesvos the initial stages of this refugee emergency (the spring and summer of 2015) were characterized by a significant lack of resources and smaller local initiatives to aid and shelter arriving refugees. But with the mobilization of the international rescue industry and the deployment of EUropean security apparatus over the autumn of 2015, the island soon saw the arrival of thousands of volunteers and solidarity workers, aid, rescue and security professionals. Drawing upon interviews with local residents, public servants and decision-makers, business owners and their associations, volunteers, NGOs and international agencies across the island during 2015 and 2016, the following paper examines the political economy – or what could perhaps be termed the ‘disaster capitalism’ – that developed in Lesvos in the wake of the refugee emergency and its particular response. The paper shows how this ‘disaster capitalism’ involved a broad variety of actors – ranging from small-scale local businesses that were able to tap in to markets providing essential services and infrastructure for arriving refugees, volunteers, aid and security professionals to large international rescue and aid organizations, banks and security companies. Whereas these actors have varying objectives (from sheer profit seeking to solidarity), the following paper suggests that we can understand the ‘extraction of value’ in relation to the emergency using Ruben Anderson’s notion of a ‘predatory bio-economy’. In this economy the migrant and refugee body and life is essentially what is commoditized – and ‘the extraction of value’ then is ‘from the very vitality – and, above all, misery – of human life itself’ (Anderson 2016, 1). What is important about this conceptualization, the paper argues, is that it helps us explain the logic according to which actors in this economy (are sometimes forced to) operate – as security functions are outsourced to G4S, Western Union open offices in reception camps, NGOs become suppliers to detention facilities and selfies with refugee children become part of crowdfunding campaigns. Through this, the concept also helps us bring forward what is actually at stake in securitizing migration and outsourcing key functions of rescue operations, immigration control, refugee reception, detention etc to private as well as commercial interests.

Sidansvarig: Webbredaktion|Sidan uppdaterades: 2012-09-11

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