Humanitarianism, Borders, and the Governance of Mobility: The EU and the 'Refugee Crisis' (HumBORDER)

Humanitarianism, Borders, and the Governance of Mobility: The EU and the 'Refugee Crisis' (HumBORDER)
Photo: UNHCR Photo Unit (CC-BY-NC, via flickr)
Led by Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert
Aug 2017 - Dec 2022

​The primary objective of this project is to understand how new types of humanitarian spaces are created and carved out outside, on and inside the geographical borders destined to govern mobility. This involves three secondary objectives: 

  1. To examine and analyse the humanitarian and security interfaces in the European borderlands, and how they mutually influence each other. 
  2. To explain the role borders play in the constitution of humanitarian spaces globally, as a means to better understand the creation of humanitarian spaces in the European borderlands. 
  3. Finally, to contribute to a Political Sociology of Humanitarianism, as a thematic sub-field of International Political Sociology. ​

The external borders of the European Union (EU) have come under increased scrutiny in recent years, especially with what has become known as the 'refugee crisis'. New situations of humanitarian suffering have emerged, outside, along and inside the European borders, in different ways related to the difficulty or impossibility for some individuals to cross these borders. 

This has led to the emergence of new 'humanitarian spaces' alongside the border security agencies with a mandate to control the borders, as well as inside Europe. These new 'humanitarian spaces' differ in many ways from how they have been understood traditionally in the global borderlands. The HumBORDER project examines these new humanitarian spaces, and how they in different ways are due to and how they relate to border regimes and the politics destined to govern mobility. As part of this development, the project also analyzes the humanitarian and security interfaces in Europe through a socio-legal analysis of the evolving boundaries between legality and illegality in humanitarian action, and the turn to criminalization as a mode of governing humanitarian space as well as the self-protection practices of people on the move. The project explores the co-constitutive relationship between processes of legalization and regulation and the rise of illegalities. 

The HumBORDER project takes a global scope to understand the role of borders in humanitarianism, and the European Union and the 'refugee crisis' as a specific case to study the new issues that arise. It does so through a three-pronged methodological approach: 

  1. It examines the role of borders in constituting humanitarian crisis, and how state vs. humanitarian governance responds to them; 
  2. It takes a three dimensional approach to the borders, through its land, sea and air spaces, as a means to understand the way the EU borders function (socio-politically and legally), and how these create different forms of humanitarian suffering, responsibilities and responses; and 
  3. It studies specific humanitarian responses to the 'refugee crisis', by established humanitarian organizations and new volunteer initiatives that have emerged, through case studies in Greece, France and Norway. 

By investigating these issues through a multidisciplinary approach, at the core of contemporary humanitarianism, the HumBORDER project will contribute to further developing the emergent thematic sub-field of a Political Sociology of Humanitarianism


Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Martins, Bruno Oliveira; Kristoffer Lidén & Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert (2022) Border security and the digitalisation of sovereignty: insights from EU borderwork, European Security 31(3): 475–494.
Akal, Ayşe Bala (2022) Third Country Processing Regimes and the Violation of the Principle of Non-Refoulement: a Case Study of Australia’s Pacific Solution, Journal of International Migration and Integration. DOI: 10.1007/s12134-022-00948-z.
Martins, Bruno Oliveira & Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert (2020) EU Border technologies and the co-production of security ‘problems’ and ‘solutions’, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. DOI: 10.1080/1369183X.2020.1851470.
Jumbert, Maria Gabrielsen (2020) Making it “Easy to Help”: The Evolution of Norwegian Volunteer Initiatives for Refugees, International Migration. DOI: 10.1111/imig.12805: 1–12.

Book Chapter

Jumbert, Maria Gabrielsen (2018) European Responses to the Mediterranean 'Refugee Crisis' and the Fear of Saving Lives, in Weatherburn, Amy; Elzbieta Kuzelewska; & Dariusz (Darek) Kloza, eds, Irregular Migration as a Challenge for Democracy. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Intersentia Ltd. (113–122).
Jumbert, Maria Gabrielsen & Linn Marie Reklev (2018) Shaping the political space for resettlement: The debate on burden-sharing in Norway following the Syrian refugee crisis, in Sandvik, Kristin Bergtora; Adèle Garnier; & Liliana Jubilut, eds, Refugee Resettlement: Power, Politics and Humanitarian Governance. New York: Berghahn Books (159–182).

Popular Article

Akal, Ayşe Bala & Mathias Hatleskog Tjønn (2022) Rerouting Europe-bound refugees to the Global South ignores their human rights, Peace News Network, 29 July.
Erdal, Marta Bivand & Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert (2022) Different Responses to Mobility at Europe’s Borders, Border Criminologies blog, 31 March.
Akal, Ayşe Bala (2021) Denmark leading the race to the bottom: Hostility as a form of migration control, RLI Blog on Refugee Law and Forced Migration, 29 September.
Jumbert, Maria Gabrielsen (2021) When the storm subsides: what happened to grassroots initiatives assisting refugees?, ISS blog on Global Development and Social Justice, 28 May.

PRIO Policy Brief

Hemat, Lise Endregard (2022) Trends in the Digitalisation of EU Borders: How Experimentations with AI for Border Control Treat Migrants as Test Subjects, PRIO Policy Brief, 15. Oslo: PRIO.

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