Akhigbe on Gaibazzi and Bellagamba and Dünnwald and eds., 'EurAfrican Borders and Migration Management: Political Cultures, Contested Spaces, and Ordinary Lives'

Paolo Gaibazzi, Alice Bellagamba, Stephan Dünnwald, eds.
Allwell O. Akhigbe

Paolo Gaibazzi, Alice Bellagamba, Stephan Dünnwald, eds. EurAfrican Borders and Migration Management: Political Cultures, Contested Spaces, and Ordinary Lives. Palgrave Series in African Borderlands Studies. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. 307 pp. $159.99 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-349-94971-7; $159.99 (paper), ISBN 978-1-349-95691-3.

Reviewed by Allwell O. Akhigbe (University of Ibadan) Published on H-Borderlands (January, 2020) Commissioned by Maria de los Angeles Picone (Boston College)

Printable Version: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=54450

EurAfrican Borders and Migration Management traces how European border management has moved into Africa and how African actors have influenced it. The edited volume by Paolo Gaibazzi, Alice Bellagamba, and Stephen Dünnwald is thematically divided into four parts: framing EurAfrican borders, places, actors, and lives. The first part sets the tone of the work by arguing that “Europe’s external borders have also become African borders, indeed EurAfrican ones” (p. 10). Martin Lemberg-Pederson notes that enhanced European border controls have led to “border-induced displacement” or further displacement of African migrants through such policies as detention camps and deportation (p. 31).

The second part concerns the places where the EurAfrican borders are manifest across Africa. The border fences of Ceuta and Melilla are sites of intense interaction by the Spanish inhabitants of the cities, Moroccan laborers, and sub-Saharan migrants despite the installation of high-tech gadgets. Away from the North African frontier, another place of the EurAfrican border is at Bamako, the Malian capital where European Union (EU) externalization efforts are constrained by local politics, regional free movement, the influence of the Malian diaspora, and suspicions of neocolonialism ascribed to France. Clara Lecadet locates three migrant deportation ghettoes of Tinzawaten, Gao, and Bamako as places of self-reorganization for migrants to set off again on their migration quests rather than returning home.

The third part considers important actors that consolidate the EurAfrican border management system. Libya during the Qadhafi and post-Qadhafi era consistently framed the state as a transit place rather than a destination for irregular migrants simply to get readmitted into the international community. In reality, Libya is an attractive destination for sub-Saharan migrants seeking employment. Francesca Zampagni notes how the desire of the Italian consulate in Senegal to ensure zero migratory risks in visa applications effectively excludes several classes of people, including footballers, students, unemployed people, and relatively poor tourists, whereas Europeans are not treated to any visa regime in Senegal and several West African states. The French consulate in Cameroon also approaches the marriage visa process with suspicion of Cameroonian women framed as “greedy,” looking to exploit “vulnerable” French men in phony marriages. The consulates are, therefore, “delocalized borders” where bordering is carried out through visa procedures (p. 182). This section concludes with Gaibazzi’s chapter on how Italian and Tunisian youth activists used the Arab Spring to promote shared Euro-Mediterranean concerns over unemployment, lack of political freedom, and anti-EU border regimes in 2011.

The final part dwells on the lives affected by the EurAfrican borders system. Senegalese fishermen who become irregular migrants to the Canary Islands as a result of dwindling economic fortunes are intercepted and repatriated back to Senegal due to their government’s readmission agreements with Spain. Eritrean asylum seekers experience the “frontiers of violence” through abductions, torture, and detention in the hands of smugglers, human traffickers, and complicit border officials as well as forced returns from Israel (p. 248). Furthermore, the legal system and informal economy in Italy keep Moroccan irregular migrants in limbo as they are routinely exploited by their employers in a bid to regularize their status. David Coplan’s epilogue in chapter 13 contends that the European border management system has become “entangled, accommodated, modified and contested in African contexts” (p. 285). The EurAfrican border may persist with migrants who are resilient in breaching “Fortress Europe” and the European policymakers determined to keep them.

The book is very helpful in setting out the major issues of the externalization of the European border management system in Africa. The essays are set in the first two decades of the twenty-first century and feature such events as the creation of Frontex in 2004, the Arab Spring of 2011, and the migration crisis of 2015. Dividing the arguments of the contributors into the places, actors, and lives of migrants affected by the EurAfrican border provides for different perspectives to trace its impact in Africa. The book, however, has a few limitations. The first is the concentration of analyses on only a few particular states in Africa. Mali is the subject of discussion of two chapters on the reorganization of migrants in deportation ghettoes as well as Bamako as a migration hub while Senegal also takes up two chapters for maritime migration of fishermen and visa filtering by the Italian consulate. While this could be understood as both states feature prominently as source states for irregular migration, it leaves out other case studies that might bolster the study of irregular migration. For example, Nigeria accounts for 17 percent of the irregular migrants surveyed for research in thirteen European states.[1] Inclusion of a section on the EurAfrican border in Benin City, Nigeria, as a migration hub, for instance, would have helped strengthen the overall argument of the edited book. Additionally, considering African regional economic communities as significant actors in the EurAfrican border system would have strengthened the argument. For instance, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has taken steps to counter West African irregular migration in its 2008 Common Approach to Migration and the establishment of joint border posts as part of the EurAfrican border system most recently at the Seme-Krake borders of Nigeria and Benin and Noepe-Akanu borders of Ghana and Togo. The African Union Border Program (AUBP) is a continent-wide initiative that seeks to properly demarcate the boundaries of its states and promote good border management to stem irregular migration to Europe.

Nevertheless, EurAfrican Borders and Migration Management makes a rich contribution, especially to scholarship on African borderlands. Several “dislocated borders” are identified from the embassies to the North African frontiers to capitals of migration hubs that indicate how versatile the European externalization system to prevent irregular migration is. Moreover, the work speaks to the power of African agency in the mismatched European and African attempts to jointly manage migration. From the Malian government officials seeking better European offers to Libya’s representation of itself as solely a transit state to the reorganization of the deported migrants in ghettoes, the African parties—both the governments and irregular migrants—can assert their interests and pursue them within the wider EurAfrican border system. To its credit, EurAfrican Borders and Migration Management is a non-technical read that would appeal to both experts in migration and borderlands studies and the general reader interested in understanding the dynamics of migration from sub-Saharan Africa to Europe and Europe’s attempts in managing it.


[1]. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report, Scaling Fences: Voices of Irregular African Migrants to Europe (2019), https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/librarypage/democratic-governance/ScalingFences.....

Citation: Allwell O. Akhigbe. Review of Gaibazzi, Paolo; Bellagamba, Alice; Dünnwald, Stephan; eds., EurAfrican Borders and Migration Management: Political Cultures, Contested Spaces, and Ordinary Lives. H-Borderlands, H-Net Reviews. January, 2020. URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=54450

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