Deaths, disappearances, borders: Migrant disappearability as a technology of deterrence

Ville Laakkonen (Tampere University)
Publication Year
Europe and Central Asia
Thematic Area
Families / Forensics / Law & Policies / Mechanisms / Technology & Data / The Search Process
Enforced Disappearance / Family Needs / Human Rights / Law – International / Law – National / Migration / Refugee
Open access

This paper analyses migrant disappearances in connection to EU bordering practices and techniques. Drawing on fieldwork in various localities at Greek borderlands, I argue that death or disappearance, due to drowning, hypothermia, exhaustion, violence, deprivation of medical care, and road accidents, to name but a few examples, has become an integral part of border enforcement in the Global North. To engage analytically with such an instantiation of border violence, I propose to utilise the notion of migrant disappearability. This disappearability is a produced condition (as opposed to accidently or randomly appearing) of everyday existence that does not necessarily lead to death or disappearance but, nevertheless, exerts pressure towards certain kind of precarities and threats by limiting the horizon of possibilities racialised migrants from the Global South have ahead of them. Furthermore, the state of being disappearable is a social space one constantly enters, leaves, re-enters and leaves again; rather than being at the forefront at all times, it looms above like a ghost.