Since the start of this decade external borders of the European Union have increasingly become sites of hardship, uncertainty, danger and death as hundreds of thousands of people every year attempt to enter Europe to escape war and poverty in North and Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. The year 2015 saw the arrival of over one million people via maritime routes, an unprecedented number that caused panic among politicians on the continent and unsettled societies of the “old” and the “new” European Union. Neo-nationalist and neo-fascist parties and movements gained significant ground. In June of 2016 voters in the United Kingdom chose to leave the European Union in the Brexit referendum whose erratic consequences will continue to play out for some time to come. The migratory crisis of the previous year fuelled the “Leave” vote by creating the perception that immigration to the EU is unchecked, and that the UK must “take control of its borders.” While it is not yet known what exactly is meant by “taking control,” we can observe that as a result of these events the terms and conditions of migration, mobility and citizenship in Europe are shifting. In this talk I will argue that this is a shift away from what I call the neoliberal-humanitarian consensus towards a new model whose exact shape is as yet undetermined, but whose emergent features are illuminated by recent anthropological scholarship. Drawing on the UK case study I will show that the control of borders and regulation of mobility is undergoing a distinct anti-humanitarian turn. I will explore the significance and prospects of this new anti-humanitarianism and the possibilities of anthropological insight.
migration, borders, Brexit, Mediterranean, anthropology