The Challenge to Biopolitical Borders? Humanitarian and Human Rights Surveillance

Authors: OZGUN TOPAK*,
Topics: Political Geography, Immigration/Transnationalism, Human Rights
Keywords: Borders, surveillance, humanitarianism, human rights
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 2:35 PM / 4:15 PM
Room: Virginia A, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The European biopolitical borders has traditionally rested on hidden surveillance activities of border authorities which have contributed to human rights violations (such as ‘push-back’ and ‘left-to-die’ practices), and rising migrant death toll at the borderzones. Recently a number of humanitarian and activist organizations, including Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Sea-Watch and WatchTheMed, have organized themselves to aid migrants in distress at sea using surveillance technologies, from drones to alarm phone systems. By doing so they presented a challenge to the European border surveillance regime. This paper mobilizes the concepts of humanitarian surveillance and human rights surveillance and uses these concepts to examine and categorize the activities of MOAS, MSF, Sea-Watch and WatchTheMed. The paper shows how the civilian groups incorporate elements of humanitarian and human rights surveillance in their activities and discusses to what extent they challenge the European biopolitical surveillance regime.

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