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Considering the Carceral Potential of the Maritime in Migration Control

Authors: Andonea Dickson*, Queen Mary University of London
Topics: Migration, Political Geography
Keywords: Migration management, maritime geographies, carcerality
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Over recent decades, various governments have turned to maritime geographies in the pre-emptive policing of migration, deploying concentrated efforts of mobility regulation to territorial and extra-territorial seas. With and through this process of increased policing, the maritime has concurrently been expunged of frameworks of rights for migrants. This paper explores this hollowing out of rights at sea and how it has allowed governments to use maritime environments, and more broadly the condition of wetness as a means to hold migrants beyond the juridical order and administrative bodies of the state. Practices of containing migrants on and through the sea have become naturalized strategies of migration management and often precede more formal sites of immigration detention, such as in the context of Guantánamo in the US. This demonstrates how the maritime geography has become part of the “carceral circuitry” of immigration detention. The paper focusses on US policies of mobility control at sea during the 1990s to demonstrate the practices that contributed to the reframing of the maritime as a carceral space. The paper also exposes how methods of containing migrants on islands and at sea demonstrate a shared agenda of holding migrants beyond the juridical territory of the state and thus function together as demonstrations of a wet carceralities.

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