Migration and crime at the EU borders in Croatia

Migration and crime at the EU borders in Croatia

The topics of migration and crime are often interlinked. There are different perspectives on how human mobility and criminality relate to one another; the EU, for example, often legitimizes its migration control policies with combating crime, such as human smuggling or trafficking. Academic scholars and migration solidarity activists in turn have criticized such reasoning, emphasizing how this has contributed to the criminalization of migration. This project analyzes and compares differing perceptions around the crime-migration nexus, considering how migration and crime are perceived to relate to one another in the context of clandestine mobility-gatekeeping across external EU borders in Croatia.

What is the background of this project?

Clandestine cross-border movements are often facilitated or even controlled by certain actors, so-called mobility-gatekeepers. They include human smugglers or traffickers, who organize unauthorized border crossings into the EU, often with mutual consent and upon request of the people-on-the-move, but at times also with deception, coercion, or the use of force. Much of the EU’s efforts to combat clandestine migration and related crime targets this type of mobility-gatekeeping. And since the EU member states have largely abolished internal border controls, many of the practices to control such migration and the associated crimes have been externalized and take place at the shared external borders.

Along many of these external EU borders, however, one can observe additional forms of clandestine cross-border movements and mobility-gatekeeping; not only are people trying to enter the EU, but at the same time, the very same people are often immediately expelled of out of EU territory – often with the use of force resulting in violations of (fundamental) rights. The actors involved in external border control and mobility-gatekeeping include both national border guards and European actors, such as Frontex, the European border and coast guard agency.

What research questions are addressed?

This project studies the different types of mobility-gatekeeping mentioned above, and how they relate to crime. Thereby, the analysis builds on the case study of external EU borders between Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The following questions are addressed:

  • Who are the actors involved in mobility-gatekeeping at external EU borders in Croatia, and what role does the EU play therein?
  • How do people in the border area – including people-on-the-move, locals, or NGOs – understand the role of the different mobility gatekeepers?
  • How do they perceive mobility-gatekeeping and crime to be interlinked?
  • To what extent do these local perceptions on the entanglement of crime and mobility differ from political discourses and scholarly debates?

What kind of data will be analyzed?

The research builds on both primary data collected during fieldwork in Croatia and its border areas with Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and secondary data such as legal and policy documents, border violence testimonies, and academic literature. The fieldwork includes participant observation in the border area, as well as semi-structured and ethnographic interviews with participants in the research area.

Overall, this research project is at the juncture of migration law and policy, criminal law, and border criminology. It builds on theoretical frameworks such as crimmigration, anti-policy, and critical theory, combining legal, political, and ethnographic theories, methods, and data sources.

Official project title:

The crime-migration nexus in mobility-gatekeeping at external EU borders in Croatia.

Who is responsible for this project?

How is this project funded?

What time is the time frame of the project?


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