Fortress Europe - Europe's gates, ditches and guardians in the Mediterranean area

Term Paper, 2013

15 Pages, Grade: 1,0




1. The huge wave of immigration into Europe
1. 1 The Euro- Mediterranean region: an area of conflict

2. Fortress Europe - A “Fortress of minds”?
2.1 The guardians: borders and camps
2.2 Humanitarian arguments

Conclusion: The immigrant "Other” as threat or chance?



When we think of the Euro-Mediterranean region, we might imagine places of blithe holidays. However, they are also places of fright, capsized boat people from North Africa, drowning or dying of thirst in rickety and overloaded vessels. In the hope of finding a better future in Europe, they desperately expose their lives to the forces of the sea. Nevertheless, the public sphere is rather casually informed about these tragedies and even tends to apathy and insensitivity due to ostensibly constant and similar reporting about boat tragedies.

Especially in these days of radical changes in the Arabic world including halting establishment of better living conditions and daily cruelties in Syria, many people demand that their outcry for freedom should gain attention in nearby Europe. Acting from necessity, people from North Africa, the Middle East and Asia set off towards Europe in hopes of a better life. Once knocking on Europe's gates at the coast lines of Spain, Italy or Greece, they suddenly have to realize that what they encounter, is in fact not the expected paradise, Just recently, an Amnesty International Report published in December 2012 strongly condemned the "shameful and terrible" situation of refugees in Greece. It marks yet another alert signal to speak about a European humanitarian crisis; not outside the borders, but within. According to the report, refugees in Greece, originating from Africa, Pakistan, Iran or Syria are not even being provided with the minimum standard of protection and security. Against the background of the financial crisis the situation is getting more dramatic in Greece. Racist street violence, fascist resurgence and radical actions by Greek patrol boats in the border river Evros between Turkey and Greece testify human right violations.[1]Such tendencies not count for Greece solely, they are characteristic for European encounters with enormous immigration waves in general. Above all, they illustrate the daily struggles newcomers face. Contrary to a space of free movement they wished to reach, vast ditches full of obstacles, rejections and fears yawn before them. These gaps stretch for more than border patrols and detention camps on the surface, however they reach deeper to questions of self-conception and conception of the ‘Other’.[2]

This paper tries to illuminate the deep ditches and to question fortress-like models of European migration policy. First, the reader will be provided with an overview on the influx of immigration into Europe, which will include terms and data on refugees and illegal immigration as well as it will stress the hot spots Ceuta and Melilla, Lampedusa and the Aegean border line. The second and main part consists of a discourse on ‘Fortress Europe’ from both a theoretical- cultural as well as a practical perspective taking into account the shape of borders and humanitarian arguments. In order to have a glance on the complex relations between immigration and identification, the concluding third part will deal with threats and chances attributed to immigrants.

1. The huge wave of immigration into Europe

"People have been crossing borders, legally or illegally, throughout human history"[3], as Scheffer manifests. However, current migration is more than ever characterized by its global scope, its significant dependence and impact on domestic and international politics and its enormous economic and social consequences.[4]As Europe has been aiming at a space of free movement ever-since the end of World War II and ultimately with the European Integration including the creation of the Schengen- Area, it has been facing huge waves of immigrants, many of them being ‘undocumented labor migrants’ or refugees from poor countries. In order to cope with illegal immigration and its consequences, the European Union has been conducting an extensive and far-reaching border enforcement program.[5]

Among eight categories of international immigration, Cohen points out three main groups of migrants: legal labor migrants, illegal or undocumented labor migrants and refugees with confirmed status as such or asylum-seekers yet applying for it.[6]In this paper, the focus relies on illegal migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. According to Article 1 of the 1951 Geneva Convention, a refugee is defined as a person, "who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it."[7]

Although it is binding for all EU member-states, this definition is quite contradictory when it comes to practice, because the Convention refers all the responsibility for judging on the definite status as refugee to the admitting state, which is the starting point of a bureaucratic limbo for immigrants as the state might have many reasons to deny the status.[8]

Additionally, a refugee has the right to be protected against forcible return or refoulement, as long as his or her status has not been declared. This is determined in Article 33 of the 1951 Convention:

"No Contracting State shall expel or return ('refouler') a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social or political opinion. "[9]

Here again, the theoretical definition generates procedural problems in practice. Nonetheless, these basic statements should always be kept in mind when discussing or qualifying border policies or humanitarian arguments.

In 2011, the number of refugees worldwide has been estimated at 15 million, according to data provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Generally it needs to be said, that refugees stay in their regions or continents of origin. Consequently, Africa and Asia, where most of refugees originate from, face the biggest migration moves worldwide. In Europe, the refugee population was about 1.53 million at the end of 2011. The figures close ranks when it comes to asylum applications: more than 876.100 people worldwide submitted to individual applications for refugee status, amongst them 312.000 applications registered in Europe. France and Germany, often marking the final destinations for refugees after transit through the Mediterranean region, received most of requests for asylum. Moreover, a one should take a particular look on 34.100 registered applications in Italy, which constituted an all-time record for Italy and has made it the fifth largest recipient of asylum seekers worldwide.[10]On the hand, these data must be linked to a large extent to the upheavals in North Africa and Syria; on the other they hint to the special role of Europe's southern coastlines, which represent the entry zone for many illegal migrants and refugees from war zones and poorer countries and hence transform the Mediterranean region itself to an area of conflict.

1.1 The Euro - Mediterranean region: an area of conflict

The enormous wave of immigration from North Africa, the Middle East and Asia comes with huge challenges for Europe, in particular for the Euro-Mediterranean basin. The states in this region are forced to act as a migratory buffer zone and are hardly able to cope with the situation, which is getting more and more dramatic. Refugee and detention camps are overloaded, human trafficking and smuggling have taken on a dramatic scale, undocumented migrants are shunted off without even considering their claims or don't reach the country at all.


[1]cf. Amnesty International Report "Greece. The end of the road for refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants."

(20 Dec. 2012).

[2]cf. Castles, S. and Davidson, A. (2000): Citizenship and migration. Palgrave. pp. 62 - 69

and Triandafyllidou, A. (2006): Nations, Migrants and Transnational Identifications: An Interactive Approach to Nationalism. SAGE Publications. 12 Sep. 2009.

[3]Scheffer, P.(2011): Immigrant Nations. Polity Press: Cambridge. p. 72

[4]Castles, S./Miller, M. in ibid.: p. 73.

[5]cf. Carr, M. : "The trouble with Fortress Europe." (21 Nov.2012)

[6]cf. COHEN (2006): 2006. Migration and its enemies. Ashgate Publishing. pp. 184 - 188.

[7]United Nations High Commission for Refugees. (2012). "Convention Relating to the Status of

Refugees".Artide 1. Convention adopted 28 Jul 1951, entry into force: 22 Apri 1954.

[8]cf. Cohen (2006): p. 185

[9]United Nations High Commission for Refugees. (2012). "Convention Relating to the Status of

Refugees".Article 33. Convention adopted 28 Jul 1951, entry into force: 22 Apri 1954.

[10]cf. UNCHR (2012): "Global Trend in Migration".

Excerpt out of 15 pages


Fortress Europe - Europe's gates, ditches and guardians in the Mediterranean area
Jagiellonian University in Krakow  (European Studies )
European Civilisation
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ISBN (eBook)
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550 KB
Fortress Europe, Migration, Integration, Lampedusa, Europe, European Union
Quote paper
B.A. European Studies Franziska Caesar (Author), 2013, Fortress Europe - Europe's gates, ditches and guardians in the Mediterranean area , Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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