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Illegality, Inc.

Illegality, Inc.: Clandestine Migration and the Business of Bordering Europe

Ruben Andersson
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Illegality, Inc.
    Book Description:

    In this groundbreaking ethnography, Ruben Andersson, a gifted anthropologist and journalist, travels along the clandestine migration trail from Senegal and Mali to the Spanish North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. Through the voices of his informants, Andersson explores, viscerally and emphatically, how Europe’s increasingly powerful border regime meets and interacts with its target–the clandestine migrant. This vivid, rich work examines the subterranean migration flow from Africa to Europe, and shifts the focus from the "illegal immigrants" themselves to the vast industry built around their movements. This fascinating and accessible book is a must-read for anyone interested in the politics of international migration and the changing texture of global culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95828-9
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Author’s Note
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Selected Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xvii)
  7. Timeline
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  8. Introduction The Illegality Industry at Europe’s African Frontier
    (pp. 1-26)

    The border is as tall as a fence and as deep as the sea, yet across it migrants and refugees keep coming. This is the latest phase in the tragic spectacle of “illegal” migration from Africa to Europe, a broadcast set on repeat at the fault line between continents:

    MELILLA, NORTH AFRICA. OCTOBER 2005. It was after darkness had fallen that the migrants came running towards the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. Hundreds of road-weary Africans descended from their Moroccan forest encampments, threw makeshift ladders onto the border fences circling the territories, and scrambled to climb across. Silhouetted figures...

  9. SCENE 1 The Lonely Jailer
    (pp. 27-30)

    Thecentro de internamiento de extranjeros(CIE) lay far off the beaten track and did not even appear on that all-seeing cartography of our times, Google Maps. My taxi driver, a garrulous Argentinian, kept talking about his impending London migration as he finally found a dug-up road along the highway and labored uphill until the track forked in two. To the right, a military zone. To the left, the empty CIE parking lot. I walked up to the perimeter wall, and a guard slid the massive entrance gate open.

    Spain’s migrant detention centers are the southernmost outposts in what has...


    • CHAPTER 1 Mohammadou and the Migrant-Eaters
      (pp. 33-65)

      Mother Mercy arrived one hour late. Her car stopped on the sandy Senegalese backstreet right outside the doorway; she stepped out of the passenger seat and strode into the bare, ramshackle locales of her collective for women who had lost their sons to boat migration. A crisp black dress laced with silvery strands flowed around her as she sashayed past, talking loudly into her mobile; on her wrist glittered a large watch. “Ah, excusez-moi,” she said, switching from Wolof on the phone to French, momentarily addressing me as I waited behind a wooden table in the corner. “The traffic jams...

    • CHAPTER 2 A Game of Risk
      (pp. 66-97)

      MADRID, JUNE 2010. Deep in the bowels of the Guardia Civil headquarters, ten men sit around a small wooden table in an open-plan room. Uniformed marines, suited police, and green-cladguardiasclutch their phones or type awkwardly on identical laptops lined up around the table. A Baltic policeman dials his head office, and a stern-looking officer speaks broken English down the line. The men are eastern European, Icelandic, Italian, Dutch, and Spanish. Their table is the nerve center of the European border agency Frontex’s migration control operations off Spain’s southern coasts.

      Follow the wires and satellite networks as they spin...

    • CHAPTER 3 Hunter and Prey
      (pp. 98-130)

      Europe’s high-tech border regime takes on a more profane guise on African soil, as I discovered back in Dakar in between visits to Yongor’s repatriates and Spanish officials. Walk into the Cité Police complex along the capital’s seafront corniche and look out for a torn A4 printout taped to a door two floors up announcing the “Division for the fight against irregular migrations.” This is the home of Frontex’s local police partner in patrolling Senegal’s coastline. Inside the dark halls of the division, I knocked on a door with a broken handle indicating the offices of the research group on...


    • SCENE 2 The Capsized Correspondent
      (pp. 133-136)

      The blue wooden boat surges forward with each swell. The prow cuts through the heavy waves, sending up spray along the sides and rocking the African migrants who huddle aboard in bright yellow raincoats. Each on his own. One man is curled up in front, his head resting below the anchor, oblivious to the waves or just plain seasick. Next to him sits a beautiful young woman, wearing a black hat to ward off the cold: she briefly looks towards the stern, then goes back to staring ahead over the waves, clutching a wet tarpaulin spread across the boat. The...

    • CHAPTER 4 The Border Spectacle
      (pp. 137-174)

      For the clandestine migrants, Europe’s external border is a threshold between worlds. Behind them, the violence of the borderlands they have trudged through for months or years; ahead, a space of “human rights” and the promise of freedom. As they prepare for the final crossing, in silence or in hiding, they know that success depends upon their adventurer skills, their cool-headedness, and the “grace of God.” This is their chance, the one moment their long journeys have been building towards. They must not miss it.

      For the border guards, Europe’s external border is their workplace. Their patrol boats speed across...


    • CHAPTER 5 White Mother, Black Sons
      (pp. 177-207)

      The summer of 2010 had begun hotter than usual. The easterly Levante winds enveloped Ceuta in a humid haze for days, and the Rock receded from view across the Strait of Gibraltar. All people talked about was the muggy, relentless heat. Thecaballas(mackerels), as the enclave’s inhabitants are known, laid themselves out to sunbathe on the beaches facing the Mediterranean to the east or the windswept Atlantic towards the west. But up on the hill, far beyond the prime stretches of sand and the whitewashed town center with its tapas bars and churches—as far as way as possible...

    • SCENE 3 In the Father’s House
      (pp. 208-211)

      Across the Strait from Ceuta on Spain’s southernmost shores, the Father waited with open arms for migrants washing up in their boats and rafts.¹ The iconic pictures of him appeared in news magazines the world over: dressed in his black habit with a white cross dangling around his neck, he stood knee-deep in the Atlantic waters holding an African baby. If the fourteen-kilometer crossing of the Strait was akin to a religious deliverance for those lucky enough to make it, here was the midwife of God fast at work: humble and caring, embodying Christian love for humanity’s outcasts. TIME Magazine...

    • CHAPTER 6 Stranded in Time
      (pp. 212-240)

      Darkness falls over the shacks in Melilla. John takes another swig of his lukewarm whiskey mixed with cheap energy drink and sways to the mix of Fela Kuti and hip-hop streaming out of a speaker atop a rickety bench. “Fela was aprophet,” he says. “He stood up for Africa.” The whiskey glass circulates among his Nigerian friends in our little circle, seated on ripped-out car seats and plastic petrol cans. Around us, women stir black metal pots, dragging children along with them wherever they go. These are thechabolas, or shanties, as migrants call their makeshift dwellings, which they...

    • SCENE 4 The Jobless Job Center
      (pp. 241-244)

      Far from European coasts and capitals, in one of Bamako’s wealthier neighborhoods, lay one of the most trumped-up manifestations of the European Union’s “global” strategy on migration: CIGEM (Centre d’Information et des Gestions des Migrations), the center for information and management of migration. Inaugurated in 2008 to much fanfare after the signing of a declaration on migration and development by ECOWAS, the European Commission, France, and Spain, CIGEM was tasked with gathering information on migration, raising awareness about the risks of irregular migration, optimizing the “human, financial, and technical capital” of expatriate Malians and—crucially, as far as the media...

    • CHAPTER 7 Marchers without Borders
      (pp. 245-272)

      GOGUI, WESTERN MALI, JANUARY 2011. The activists come marching towards the camera, down an empty Sahelian road, holding their banner for the freedom of movement as a collective shield against the invisible enemy ahead. The enemy is Frontex, and Frontex shall fall, they chant: “À bas, à bas, à bas le Frontex! À bas, à bas, à bas le Frontex!” Fists are raised, calls forsolidaritéring out, the clacks and thuds of djembe drums pierce the dull desert air. Then the activists break into chanting again, European and African voices in unison, while waving “global passports” and anti-Frontex banners:...

    • Conclusion Bordering on the Absurd
      (pp. 273-282)

      The workings of the illegality industry, it has been repeatedly stated in this book, are absurd. Absurdity covers a range of meanings, from the existential to the colloquial, but what will initially concern us here is the absurd in its guise of purposelessness pure and simple. The illegality industry’s sectors work according to their own institutional logics, and quite rationally so. Yet taken together and assessed over a wider temporal and geographical perspective, these efforts serve little evident purpose. The illegality industry is like a sledgehammer that fails even in its basic task of cracking a nut. Attempts to combat...

  13. Appendix: A Note on Method
    (pp. 283-288)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 289-308)
  15. Selected Glossary
    (pp. 309-312)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 313-326)
  17. Index
    (pp. 327-338)