Kidnapping migrants as a tactic of border enforcement

Tazzioli, Martina and De Genova, Nicholas. 2020. Kidnapping migrants as a tactic of border enforcement. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 38(5), pp. 867-886. ISSN 0263-7758 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article identifies and analyses the tactic of kidnapping migrants that is increasingly deployed by states to disrupt, decelerate, and block migrants’ mobility. Kidnapping, we argue, is one of the political technologies of capture used by state authorities in their efforts to reassert control over migratory movements. This analysis contributes to a new understanding of the politics of border enforcement through strategies aimed at the containment of migration. The article focuses on the U.S.–Mexico border and the European border in the Mediterranean Sea as crucial sites where states have increasingly engaged in heterogenous modes of kidnapping.It also considers migrant struggles against these diverse kidnapping tactics. Through a focus on kidnapping, the article expands how we understand border violence and interrogates accounts of the biopolitics and necropolitics of borders that rely on the overly reductive formula of ‘making live/letting die’. The article concludes by highlighting how the critical examination of kidnapping migrants allows us to trace affinities and partial continuities among various historical modes of racialised subjugation that have affected both contemporary migrants and previously colonised populations.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


Migration, kidnapping, Mediterranean, U.S.–Mexico, containment

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14 April 2020Accepted
22 May 2020Published Online
1 October 2020Published

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Date Deposited:

02 Jun 2020 13:18

Last Modified:

11 Jun 2021 23:46

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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