Traces liquides : enquête sur la mort de migrants dans la zone-frontière maritime de l’Union européenne

Heller, Charles and Pezzani, Lorenzo. 2014. Traces liquides : enquête sur la mort de migrants dans la zone-frontière maritime de l’Union européenne. Revue européenne des migrations internationales, 30(3-4), pp. 71-107. ISSN 0765-0752 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Because any trace on water seems to be immediately dissolved by currents, the seas have long been associated with a permanent present that resists any writing of history. The infinite liquid expanse has equally represented a challenge for governance: the impossibility of drawing stable boundaries in ever changing waters has led to consider the seas as a space of absolute freedom and flow – the “free seas”. In this article, we demonstrate that on the contrary, the seas are increasingly documented and divided, and inextricably so. A complex sensing apparatus is fundamental to a form of governance that combines the division of maritime spaces and the control of movement, and that instrumentalises the partial, overlapping, and “elastic” nature of maritime jurisdictions and international law. It is in these conditions that the EU imposed migration regime operates, selectively expanding sovereign rights through patrols in the high seas but also retracting from responsibility, as in the many instances of non-assistance to migrants at sea. Through the policies and the conditions of maritime governance organized by the EU the sea is turned into a deadly liquid – the direct cause of over 13.000 documented deaths over the last fifteen years. However, by using the Mediterranean’s remote sensing apparatus against the grain and spatialising violations of migrants’ rights at sea, it is possible to re-inscribe responsibility into a sea of impunity.

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Identification Number (DOI):


migrants, borders, Mediterranean Sea, deaths, non-assistance

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures > Centre for Research Architecture


1 December 2017Published Online

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Date Deposited:

10 Jan 2022 15:13

Last Modified:

10 Jan 2022 15:13

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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