Saskia Stachowitsch and Julia Sachseder on the discourses of "migration crisis"

July 13, 2022

Saskia Stachowitsch (FWF Senior Research Fellow and Senior Visiting Researcher at CEU as well as Principal Investigator of the FWF project ‘Risky Borders. Gender and Race in EU Border Security’) together with Julia Sachseder (a post-doctoral fellow at the Departments of International Relations and Gender Studies at the Central European University) have recently published an article "Gender, race, and crisis-driven institutional growth: discourses of ‘migration crisis’ and the expansion of Frontex" at the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (JEMS). 


Migration movements at the EU external borders are increasingly understood and governed through a logic of crisis that draws on gendered and racialised stereotypes of migrants and colonial Self-‘Other’ representations. These narratives of ‘migration crisis’ not only shape public discourse, but also inform institutional processes within the EU border security architecture, particularly the growth of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex). Bringing critical border and migration studies in conversation with feminist postcolonial scholarship on crisis, we argue that gendering and racialisation underpin Frontex’s ‘crisis labelling’ that gives way to institutional claims for extended resources and competences. In an analysis of Frontex’s Annual Risk Analysis Reports (2010–2020), we identify four themes through which Frontex engages in crisis labelling on the basis of gendered and racialised stereotypes, dualisms, and postcolonial (self-)representations: migration as threat; the unknownness of migrants; the hierarchical creation of (non-)European spaces; and humanitarian concerns over vulnerable migrants. Through these themes, gender and race not only made migration intelligible as crisis but importantly justified demands for Frontex’s extension. These findings reveal how gender and race inform the institutional politics of defining and governing migration in ways that reproduce intersectional power relations and (post-)colonial legacies.