Care without Control: The Humanitarian Industrial Complex and the Criminalisation of Solidarity

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In this paper, we discuss the criminalisation of migrant solidarity, intended as practices of resistance to the current regulation and management of borders in Europe. We argue that the target of criminalisation is not simply humanitarian assistance: rather, we propose a differentiation between autonomous solidarity and humanitarianism, arguing that while the first is criminalised, the latter is often complicit in the harms and violence of borders. Drawing on critical humanitarian studies, we argue that autonomous migrant solidarity distinguishes itself from what we address as the ‘Humanitarian Industrial Complex’ in its active refusal to the legal obligations to control and report undocumented migrants to the authorities; its resistance to the racialised hierarchies entailed by humanitarian aid; as well as in its contestation of the commodification of migrant lives. Rather than ‘filling the gaps’ of the state or ameliorating borders and their violence, autonomous practices of migrant solidarity seek to ‘create cracks’ in the smooth operation of border regimes. It is because of their intrinsic character of opposition to both the militarisation of borders and to humanitarian technologies of government, we argue, that autonomous practices of migrant’s solidarity are accused of ‘facilitating illegal migration’ and become the target of state repression.

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