The EU Humanitarian Border and the Securitization of Human Rights: The ‘Rescue‐Through‐Interdiction/Rescue‐Without‐Protection’ Paradigm

22 Pages Posted: 29 Dec 2017

Date Written: January 2018


This article looks at securitization/humanitarianization dynamics in the EU external sea borders to track and critique the substantial transformation of the role played by human rights in the Mediterranean. Mapping the evolution of maritime engagement up to the ‘refugee crisis’, it is revealed how the invocation of human rights serves paradoxically to curtail (migrants') human rights, justifying interdiction (‘to save lives’), and impeding access to safety in Europe. The result is a double reification of ‘boat migrants’ as threats to border security and as victims of smuggling/trafficking. Through a narrative of ‘rescue’, interdiction is laundered into an ethically sustainable strategy of border governance. Instead of being considered a problematic (potentially lethal) means of control, it is re‐defined into a life‐saving device. The ensuing ‘rescue‐through‐interdiction’/‘rescue‐without‐protection’ paradigm alters the nature of human rights, which, rather than functioning as a check on interdiction, end up co‐opted as another securitization/humanitarianization tool.

Keywords: securitization, humanitarian border, humanitarianization, Frontex, refugee crisis

Suggested Citation

Moreno-Lax, Violeta, The EU Humanitarian Border and the Securitization of Human Rights: The ‘Rescue‐Through‐Interdiction/Rescue‐Without‐Protection’ Paradigm (January 2018). JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, Vol. 56, Issue 1, pp. 119-140, 2018, Available at SSRN: or

Violeta Moreno-Lax (Contact Author)

Queen Mary Law School ( email )

Mile End Rd
Mile End Road
London, London E1 4NS
United Kingdom


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