Managing Migration and its Sociotechnical Infrastructures
“Hotspots” is the EU Commission’s new vision for how to control migration flows, support member states and re-stabilize the Schengen system. Behind this buzzword is the concept of a registration and redistribution (as well as a repatriation) camp, which serves as a bottleneck for entry into the EU and selects which human beings will be allowed to apply for asylum and which will be directly deported, if possible, to non-EU-countries. This procedure crucially depends on a comprehensive registration of the arriving refugees. “Hotspots” can be understood as institutional arrangements that organize the generation and distribution of data. Biometric, personal and other data are collected and directly fed into the European database EURODAC, access to which is available not only to specific national states but also to EU agencies like EUROPOL and Frontex. The whole process of distributing refugees will be managed with the help of an Europe-wide digital infrastructure. During that time, the refugees are held in the camp.
My research project traces the detours, meanders and break-offs of the registration and handling processes in which numerous actor-networks are involved and a lot of tensions and contradictions evolve. Just to name a few: the on-site registration process is very often disturbed and interrupted by the difficulties of camp life (the camp is overcrowded, sanitary facilities and housing are insufficient, people get sick and/or are traumatized) and on-site registration faces local resistance (by NGOs, refugees, insulars or local administration), data exchange between the Hotspots, local police, Eurodac, Europol and Frontex is still jolty, and there exist different interests, procedures and work practices between regional, national and EU-institutions.
In this research project, qualitative methods, especially ethnographic approaches, are used, such as field studies on-site, document analysis, interviews and mappings.
The “Hotspots” can be seen as a burning glass, where regional, national and EU-institutions' matters of concern clash, localize and interfere. From and with these sites, a new migration regime for the EU is coming into being, where the roles and responsibilities of the actors involved are renegotiated. Therefore smooth data-flow – i.e., working digital infrastructures - is essential. In order to understand how borders are constituted and migration is organized, it is crucial to focus on the socio-technical infrastructures of logistics.