Andersson, Ruben, Illegality, Inc. Clandestine Migration and the Business of Bordering Europe, Oakland, University of California Press, 2014, 360p.

anderssonDespite the mass investments in advanced border controls, irregular migrants keep arriving along southern European shores under increasingly desperate circumstances. Outside Italy, hardly a week passes without news of boat tragedies at sea; in Greece, refugees launch hunger strikes in crammed detention camps; and in Spain, migrants cling on to border fences or drown while trying to swim into the country’s North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.

What has gone wrong at Europe’s frontiers – and who is responsible for the mess? asks the anthropologist Ruben Andersson in his new book, Illegality, Inc.: Clandestine migration and the business of bordering Europe. Based on mobile fieldwork, the book gives a rare ethnographic account of Europe’s border control landscape, showing how the “fight against illegal migration” has created absurd incentives and devastating consequences. At the continent’s southern frontiers, an “illegality industry” has in recent years emerged to halt the migrant boats, involving a large number of sectors: European and African border forces, defence conglomerates and intelligence agencies, international and humanitarian organisations, research institutes and media outlets. When another tragedy occurs, when another boat sinks, the industry grows yet again. But the illegality industry is not the “solution” to the crisis at the borders, the book argues – it is a fundamental part of the problem.

Illegality, Inc. spans a wide geographical field, travelling between deportation sites in West Africa and Europe’s latest control centres, between migrant camps in southern Spain and border protests in Mali, between the anti-migration barriers around the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla and the largest barrier of them all, the Sahara desert. Here, in the emerging Euro-African borderlands, the book shows how the illegality industry has created precisely what it purports to control – more migrant illegality, in increasingly distressing forms.

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