The EU has tried to distinguish itself as respecting human rights in its migration policies. In 2015, mass drownings at sea of refugees from war-torn and despotic countries like Syria and Eritrea started to rise with the end of Mare Nostrum, the Italian navy’s search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean. One EU response was to declare a war on “criminal gangs” of smugglers and traffickers, reportedly responsible for the surge in refugee deaths. Equating smugglers’ activities with a “new slave trade”, this “securitization move” failed to gain legitimacy from EU publics and media. Military solutions to refugee flight continued to be proposed, and a second securitization move continued to target smugglers and traffickers, but this time the “referent object” became the West itself, and the EU.

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Journal International Migration
Hintjens, H.M. (2019). "Failed Securitisation Moves and the EU Refugee Crisis of 2015". International Migration, 57(4), 181–196. Retrieved from