Mapping the archipelago of migration policies
Where does sovereign territory begin and end? What sovereign powers do countries apply along the margins of nation-states? What kinds of struggles over migration happen offshore? These are questions that capture the geographical imagination.
As border enforcement moves increasingly offshore, islands are becoming important sites for negotiations over global migration. Every year, thousands of migrants are intercepted at sea while trying to reach sovereign territory and make a claim for asylum. Many are held in detention on islands, their legal status often unclear.
Dr. Alison Mountz, Canada Research Chair in Global Migration, is examining the relationship between sovereignty and human migration. She is paying particular attention to the role that islands play in migrants’ efforts to enter sovereign territory.
Mountz explores the tension between the forces, decisions and desires driving human migration, and the policies and practices designed to manage it. Her current research examines struggles surrounding border enforcement, asylum and detention.
Preliminary data on asylum seekers detained in a limbo of time, location and law between nation-states highlight the fundamental questions driving Mountz’s research. Such detentions are often hidden from the view of media, the public and human rights monitors. Because of this, the perspectives of those involved in island encounters—civil servants, migrants, attorneys, not-for-profit organizations and advocates—are often underrepresented in debates about immigration and border enforcement.
Mountz’s examination of the remote locations where border enforcement and detention take place will contribute significantly to discussions informing global migration policies.