By Francesca Esposito and Mary Bosworth. Francesca is a Newton International Fellow at the Centre for Criminology and Mary is the Director of Border Criminologies. This is the first instalment of the themed week on assessing border control practices in Italy. 

This week and next, we are running a series of blog posts critically assessing practices of border control in Italy. The pieces look at a wide range of sites, including administrative detention centres, hotspots, prisons and courtrooms, and demonstrate how within each of the migrants’ rights are systematically violated. While illustrating the systemic and legal injustices characterising these places, the blog posts also outline practices of resistance by human rights activists, NGOs and solidarity groups through which they seek to counteract the violence of the Italian system of migration control and support the struggles of those affected by it.

This blog series is part of a larger project carried out by Border Criminologies, funded by the Open Societies Foundation (OSF). Designed to assist civil society organisations that work to safeguard human rights in Italy and Greece, this project aims to provide much-needed narratives to challenge the growing xenophobia that is corroding political discourse and practice in both countries. It seeks to ensure that what happens in sites of border control, such as immigration detention centres, is not hidden from scrutiny, that migrant voices are heard, and that human rights defenders are given information and support. To achieve this aim an interactive map, the Landscapes of Border Control, was launched last month (see here and here).

Starting with material gathered from and about Greece and Italy this platform aims to visualise what goes on in detention centres in order to increase public access to knowledge about immigration and the treatment of migrants in detention settings. Other sites of border control, such as hotspots, and eventually other countries will be added to it.

The project is specifically designed to offer a platform to civil society organisations, solidarity groups, (ex) detainees and the public to communicate their experiences from and about detention.  We hope that, in time, the material we provide will be enriched by original contributions from people in the field and those who have survived the centres. Items can be added easily through the button ‘add information to this location’ found at the bottom of each individual page. An example can be seen here for Ponte Galeria in Rome. Entirely new locations can also be added by filling in information on this page. Items will be screened by Border Criminologies’ members. Information can also be provided in Italian and Greek and will be translated by us.

While all eyes continue to be fixed on the ‘border spectacle’ of the Mediterranean Sea and its perilous crossing, we hope that this blog series, and our project overall, will challenge attempts by the Greek and Italian states to invisibilise and spatially isolate migrants, while supporting local partners who are engaged in advocacy and strategic litigation, e.g. through factual investigation, research and analysis. Initiatives like this one, which seeks to provoke critical witnessing, are important, especially in political times such as the one in which we live. Locking people up for immigration matters, and is a recent practice. We don’t need to detain; this is a political choice. Given the robust evidence so many people have produced about its harms, inefficiency and financial costs, it is one that we should be working together to draw to a close.

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How to cite this blog post (Harvard style) 

Esposito, F. and Bosworth, M. (2020). Landscapes of Border Control: A Critical Examination of Italian Practices. Available at: https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/centre-criminology/centreborder-criminologies/blog/2020/02/landscapes-border (Accessed [date])