Becoming a Smuggler: Migration and Violence at EU External Borders


Migrants’ involvement in smuggling increases alongside restricted cross-border movement and violent borders, yet this dynamic is usually examined from migrants’ position as clients. In this article, we move away from migrants and smugglers as two separate roles and question migrants’ aspirations to and experiences of resorting to smuggling networks as workers in the context of EU land borders, where direct violence is used daily to fight cross-border crime. By doing so, we move further the examination of fluid relations in smuggling provisions and the way they are intertwined with care and exploitation, as shaped and circumscribed by violent borders. The article illustrates the intersections between border violence and migrants’ active involvement in smuggling by drawing on the case study of an anonymised Border Town and multi-site, multi-author fieldwork from Serbia and Bosnia. By questioning migrants’ experiences of shifting roles from clients to service providers, and by taking into account their work in smuggling provision, we show that, in a situation of protracted vulnerability orchestrated by border violence, state and law enforcement, the categories–“migrant” and “smugglers”–can blur.

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Divisions: College of Business and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences & Humanities > Politics, History and International Relations
College of Business and Social Sciences
College of Business and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences & Humanities > Aston Centre for Europe
College of Business and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences & Humanities
Additional Information: © 2021 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Funding: This work was supported by the Aston Centre for Europe and the European Commission, Jean Monnet Programme, Jean Monnet Chair on EU-UK post Brexit internal security relations [620597-EPP-1-2020-1-UK-EPPJMO-CHAIR].
Uncontrolled Keywords: Geography, Planning and Development,Political Science and International Relations
Publication ISSN: 1557-3028
Last Modified: 14 May 2024 07:26
Date Deposited: 27 Aug 2021 13:17
Full Text Link:
Related URLs: http://www.scop ... tnerID=8YFLogxK (Scopus URL)
https://www.tan ... 45.2021.1961223 (Publisher URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2021-08-11
Published Online Date: 2021-08-11
Accepted Date: 2021-07-23
Authors: Augustova, Karolina
Carrapiço, Helena
Obradović-Wochnik, Jelena (ORCID Profile 0000-0003-0850-2737)



Version: Published Version

License: Creative Commons Attribution

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