Mediterranean mobility beyond Europe: The role of transit states and international organizations

February 6, 2019

The Central Mediterranean has been the site of mass irregular migration for at least the past decade. Overloaded boats full of desperate people have come to dominate media and popular imagery. Growing attention to the often-dire conditions of migrants in Sahel and North African transit states provides an important check on European claims that “breaking” smuggling rings and criminalizing humanitarian NGOs can co-exist with the promise of development aid and protecting the rights of migrants. Indeed, it is now clear that Europe’s externalized migration controls have dire consequences for migrants, help support autocratic governments, and undermine international protection norms.

However, the focus on Europe’s policy challenges and its ability to “externalize” controls ignores the interests, choices, and domestic politics in African transit and destination states. Likewise, International Organizations are characterized as passive vehicles of European policies, obscuring their significant interests and internal politics.

This panel discussion unpacked the policies and interests of Mediterranean transit and receiving states, explored how International Organizations mediate between their own and diverse state interests, and asked how these dynamics affect irregular migration in the region.


  • Dr. Craig Damian Smith (discussant) Associate Director, Global Migration Lab

  • Kelsey Norman SSHRC postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Political Science and the Institute for European Studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada

  • Hiba Sha’ath second year PhD student in Human Geography at York University