The safety/security nexus and the humanitarianisation of border enforcement

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


This article contributes to the existing literature on the securitisation and militarisation of national borders through an examination of the humanitarianisation of contemporary border enforcement efforts. Drawing on discourse and policy analysis and ethnographic fieldwork at the southern border of the United States, I argue that humanitarian discourse and rationality have been integrated into the way in which border enforcement efforts are both framed and justified. I term the resulting discursive configuration the safety/security nexus to draw attention to the way in which migrant safety and border security are seemingly reconciled in official state discourse and policy. I then employ a feminist geopolitical framework to unpack the political and ideological significance of this process. In doing so, I argue that the humanitarianisation of border enforcement has three primary effects: it works to counter the challenges of transnational human rights organisations and constituencies that argue that border enforcement policies violate transnational human rights; it justifies the continued militarisation and securitisation of national borders; and it upholds the territorialised logic of sovereignty and rights upon which state efforts to secure, fortify, and regulate transnational mobility are founded. In turn, this article illustrates that understanding contemporary regimes of border governance necessitates attending to the entangled relationship between militarisation, securitisation, and humanitarianism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-37
Number of pages11
JournalGeographical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Border enforcement
  • Feminist geopolitics
  • Humanitarianism
  • Migrant deaths
  • Securitisation
  • US-Mexico border

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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