Weaponizing rescue: Law and the materiality of migration management in the Aegean

Niamh Keady-Tabbal, Itamar Mann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Looking at the migration management policies at Europe's external Aegean border, this article examines how and why infrastructures of protection come to function as technologies of border violence. The repurposing of rescue rafts for extreme border violence in the Aegean Sea reveals a little-examined dark side of European 'migration management' as a process purportedly aimed to 'civilize' Greek coastguard operations. In transforming life-saving materials into life-threatening ones, patterns of border violence tell an alarming story about the relationship between law, politics, and the materiality of physical objects: absent concrete political and moral commitments to international protection, rescue's physical infrastructure has been weaponized. The weaponized life raft further challenges the assumptions underpinning European 'migration management': the idea that technocratic solutions can fix structural injustices, or that 'neutral assistance can ensure human rights compliance. The case study thus demonstrates the incompatibility of managerialism with human rights protection in the context of contemporary migration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-82
Number of pages22
JournalLeiden Journal of International Law
Issue number1
StatePublished - 14 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of The Foundation of the Leiden Journal of International Law in association with the Grotius Centre for International Law, Leiden University.


  • Law of the Sea
  • infrastructure
  • materiality
  • migration
  • refugee law

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Law


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