Border (Mis)Management, Ignorance and Denial

Vicky Canning

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book


The escalations in deaths at Europe’s border in 2015 brought international focus on the failure of European leaders to respond logistically and humanely to an otherwise-silenced human disaster. Greece, Italy and Turkey faced significant criticism, particularly from Northern European states, for their failure to either prevent people from entering Europe or to prevent the loss of life at sea.

Although geographic spatial positioning was an obvious facilitator for their unrequested roles as both transient and host states, the financial and legislative outsourcing of border controls has been a more invisible contributor to the catastrophes that unfolded across Southern and indeed Eastern Europe. This chapter develops such a focus by using the UK’s response to the so-called refugee crisis as a case study. I argue that the longer-term expansions of stringent border controls, particularly since the 1990s, have been deliberately developed so that Britain is shielded from the realities of refugee influx, border deaths or crisis. This ‘orchestrated invisibility’ facilitates a sense of ignorance towards human suffering, which in turn allows the UK a sense of unknowing, even when it has become impossible not to know.

Overall, this chapter traces relevant legislation to external borders and buffer zones (Carr 2012) and simultaneously maps the role the UK, and specifically Britain, has played in the creation of crisis. Its role in conflict, arms trade and economic destabilisation has placed it on the peripheries at best and centrally at worst to many of the nations that refugees are fleeing from. Nonetheless, by feigning ignorance and exercising collective denial (Cohen 2001) through socio-spatial distance, the UK has failed to respond humanely to a catastrophe, aspects of which it is, at least in part, responsible for.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIgnorance, Power and Harm
EditorsAlana Barton, Howard Davies
Place of PublicationBasingstoke
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages162
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-97343-2
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-97342-5
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Structured keywords

  • SPS Centre for the Study of Poverty and Social Justice


  • Zemiology
  • Ignorance
  • Agnotology
  • Harm
  • conflict
  • Refugee
  • Asylum
  • Europe
  • borders


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