Why take such a risk? Beyond profit

Motivations of border‐crossing facilitators between France and Italy

in Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale
Cecilia VergnanoUniversity of Amsterdam vergnanocecilia@gmail.com

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As a response to the reintroduction of border controls at the French/Italian border, which aim to push back undesired migrants, increasing border‐crossing facilitation practices are being carried out by different categories of social actors, including local residents and migrants themselves. In a context of increasing criminalisation of border‐crossing facilitation practices, racialised, non‐white facilitators are usually stigmatised as smugglers acting exclusively in return for payment, while local residents moved by humanitarian concerns are increasingly represented as privileged do‐gooders. This article moves toward a deconstruction of both categories by investigating the discursive motivations of different border‐crossing facilitators and taking into account the unequal structure of opportunities characterising their practices. Through ethnographic accounts and interviews in different localities at the French/Italian border, the article sheds light on the complex coexistence of different interests moving a wide range of actors. The empirical analysis reveals that mere market logics do not reflect the complexity of the figure of the professional facilitator; nor are humanitarian, ethical and political motivations exclusive to white, European citizens providing free help to migrants in distress.

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