Governing Through Scalar Elasticity: An Analysis of the Accountability Gap in Migration Control in the Central Mediterranean

Santer, Kiri Olivia (2023). Governing Through Scalar Elasticity: An Analysis of the Accountability Gap in Migration Control in the Central Mediterranean. Social & Legal Studies, 33(1), pp. 3-20. Sage 10.1177/09646639221150151

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Accountability has become elusive in the context of migration control, especially at the external borders of the EU. In the Central Mediterranean, a regime of cooperative interdiction has developed since 2017 whereby migrants fleeing the North African shores by boat are intercepted and forcibly returned to Libya, without ever entering European jurisdiction. This article scrutinises practices of strategic litigation by Italian lawyers who have sought to destabilise this regime of externalised control, which emerged after the 2017 Libya–Italy Memorandum of Understanding. It outlines the difficulties of litigation seeking to challenge deterrence measures and shows the variety of actions lawyers have had to come up with to address Europe and Italy's role in this system. The analysis of this litigation sheds light on the dynamic shape that both sovereignty and migration control take on in transnational contexts of governance, and how legal scales become blurred across local, national, and international jurisdictions. I argue that accountability for migration control is rendered elusive by the fact that Europe's external maritime border is governed via scalar elasticity. In practice, this is a form of governance that takes place across a multiplicity of legal scales, whilst authoritatively referring to statist scalar visions

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Social Anthropology

UniBE Contributor:

Santer, Kiri Olivia


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology








Jana Samira Lamatsch

Date Deposited:

15 Feb 2023 10:14

Last Modified:

07 Jan 2024 02:18

Publisher DOI:





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