Webinar Series 1:
‘The Politics of Counting Migrant Deaths
in Times of Crisis’
Date: 23 October 2020 (Friday)
Title: The Politics of Counting Migrant Deaths in Times of Crisis
Speaker: Antoine Pecoud (Paris 13 University)
Migrant deaths have become a major social and political issue, especially (but not only) in the euro-Mediterranean region and in the context of the refugee/migrant crisis. A key feature of the debate is the reliance, by media, activists and policymakers, on numbers of migrant deaths. But little is known about the production of such data. This paper explores who counts migrant deaths in Europe, for what reasons and in what manner. This statistical activity was initiated in the nineties by civil society organizations with the purpose of shedding light on the deadly consequences of ‘Fortress Europe’ and of challenging states’ control-oriented policies. In 2013, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) also started to count migrants’ deaths, but within a changing context and with different political objectives. IOM’s turn to counting border deaths was part of a broader shift towards the humanitarianisation of the border, in which the denunciation of migrants’ deaths, humanitarian and life-saving activities become integrated in border management and the control of borders. Rather than criticizing states, IOM aims at conciliating the control of human mobility with the prevention of deaths. This has stripped this activity of the dimension of political critique that had been central to the framing of the data produced by civil society actors.