From the securitisation of migration to the dehumanisation of refugees: A threat to liberal democracy

Since 2015, those who arrived on the Greek islands have been sent to refugee camps. Often they protest against detention conditions waving banners saying “we are not animals” suggesting they are subjected to inhumane conditions. This contribution demonstrates that the refugee influx is constructed as an existential threat and migration accordingly securitised. However, I query whether this concept is sufficient to characterise the radicalism of the policies and the suffering of the affected individuals and instead suggest the concept of dehumanisation. To this end it is shown how and to what extent refugees were systematically dehumanised; to support my argument I refer to a historical precedence, notably the large-scale influx of Eastern European refugees of Jewish background in the 1910s and 20s in Europe and their inhumane treatment in the early concentration camps. I draw mainly on Haslam, Arendt and Bauman to further elaborate the concept of dehumanisation and its deterrent purpose. In the conclusion I argue that the concept of refugees has been perverted in that refugees are constructed as the new subhuman. In the outlook referring to Appadurai a grave warning is issued with regards to an illiberal turn in migration and refugee policy amounting to ‘aggressive majoritarian chauvinism’ and the genocidal seeds this entails.

Chair: Othon Anastasakis (St Antony’s College, Oxford)