In the name of (de)securitization: Speaking security to protect migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons?

This article examines how the protection of migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) is spoken about and framed. Today it is evident that the dominant responses of sovereign States to each of these groups is heavily reliant on the language of security and (de)securitization, and this article openly conceptualizes ongoing attempts to protect migrants, refugees and IDPs as a series of overlapping (de)securitized "games". At least three arguments follow from this claim. First, adopting this approach serves as a reminder that the ways in which different groups of people are spoken about often constitutes a dividing line between life and death. Second, the language games of (de)securitization are not identical when it comes to protecting different groups. Third, using securitization as the theoretical point of departure provides a timely reminder that none of the three categorizations listed above is guaranteed to apply. On the contrary, the adoption of each linguistic label – migrant, refugee, IDP – is subject to and dependent upon audience acceptance. Remembering the latter dimension is imperative to fully comprehend the ongoing contestations and countermoves in response to people moving in search of security. By way of conclusion, the article contends that far more attention must be paid to broader understandings of acceptance and love to ensure the protection of migrants, refugees and IDPs.

About the author

Faye Donnelly
University of St Andrews

Faye Donnelly is a Lecturer in the School of International Relations at the University of St Andrews. She is the author of Securitization and the Iraq War: The Rules of Engagement in World Politics (2013). Her article “The Queen’s Speech: Desecuritizing the Past, Present and Future of Anglo-Irish Relations” has been published in the European Journal of International Relations, and her work has also appeared in edited volumes and online forums.