New Book Chapter


The Edited Book “Public and Political Discourses of Migration” has now been published and I am delighted to have my chapter included:  Chapter 8 “Irregular Migrants in Ireland and the United States of America: Discursive Representations by Irish Parliamentary Members”.

Full details on the book are available here:


New Book: Political and Media Discourses of Illegal Immigration in Ireland

Book Cover

Nomos have just published my book “Political and Media Discourses of Illegal Immigration in Ireland”, which is based on my PhD research. It is the first book in the series entitled Political Discourses. To view the table of contents click here. The book is available from the Nomos website (here) and Amazon (here).

Call for Papers AAG 2016: Contemporary Migration by Boat and Border Enforcement


Association of American Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting, San Francisco, California, March 29 – April 2, 2016

Contemporary Migration by Boat and Border Enforcement:
The governance, representation, spatialities and humanitarian realities of people migrating by boat at sea.

Elaine Burroughs, Maynooth University, Ireland
Keegan Williams, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada

Outline of topic:
The migration of people by precarious and unauthorized boat methods at sea has increased substantially in recent years. This practice has gained significant attention from a range of actors, including governing authorities, political elites, the media, and NGOs. Although the sea has become a space of hope/desperation for migrants, it has also become a space of conflict over territory and sovereignty (Mountz, 2013). The critical literature on borders and exclusion shows that wealthier states have enacted a “policy of containment” designed to keep most migrants out (Castles, 2003). Border enforcement at sea is premised on this idea of containment. To this end, state authorities, like border guards and immigration agencies, have built systems to force migrants back before, during, or after arrival at the physical border (Hyndman & Mountz, 2008; Samers, 2004). Previous literature notes that this increased enforcement will be associated with increased loss of life as migrants take more dangerous journeys to evade authorities (Betts, 2006; Collyer, 2007). Indeed, not only are the number of people travelling by boat increasing, but the number of deaths are also increasing, especially in areas such as the Mediterranean (IOM, 2014; UNHCR, 2015).

The issue of containment of migrant boats emerged as early as the late 1970s (Mountz, forthcoming). Great concern about movement at sea was generated in Australia, the EU and the USA in the 1990s (Lutterbeck, 2006). Increasing publicity of migrant boat incidents worldwide reinforces these concerns and the security threats they reportedly pose (Pugh, 2001). State authorities attempt to combat migration by boat through various enforcement measures (e.g. the EU’s Operation Triton and NAVFOR Med). The causes of this humanitarian issue, however, are complex, and authorities inadequately and improperly use search and rescue services to address the situation. A number of scholars and non-governmental organisations have discussed the humanitarian and legal realities of migration by boat and border enforcement at sea (Gammeltoft-Hansen, 2008; Carling & Hernandez-Carretero, 2011); however, few studies have analysed their empirical relationship. We also have little information on what happens to migrants after their journeys at sea end. These gaps exist despite the importance of the continual “crisis” which migration by boat represents to these states.

Aim of session:
The key aim of this session is to specifically examine the current migration of people by boat at sea and the multiple instances of this practice from around the world. We wish to bring together scholars interested in this area and to advance knowledge on this topic within the field of geography. We aim to explore the full spectrum of processes involved in the migration of people by boat, from the reasons why people do so, to the attempt to control and “manage” this type of migration, through to what happens to these migrants once their “journey” at sea ends. Of particular interest to this session are papers that: (1) identify the empirical realities and outcomes of migration by boat; (2) describe the relationship between migration by boat and modern border enforcement in wealthier states; and (3) explore how migration at sea is represented by authorities and the media.

Regional examples include (but are not exclusive to): Australia/Indonesia, Canada, the European Union (e.g., Canary Islands; Spain; Italy/Malta; Greece), Malaysia and the United States of America.

Potential session participants should contact Keegan Williams ( and Elaine Burroughs ( by 28 September 2015 to indicate their interest in participating in the session. Please include a proposed title and a 200-word abstract.
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Migration Definitions


The European Migration Network (which is part of the European Commission) recently published the third edition of a very large glossary containing over 400 migration-related terms. The EMN state that one of the purposes of the glossary is for legislators and policy-makers at EU and national levels to have “up to date, reliable, factual information” about migration. While such a glossary is helpful in understanding migration more broadly (particularly for students who are interested in migration), some of the terminology used is questionable: for example, the use of “alien” (while probably based on national legislation, is still used several times to refer migrants), “illegal immigrant”, “absconding”, “asylum shopper”, and “mass influx”. This wide-ranging terminology is presented as “reliable” and “factual”, which functions to legitimize any underlying negative connotations inherent within those terms. I have discussed migration terminology several times on this site, and in several academic publications, nevertheless, once again, I must highlight the significance of terminology use, especially by large influential institutions. Although we require definitions for further understanding and clarity, I think that at a very basic level, we can (and should) move beyond referring to people as aliens.

The full document is available here. The EMN Ireland website is available at: