In this article, newly published in International Migration Review, Simon McMahon and I unpack the relationship between migrant deaths and migration governance in the context of the so-called EU’s ‘migration crisis’. We argue that migrant deaths at sea have played a central role in shaping policy and public responses to Europe’s “crisis.” Yet relatively little scholarly work has analysed migrants’ personal experiences related to death and the impact of these experiences on their mobility. Drawing on the large MEDMIG dataset, this article documents geographies of violence and death stretching throughout migration trajectories that start far from the Mediterranean shores. It shines light on the different ways that encountering the deaths of others and perceiving the inevitability of one’s own death drive and shape migration decisions and journeys. Importantly, the article highlights differences between European policy responses to migrant deaths and the experiences of those migrants making the journey. In doing so, it calls for a more expansive understanding of the relationship between migrant deaths, policies, and migration that extends beyond the relatively small parcel of water that divides Europe from its southern and eastern neighbours.

Really pleased this article is finally out. It has been by far the one with the longest gestation in my academic career. An initial version was presented at IASFM in Poznan in 2016. The first submitted manuscript dates back to 2017 (with a different journal). There have been times in which we were on the brink of giving up, but we felt that we had some useful points to make. In the editorial process, we had to drop something, streamline (and perhaps simplify) the argument, but the bulk is still there. Thank you to our MEDMIG colleagues (Heaven Crawley, Franck Duvell and Katharine Jones) with whom we shared initial ideas, insights and notes. MEDMIG was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).