Title: The creativity of coping: alternative tales of moral dilemmas among migration control officers

Authors: Lisa Marie Borrelli; Annika Lindberg

Addresses: Institute of Sociology, University of Bern, Fabriksstrasse 8, 3012 Bern, Switzerland ' Institute of Sociology, University of Bern, Fabriksstrasse 8, 3012 Bern, Switzerland

Abstract: Street-level bureaucrats are routinely exposed to the conflicting expectations of their political superiors, target groups, and the general public, especially when tasked with managing individuals with precarious political, legal, and social status. Moreover, migration and border officials are confronted with tasks that entail both complex discretionary decision-making and coercive measures, where they have to balance a professional ethos with their personal moral values. Building on ethnographic fieldwork, including participatory observations and semi-structured interviews conducted with street-level bureaucrats working with migration control in several European countries, the paper explores the moral balancing acts of officials regularly faced with harsh work realities. Apart from often-cited coping strategies of blame avoidance, indifference and dehumanisation, we highlight how bureaucrats confronted with morally uncomfortable and often Sisyphean tasks respond to these challenges with creativity and sometimes eccentric approaches to their work. In doing so, officials take active part in shaping the ethics of migration control.

Keywords: street-level bureaucracy; migration control; migration and border studies; ethnography; law enforcement; European migration apparatus; moral dilemma; creativity; coping mechanisms.

DOI: 10.1504/IJMBS.2018.093876

International Journal of Migration and Border Studies, 2018 Vol.4 No.3, pp.163 - 178

Received: 30 Dec 2016
Accepted: 29 Jun 2017

Published online: 08 Aug 2018 *

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