The creativity of coping: alternative tales of moral dilemmas among migration control officers
by Lisa Marie Borrelli; Annika Lindberg
International Journal of Migration and Border Studies (IJMBS), Vol. 4, No. 3, 2018

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.

Online publication date: Wed, 08-Aug-2018

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