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Durham University

Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Publication details for Professor Joe Painter

Papoutsi, A., Painter, J., Papada, E. & Vradis, A. The EC hotspot approach in Greece: creating liminal EU territory. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. 2019;45:2200-2212.

Author(s) from Durham


This article makes a theoretical argument stemming from our study of the European Commission’s hotspot approach to the management of migrant populations. It draws on empirical research findings from field research which took place on the island of Lesbos and in the city of Athens over the course of 20 months and links these to emerging critical studies of the new EU border regime. No clear definition exists of what comprises a hotspot: instead, the European Commission describes this as an integrated ‘approach’ for the enhancement of the capacity of member states to deal with crises resulting from pressures at the Union’s external borders. Effective in its ambiguity, the ‘hotspot approach’ therefore constitutes, as we argue, an integral part of the Europeanisation and institutionalisation of border management: a powerfully ambiguous dispositif in the EU’s emerging border regime. The article unpacks the notion of the hotspot from a historical perspective and explores the ways in which the hotspot contributes toward the culmination of European integration, paving the way for the flexible governance of mobility and asylum. We situate the hotspot within the historical shift of migration and mobility control from the border to the territory as a whole and conclude by arguing that the hotspot plays the role of a territorial incubator for the liminal EU territory: a paradigmatic space for a new form of governance that further disentangles territory from rights.