‘Saving the Lives’: Analysis of a Discourse on Irregular Migration in the Mediterranean

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EU-GRASP Working Paper 27
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This article considers a peculiar yet overlooked aspect in the management of irregular immigration: the repeated use of specific discourses in relation to determined governance processes. In particular, the ‘saving the lives’ discourse will be put under the spotlight in this work. The main objective is to show how this concern, often reported in European documents and speeches, has contributed to politicize irregular migration and asylum as well as to justify the undertaking of restrictive policies, posing consistency and effectiveness problems to the Union. The paper investigates the development of the discourse, dating back to removal practices implemented by the Italian Government towards Libya in 2004: in order to save immigrant lives, it was stated, it was necessary to send irregulars back to departure points or prevent them crossing the Mediterranean sea. From that period onwards, the ‘saving the lives’ discourse became a widely employed discourse both at the national and at the European level.