A Few Thoughts on the Capitalist Border Regime

This brochure deals with the concept of the “border regime”. Even though a lot of what
is written seems to be obvious, the following lines will explain in more detail the mean-
ing of this term, and how it is used within this context.
In common parlance the term border regime describes all measures and institutions
(legal, political, economic etc.) which are used for border security and control. The
word is also used on a neutral level in the bureaucratic jargon of politics.

However, in the following paragraphs, the concept of the border regime will be dis-
cussed in a more critical and wider way in order to give the deadly reality of border
politics a name. The context of the trial in Wiener Neustadt should mainly be seen in
the European border regime, which despite everything can be seen as common space.
It doesn’t deal with the military closure of the borders of “Fortress Europe”, but also
with diverse forms of power relations and the production of racist differentiation and
exploitation. Spatially there is both, an outward move through the outsourcing of bor-
der controls beyond the borders of EU member states as well as a extensive internal-
ization of borders in everyday life and in institutional contexts such as the legal system,
education, social and health care system, labour market, “humanitarian” bureaucracies,
etc., as well as in the consciousness of people.
The European border regime is a combination of many local border regimes. The fact
that the militarization of Europe’s external borders causes deaths – both through the
illegalization of safe ways of traveling and through direct armed forces – has now ar-
rived in the mainstream public perception. However, the border regime is not a purely
state-run construct. People often reproduce its borders and exclusions. Many don’t only
look away, but often actively support the system and even demand stricter regulations
or see them as necessary with no alternative. What is already commonplace for goods
and capital remains denied to most people: The freedom to movement.

However, the border regime remains contradictory and despite all brutality friable. On
the one hand the capital counts on the mobility of labour, on the other hand capitalist
states have to maintain control over their sphere of influence. Many manage to cross
the European border despite of the severe and deadly closure. In some areas “the econ-
omy” presses on its opening, in others on its defense. A complete isolation is not the
main reason for the defense of the border, but rather the control over migration based
on capitalist criteria of usability. The border and migration regime is also a labour
regime in which people are being made more productive for capitalist exploitation.
Because of the deprivation of rights and the precarious situation of migrants on the
capitalist labour market, they can easily be exploited.
The so called “human smuggling paragraph” (“Schlepperei paragraph” §114 Aliens
Police Act Austria) can be seen as part of the European border regime. Due to its vague
wording it can be used to criminalize any kind of support of irregular border cross-
ing. A system in which some people are unable to move “legally” produces constructs
such as “human smuggling”, “marriages of convenience”, “illegal entries” and “illegal
residence” all the more. Under these circumstances, an irregular border crossing is
often not possible without support. Thus “smuggling” becomes a necessary service.
One thing is for sure: As long as there are people who – for whatever reason – are forced
to or willing to cross borders, which are closed to them, these people need support in
order to cross and there will be a market for commercial forms of this support.
The paragraph is not formulated in a way to allow prosecution of inhumane behaviour.
but it criminalizes the support of irregular border crossings itself. The conditions under
which it takes place, only play a secondary role. Essentially § 114 serves to further close
the borders and break the solidarity between people in order to expand the border
regime and increase the effectiveness of its repressive function.