Why do women die crossing borders?

SIEV-X-memorial-stones-300x199Women are more likely to die crossing borders of nation states, and with the proportion of women crossing borders increasing, it is probable that deaths will likewise increase. 

Women coming from the countries that are typically rejected for lawful entry, are also more likely to die at border crossings, and with a lack of robust reporting mechanisms about border deaths, understanding about this vulnerable group still has a way to go.

What does the evidence say?

Women are more likely to die crossing borders (the harsh physical frontiers of nation-states) rather than at the increasingly policed ‘internal border’ sites (for example immigration detention, during apprehension or deportation).

The authors note that increasingly women are irregularly crossing borders.

With increases in regional and civil conflict and natural disasters, coupled with changing social mores, women are less likely to remain in refugee camps and ‘home’ waiting for male family members to send for them.

Coupling this with increasingly hazardous environmental border crossings border deaths are likely to increase.

There are many reasons women are more likely to die in the environmentally hazardous sections of border crossings.                  

In the case of Australia and the European Union, these deaths at the frontier are likely to happen at sea, while on the US-Mexico border this is likely to happen in the frontier of the desert.

In the case of drownings between Indonesia and Australia and on the Mediterranean reasons include lower rates of swimming ability, attempts to save children in their care, the ways they are dressed, their compromised location on vessels and failure to access life vests.

Across the deserts between the US and Mexico it is often linked to their survival disadvantage during periods of extreme heat.

Women who come from countries that are likely to be rejected for lawful entry (as part of pre-departure visa regimes) are also more likely to die at border crossings.

What does it mean?

Where and how do women die crossing borders and what does it mean for increased border protection?

Despite increased public concern about border related deaths we know relatively little in regards to basic demographics, especially sex.

The authors argue for more robust reporting mechanisms about border deaths, as well as future concerted efforts to better understand vulnerable groups undertaking to cross borders.

This article gives insight and attempts to enumerate border deaths of irregular female migrants at the border frontiers of the European Union, Australian, and the United States.

How was the research done?

In a large quantitative study the researchers used three data sets, all based on figures from non-governmental organizations, to examine death at or near the borders in the European Union, the United States, and Australia.

Other studies have shown that increased fortification of borders by governments to keep irregular migrants out often increases risks of deaths as people clandestinely cross borders.

However few studies have asked why women and children are increasingly identified among the dead.

It is one of the first articles to exam this issue with quantitative data and with a comparative base which allows for not only different type of data to be presented in this realm, but a broad range of irregular migrants deaths to be examined.

Read the full article

Pickering, S. and Cochrane, B. (2012) ‘Irregular border crossing, deaths and gender: Where, how and when women die crossing border’, Theoretical Criminology, 17 (1): 27-48.

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