Push and back: The ripple effect of EU border externalisation from Croatia to Iran

Karolina Augustova, Helena Farrand-Carrapico, Jelena Obradovic-Wochnik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pushbacks have become a key feature of EU migration controls since 2015. As this article argues, practices of pushbacks stretch from EU spaces, such as Croatia, to its external borders and neighbouring countries, reaching as far as Iran. Although pushback tactics and their consequences are widely discussed in public, activist, policy debates, and by refugees themselves; academic literature has a limited engagement with pushbacks and their effects. To address this gap, we set up the concepts of “push” and “back” to question the ripple effect of informal and violent border controls that occurs transversely in multiple geopolitical contexts and timelines of migratory journeys. The article draws on ethnographic fieldwork in two border locations: the Croatian border with Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Turkey-Iran border. We argue that the EU’s governance of its external border encourages identical practices of “push” to different locations. We show that “pushes” generate multi-layered violence enmeshed in the local security (and at times militarized) contexts when people are “back”; or forcibly returned to their starting locations. The analysis of “push” and “back” contributes to the literature on the EU externalisation of migration governance and border violence, which we examine through informal and violent border practices inside and outside of the EU.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)847-865
JournalEnvironment and Planning C: Politics and Space
Issue number5
Early online date15 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright © The Author(s) 2023. This accepted manuscript version is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/]. The final publication, 'Augustova, Karolina, Farrand-Carrapico, Helena and Obradovic-Wochnik, Jelena (2023). Push and back: The ripple effect of EU border externalisation from Croatia to Iran. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space', is at https://doi.org/10.1177/23996544231163731

Funding & Acknowledgements: The authors would like to thank to Aston University, the Istanbul Policy Centre, Mercator Stiftung, and Border Violence Monitoring Network for supporting this research. Importantly, thanks to people on the move who helped with interview interpretations and the research on the ground but whose names must stay anonymous to protect their identities. Without them, it would be impossible to navigate the border between Iran and Turkey. We are also grateful to the Istanbul Policy Centre interns for their help with participant recruitment and interviews in Turkish. The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported by the Stiftung Mercator and Aston Prize PhD Studentship.


  • EU
  • border controls
  • externalisation
  • geopolitics
  • migration


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