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Daniela DeBono

Visiting Fellow

DebonoDanielaVisiting Fellow (with International Postdoctoral Fellowship of the Swedish Research Council)

Malmö University

Daily encounters at the border: reception in the EU and irregular migrants arriving by sea


Biographical Note

Daniela DeBono Ph.D. (Sussex) is Marie Curie COFAS Research Fellow at the Global Governance Programme. She is also Senior Lecturer in International Migration and Ethnic Relations (IMER) at the Department of Global Political Studies, Malmö University (Sweden) and a Research Fellow of the Malmö Institute for Studies of Migration, Diversity and Welfare. Daniela is an Affiliated Member of the Mediterranean Institute, University of Malta, the country expert for Malta at the EUDO Citizenship Observatory, and the Country of Origin contact person for Malta for the Rights in Exile Programme.

Her main research interests lie in the migration-human rights nexus, and reflect her interdisciplinary training in anthropology, sociology, human rights and migration studies. The methodology she has used in all her major projects is ethnography, including her current project which is a multi-sited ethnography. She has published on the contemporary Euro-refugee crisis, migrants' experiences of deportation from Sweden, on irregular migration and human rights in Malta, co-edited a special issue on irregular migration in southern Europe and a series of reports on citizenship. Her PhD was awarded from the University of Sussex (UK) where she was based at the Sussex Centre for Migration Research, and a member of the Sussex Centre for Justice and Violence.

Daniela has also lectured at the University of Sussex, the University of Connecticut in London and the University of Malta. She has held full time managerial positions with the Maltese Commissioner for Children’s Rights, the Maltese National Commission for Persons with Disability and Caritas Malta. And has worked on a voluntary and professional basis with the Jesuit Refugee Service Malta, Initiatives of Change International, the Commonwealth Youth Exchange Council, the Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission, the Young Christian Workers and the National Youth Council.

Research Project

Daily encounters at the border: reception in the EU and irregular migrants arriving by sea

Alongside the increase in EU border control and securitisation, there are efforts by the European Union (EU) and its Member States to mainstream human rights principles in external border control and in the construction of fair asylum systems. Indeed the safeguarding of the human rights of migrants is particularly important in situations where migrants are vulnerable, such as on the border. Reception is officially regulated by different sets of policies and procedures conducted within a few days or weeks from arrival, and which can include rescue at sea, immigration, reception/detention and asylum policies. Research has so far focused on the analysis of policy and institutions, but little is known of what happens on the ground. This project proposes to contribute by examining the reception of irregular migrants in Italy, Malta and Greece, Member States which lie on the two most important routes for irregular entry into the EU - the Central and Eastern Mediterranean Maritime routes. This study will generate a fine-grained ethnography of the everyday implementation of the reception activity on the ground by studying the interaction between two pivotal groups that shape and influence reception practices on the ground a) state and NGO officials, and b) migrants. 

Select Publications

Books & special issue

  • DeBono, D., Ronnqvist, S. & Magnusson, K.  (2015) Humane and Dignified? Migrants Experiences of Living in a ‘State of Deportability’ in Sweden, Malmö University, Malmö: Holmbergs
  • King, R. & DeBono, D. eds. (2013) “Irregular Migration in Southern Europe”, Special Issue of Journal for Mediterranean Studies, 22 (1)


Academic journals

  • DeBono, D. (2016) “Returning and Deporting Irregular Migrants: Not a Solution to the ‘Refugee Crisis’”. Human Geography, 9 (2), 101-112
  • DeBono, D. (2013) “A ‘Disempowering System’: Democratic Practices Militating Against the Realisation of Human Rights of Irregular Migrants in Malta”. Journal of Mediterranean Studies, 22 (1), 171-190
  • King, R. & DeBono, D. (2013) “Irregular Migration and the ‘Southern European Model’ of Migration”. Journal of Mediterranean Studies, 22 (1)
  • DeBono, D. (2013) “Less than human”: The detention of irregular migrants in Malta”. Race and Class, 55 (2), 60-81



  • DeBono, D. (2017) ‘”Burning without fire’: The paradox of the state’s attempt to safeguard deportees’ psychosocial wellbeing”. Z. Vathi and R. King, Return migration and psychosocial wellbeing: Discourses, Policy-making and Outcomes for Migrants and their Families. London: Routledge.
  • DeBono, D. (2015) “Malta”. In S. Carrera-Nunez & G-R. De Groot, European Citizenship at the Crossroads : The role of the European Union on Loss and Acquisition of Nationality, Nijmegen: Wolf Legal Publishers.
  • DeBono, D. (2012) “‘Human rights for the Maltese first’: Irregular migration, human rights and the need for a cosmopolitan approach”. P. Xuereb, Migration and Asylum in Malta and the European Union: Rights and Realities, Malta: Malta University Press, 257-275.
  • DeBono, D. (2011) “‘Not our problem’: Why the detention of irregular immigrants in Malta is not seen as a human rights issue”. Dembour M. & Kelly T., Are Human Rights for Migrants?: Critical Reflections on the Status of Irregular Migrants in Europe and the United States, London: Routledge, 146-162.
  • DeBono, D. (2008) "Poverty-induced Cross Border Migration: Socio-economic rights and International Solidarity".  P. G. Xuereb (ed.) The Fight Against Poverty: Civil Society Project Report, Malta: EDRC, University of Malta, 179-189.



  • Buttigieg, E. & DeBono, D. (2015) Citizenship Laws and Policies – Malta, EUDO Citizenship Observatory, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, Florence: European University Institute, Florence
  • DeBono, D. (2013) Electoral Voting Rights for Third Country Nationals: Malta, EUDO Citizenship, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, , Florence: European University Institute
  • DeBono, D. (2013) Naturalisation Procedures for Immigrants: Malta, EUDO Citizenship, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, Florence: European University Institute



Page last updated on 08 January 2018