The diagnosis of a migration crisis has prompted multiple processes of rebordering in Europe and beyond. These include the buildup of physical barriers like walls and fences, the tightening of asylum regimes, the expansion of biometric databases, and the enrollment of authoritarian regimes in controlling Europe’s borders. These developments have prompted a revival of the image of the “fortress” in critical accounts of the European border regime. Building on existing criticisms of the metaphorical Fortress Europe, this article proposes an alternative political imaginary of the European border regime. Starting from a version of the autonomy of migration approach that is based on the notion of appropriation, it proposes to apprehend the European border regime as a parasitic and precarious apparatus of capture. This apparatus of capture tries to recuperate migrants’ practices of appropriation in order to turn the knowledge and creativity of these practices into a driving force for its own development. Important aspects of this dynamic are illustrated through two examples: the refinement of control mechanisms of the European visa regime and the repeated tightening of Germany’s asylum regime since the “summer of migration” in 2015. Taken together, these examples illustrate three aspects of processes of recuperation: first, that legal changes often only formalize previously informal practices of recuperation, second, that the framing of migration in terms of crisis functions as a vehicle for processes of recuperation that, third, are incoherent and thus open up new opportunities for practices of appropriation. In sum, the reading of the European border regime as an apparatus of capture paves the way for more assertive antiracist politics as it invites us to apprehend increasingly violent forms of border control not as signs of strengths of the European border regime, but as indicators of its increasingly desperate fight for survival.

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