Together Against Trafficking in Human Beings



Project EUBorderCare

Intimate Encounters in EU Borderlands: Migrant Maternity, Sovereignty and the Politics of Care on Europe’s Peripheries


Reference ERC-2016-StG Grants # 638259

PI: Vanessa Elisa Grotti


(Promoter) Host Institution – European University Institute


Budget € 1,498,463.00



Start date: 01/08/2015

End date: 31/07/2020

Duration: 60 months


(Partners) Other Beneficiaries – N/A

Objectives and results


EU Border Care is a comparative study of the politics of maternity care among undocumented migrants on the EU’s peripheries.

Empirical analysis of personal and institutional relations of care and control in the context of pregnancy and childbirth will support an innovative critique of the moral rationale underpinning healthcare delivery and migration governance in some of Europe’s most densely crossed borderlands in France, Greece, Italy, and Spain.

Unlike other categories of migrants, undocumented pregnant women are a growing phenomenon, yet few social sciences or public health studies address EU migrant maternity care.

This subject has urgent implications: whilst recent geopolitical events in North Africa and the Middle East have triggered a quantifiable increase in pregnant women entering the EU in an irregular situation, poor maternal health indicators among such women represent ethical and medical challenges to which frontline maternity services located in EU borderlands have to respond, often with little preparation or support from national and European central authorities.

Grounded in long-term ethnographic fieldwork in maternity wards located in French Guiana and Mayotte (Overseas France), the North Aegean and Attica (Greece), Sicily (Italy), and Ceuta and Melilla (Spain), my project will trace the networks of maternity care delivery in peripheries facing an increase of immigration flows, and characterised by structural social and economic underinvestment.

The team will investigate migrant maternity from three interlinked research perspectives: migrant women, healthcare delivery staff, and regional institutional agencies.

Empirical and desk research, combined with creative audio-visual methods, will document migrant maternity on EU borderlands to address wider questions about identity and belonging, citizenship and sovereignty, and humanitarianism and universalism in Europe today.




The steady increase in the proportion of migrant women entering the European Union in the past two decades is now well documented in social and political sciences, particularly in the case of domestic work and healthcare, family migration and human trafficking. Pregnant migrant women represent some of the world’s most vulnerable populations entering the European Union today. Their maternal health indicators are consistently poor: existing surveys show that they receive little to no routine antenatal care, and experience more complications during labour and childbirth than their non-migrant counterparts. This project is looking, among other matters, at how women migrants who enter EU borderlands today as part of smuggling operations developed with little regard to human security are exposed to increasing health complications.


Publications and other resources – No publications to date


Further information


Publication Date
Tuesday, 19 June, 2018