Conference Agenda

Panel 507: Migration practices and consequences
Tuesday, 07/Sept/2021:
11:30am - 1:00pm

Session Chair: Aline Burni, German Development Institute


EU Pandemic Borders: Forced Migrants as Anti-life - Towards a Post-biopolitical Paradigm

Violeta Moreno-Lax

Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom

Covid-19 has accelerated new migration governance dynamics that translate into a novel post-biopolitical form of “othering” that not only negates the rights forced migrants derive from EU legal instruments, but their very personhood too. Forced migrants are facing heightened brutality at the new “pandemic borders” of the Schengen zone, through indiscriminate pushbacks, deleterious quarantine arrangements, and lethal force by vigilante mobs. While violence as a migration management tool is not new, what is unprecedented is the way in which Member States’ responses to the virus have normalized not only the deprivation of full legal protection of forced migrants, but their complete de-humanisation as well, beyond the point of Agambenian “bare life”. The measures adopted for Covid-19 control have tended to identify the virus, and the mortal threat that it represents, with the migrants themselves. Quarantine measures have not been taken to spare forced migrants from the dangers of the disease; they have rather aimed at their containment, isolation and exclusion to protect “us” from “them”, as if they and the virus were one and the same. This assimilation has led to a new form of de-personification, in a process that has reduced them not to “mere human existence”, in Arendtian terms, but to a sort of anti-life to neutralize and eliminate.

This paper takes issue with this development and the way in which it has been justified. It will expose how the emerging EU “pandemic borders” negate the humanness of forced migrants. The process is not one of mere reduction to homo sacri or semi-persons, but one of weaponized and aggressive reification that equates forced migrants to the virus, rendering the fight against both not only legitimate but necessary as well. In this process, forced migrants do not just suffer from the “abstract nakedness of being human and nothing but human”, in Arendt’s words, but are re-presented as a kind of hostile non-life, threatening “us”, to be proactively sanitized and eradicated. This pathologisation of migrants’ subjectivities creates the conditions of possibility for new anti-migrant modes of bordering that can crystallize in a new paradigm in the post-pandemic world, undoing the already precarious legal protections they used to be accorded in pre-pandemic times. On this basis, this paper proposes to harness the resources of Foucaultian biopolitics and Agambenian thanatopolitics to formulate a new theoretical approach that adequately captures and confronts this phenomenon.

Economic Displaced Persons: Labour Migrants From Africa To Europe, Fuelling Irregular Migration?

Avwerosuoghene Hope Golah-Ebue

University of Urbino, "Carlo Bo", Italy

In recent times, movement of people from place to place have recorded increase like never before. Borders have shrank to the extent they are rarely seen especially in the advanced world, for example the European Union. Africa on the other hand, has also witnessed this increase of cross border mobility within and outside her continent. Africa since her independence in the late 1950s and early 60s, have been plunged into various nation-states crisis, ranging from communal clashes, civil wars, bad leadership, corruption, military coups, unemployment and most recently a lot of violent conflicts, such as militia insurgent groups etc1. All these have put the African continent in an unstable growth which have further placed Africa in the bottom billion of the world in terms of political and economic power. These have also translated in a lot of cross border mobility from Africa to other parts of the world with Europe recording the highest number of immigrants from Africa2. Of which many of these migrants who flee the continent are within the youth bulge. Studies carried out revealed that many of the African migrants are within the ages of 15-24 years3. It has also been revealed that migration from Africa have been mixed migration flows with a substantial number of them moving through irregular routes to Europe and other parts of the world4.

This paper deals on African migration and the way, shape and form such movement occurs. Particularly, it seeks to bring to limelight cross- border mobility of economic displaced migrant and how such movement fuels irregular migration from Africa to Europe. According to some scholars over 1 million migrants from Sub-Sahara Africa arrived Europe between 2010-2017 irregularly5. In the first four months of 2020 alone, migrants attempting to cross to Europe from Tunisia jumped to about 150% increase more than the same period recorded in 2019.6

The paper is a qualitative research work which deals on secondary data gotten from newspapers, articles, IOM policy briefs, Eurostat data bank, as well as the local Nigerian newspapers in its analysis.

Refugee Housing and Integration Policy in Berlin: Policy Learning or Policy Innovation?

Eli Auslender

University of York, United Kingdom

Berlin's policies covering refugee housing and integration changed twice after the city's asylum infrastructure collapsed in 2015 due to the unpreparedness of the city's government. The first change introduced the first Masterplan for integration, though with the election of a new left-coalition government of the SPD, the Greens, and Die Linke in 2016, policy changed again to become more inclusive and introduced new connections with civil society organisations. This paper seeks to understand if the shift in policy was due to policy entrepreneurship, policy learning, or something else that cannot yet be accounted for. Current literature expects large cities such as Berlin to learn from comparably-sized cities rather than smaller cities, such as Leverkusen, and preliminarily the second Masterplan adopted refugee health policies from Bremen as well as examples from Cologne, and for policy ideas to act as 'viruses' in society, 'infecting' public discourse; however, it hasn't studied the permeation of policies to implicitly influence political party policies at a national level. Within this paper, we interviewed both Berlin policymakers and civil service professionals, as well as refugee-facing NGO workers to understand how and why there was a shift in Berlin's inclusivity policies and whether or not it reflects a value-based change in the city's policy framework. Contrary to what the interviewed members of the Berlin civil service believed, we find documentary evidence to support the idea that the current government's policy ideas were shaped by Die Linke's early support of the Leverkusen Model as a benchmark against which Die Linke's refugee inclusion policy proposals were based. From this, we propose a new process of policy idea spread vis a vis 'policy permeation', where policy learning can help spread policy ideas but remain unacknowledged as the source of that policy learning. This concept can help demonstrate that policies developed in one city/municipality, regardless of size, can influence policy development in cities of different sizes.

Immigration Through The Side Door? The Impact Of Trade Commitments On National Immigration Systems In Switzerland And Germany

Paula Hoffmeyer-Zlotnik

University of Geneva, Switzerland

Globalisation has increased the pressure on states to open up their economies, including for immigration. In this context, the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and preferential trade agreements (PTAs) include binding commitments on the immigration of service providers and employees of multinational companies. The implementation of these commitments, however, rests on national immigration policies, often shaped through hostile immigration politics dominated by concerns for national security and calls to restrict immigration. In this paper, I study the impact of the GATS and PTAs in immigration systems and ask whether trade commitments can provide for a side door entry channel in restrictive immigration regimes. I conduct a comparative case study of Switzerland and Germany, two countries with similarly high demand for skilled labour immigration and similar levels of migration commitments in trade agreements, yet with highly different immigration regimes for non-EU nationals. Drawing from a global dataset of migration commitments in trade agreements as well as from a detailed analysis of immigration laws and their development over time, I find that the set-up of the immigration regime does matter for the impact of PTAs: in Germany, the general liberalisation of immigration rules for skilled employees render trade agreements less relevant as an immigration channel. In Switzerland, trade agreements and deployments through multinational companies do provide an important exception in an otherwise restrictive immigration system. The findings imply that in restrictive immigration systems, special interests, e.g. of multinational companies, play a disproportionate role in national immigration regimes both in policy and practice.

NGOs, Migrants and the EU in the Age of Pandemic: A Reopening of Public Space

Daniela Irrera

University of Catania, Italy

The paper discusses the increasing roles of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in assisting refugees and migrants in coping with the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, following the lack of state capabilities and in response to the militarisation of border and asylum policies. By analysing the major consequences imposed by the pandemic on the EU migration policies and states’ approaches, it is argued that civil society organisations have complemented governmental responses, by mitigating their inconsistency and inhuman feature. Other than providing assistance to vulnerable people, NGOs are experimenting new public spaces, opened by the pandemic, to promote policy debates and reforms. The paper is divided in three parts. Firstly, an overview of the main COVID effects on humanitarian crises and on the condition of migrants and refugees is provided. Secondly, old and new roles of NGOs in coping with such effects are deepened. The continuation of non-governmental search and rescue (SAR) operations in the Central Mediterranean is particularly investigated as a controversial challenge. Thirdly, they ways NGOs are influencing public spaces for rethinking migration and refugees’ policies and practices are considered. The paper is conducted within the H2020 PROTECT project on The right to international protection: a pendulum between globalization and nativization.