AFK-EuPRA – 3 (Part 1), 6 (Part 2) and 7 (Part 3): Forced Migration and Inequality: The Production and Process of (Forced) Migration

AFK-EuPRA – Panel 3 (Part 1), Panel 6 (Part 2) and Panel 7 (Part 3):
Forced Migration and Inequality:

Current developments in Europe, such as the refugee crisis and European reactions to it, form an important backdrop of the joint AFK-EuPRA conference 2017. The Call for Papers mentions “securitization of borders, the selection and categorization of refugees and other displaced persons, the challenges of integration and growing racist and right-wing popular movements and discourses.” The conference will also “reflect the many ways in which widely applied methods and common research practices are imbued with inequality”. The three panels below address these issues from different perspectives, providing empirical examples that highlight theoretical, epistemological and methodological issues involved in research on migration.

AFK-EuPRA – Panel 3 (Part 1):
Forced Migration and Inequality: The Production and Process of (Forced) Migration

Chair:Vidar Vambheim (University of Tromso, Norway)

This panel intends to reveal perspectives and voices of people that live in or have fled from areas that produce displacement and forced migration, and merge these perspectives and voices into European academic and political discourse. The panel aims at analyzing local and regional conflicts that produce displacement and forced migration, basing these analyses on first-hand information from those who have experienced the causes and forces of migration on their own bodies and in their own minds. Empirically, we will focus on conflicts over resources, power and identities, and how these interact with history and traditions in the very “sites of production” of emigration. The panel will discuss methodologies that are conducive to generating the voices of displaced persons and migrants as well as to presenting and communicating research results based on those voices. Moreover, it will debate how to best communicate research results to the communities and people that provided the information in the first place.


Christine Smith-Simonsen (University of Tromso, Norway): Exodus Eritrea

The Eritrean liberation war (1961-1992) caused a massive migration from Eritrea, the majority of whom came to constitute the backbone of Eritrean economy and national support through strong Diaspora communities. After de jure independence in 1993, the migration tide shifted when many exiled Eritreans decided to return to help rebuild the country. From the early 2000 onwards, however, after the last war between Eritrea and Ethiopia, the tide shifted once again and developing into a massive exodus, a trend which is still high and rising. This presentation will look into the driving forces behind the migration flow from Eritrea, by discussing the push and pull factors as they relate to both the Diaspora communities and the authorities on the other.

Janvier Nzigo (International Organization for Migration, Norway): The Circle of Forced Migration, Refuge and Possible Repatriation

The paper will outline a research project – its goals and methods – that focuses on what 1) makes humans flee from their home, land and country, at the risk of losing their lives, 2) seek refuge in another place, 3) what individual assessments they made before, during and after flight, and 4) how they assess the question of return to their countries/places of origin when the original causes of their flight – e.g. civil unrest, civil strife or civil war – are not any more directly present in the country or place from which they fled. This is what Kunz (1971) followed by Lubckerman (2000) have referred to as the dynamic model of movements; a theory that sees forced displacement as influenced by the migrants own internal motivations in contrast to the kinetics with push and pull factors being determined by external and often out of control events and factors to the individual or the would be migrants.

The project aims at a four-module research work that looks at patterns of forced migration through the lenses of the migrants, and stages and experience the forced migrants goes through as well as the push and pull factors influencing the latter’s decisions and motivation. It is based on the author’s previous work (Nzigo 2012) that sees exile as a process interconnected in a circle starting with flight and (might end with repatriation and/ or return; given certain premises.


AFK-EuPRA – Panel 6 (Part 2):
Forced Migration and Inequality: Migration, Fears and Threat Perceptions

Chair: Christine Smith-Simonsen (University of Tromso, Norway)

In Europe, there are millions of unemployed and underemployed people, many of whom have experienced loss of income, status and social security, as well as a loss of hope for improvement in the foreseeable future. Among them, many may feel disregarded and marginalized by the centers of power both in Europe/the EU, and in their home country. Recently, we have seen an upswing in protests and nationalist movements against immigration in many European countries, and these movements appear to stem from fears of mass migration to Europe. This panel will investigate causes of this development and try to see the problem from the perspectives of those who feel marginalized or alienated in their own home country. We will discuss causes of the reactions against immigration among Europeans, and especially ask whether these reactions are a reflection of identifiable fears and threats or whether notions of threats are “constructed” by political engineers that exploit vague feelings of anxiety and insecurity among sections of European populations. The panel will also compare the insecurity, fears and threat perceptions among migrants with the anxiety and threat perceptions among Europeans.


Vidar Vambheim (University of Tromso, Norway): State-Centered vs. Human-Centered Perspectives on Migration

This paper will address two views on the problem of security and migration: A state-centric view focusing on state security (alias “social security”), and a human-centric view focusing on human security.

The two perspectives differ with respect to referent object and focus, as well as with respect to their political, legal, social and human implications. According to a state-centric view, the state is the referent object; according to the human-centric view, individual humans are the referents.

The former perspective may allow for sacrificing, or at least downplaying individual human security and safety on the altar of state security. According to the latter perspective, downplaying or cancelling human security with reference to state security, will at best reduce the word “security” to an empty container. At worst, it may function as a “start-signal” to actors and groups that want to sacrifice human security or rights in the interest of the state (sometimes euphemistically called “the public interest”).

The state security aspect favors a logistic or “kinetic” model to refugees and refuge – i.e. a model that focuses on numbers and movement of “masses” ( Lubckerman, 2000). The alternative to this model would be a “dynamic model” (ibid.) that focuses on the motives, push and pull forces that drive individuals to flee from one place and seek refuge in another place, even at the risk of losing their lives.

These two perspectives are today poised against one another both in countries that “produce” refugees as well as in host countries of refugees, and this fact strongly affects the debates both in host countries and in international society about migration. The perspective of host countries (partly even in the UN) is today inevitably favoring a “kinetic” model, which – although not problematic eo ipso – favors a state-centric and “strategic-action” approach to migration.

Gunhild Hoogensen Gjørv (University of Tromso, Norway): Emotional Politics and Migration

This paper will look at the ways in which emotions are used by different actors to shape processes in migration and whether we are currently seeing the emergence and development of an increased emotive arguments and justifications in the treatment of migration. It contests the still dominant thinking in security theory that migration is undertaken based on rational decision-making. In doing so, I adopt a critical perspective and draw on the literatures on wars, conflicts, interventions and migration patterns connected to war, and the current increased interest in emotions and IR. I contend that understanding migration from conflict in terms of emotions adds to the literature on interventions/war in providing us far more depth regarding decision-making processes as well as twists potential results of migration policy. I suggest that the so-called „rational“ decision-making analyses often ignores emotions and assumes an almost linear process where, for example, might through policing/border controls/Frontex should eliminate migration and therefore provide security, whereas an analysis that includes emotions would argue that this linear thinking process does not work, and instead rationalist measures may result in an increased problems with migration rather than an eliminated threat. Migrants often become migrants due to fear. This fear (often driven by war/conflict) makes migrants vulnerable to the manipulations of illegal activities of smugglers and „gatekeepers“ who use migrant fear for their own profit. State and non-state actors also manipulate and use the fears of populations in potential host countries to engage in questionable international human rights law practices with regards to refusing entrance or deporting migrants. The role of fear will be analysed through theories of security. The paper will emphasize the ways in which emotion (particularly fear) trumps rationality in today’s migration debate.

Itır Toksöz (Doğuş University, Turkey): The Perception of Migration and Migrants as a Threat – Fears and Manipulation of Fears Among Populations in Europe

Threat perceptions is a popular topic among scholars of international relations, yet the focus is oftentimes how two states perceive and misperceive threats (Robert Jervis, David Singer among others). Threats are generally understood as potential harm directed against the territorial integrity or the political regime of the states in question or both. Wandering on the borders of the mainstream realist theory and the rational choice theory – popular since when behavioralism entered into IR literature in the 1960s – and the constructivism of the reflectivist era (Wendt), the topic has been made a subject of study through such several different conceptual lenses but mostly on an international/state level of analysis a la Waltz.

Yet in an era when non-state actors become more visible and influential in world politics, the level of analysis should now go down sub-state, group and individual level from systemic and state levels. The latest migrant crisis in Europe is an example of an emerging phenomena where migrants are now seen as a threat not only as a destabilizing element for the states receiving them, but also by the communities who receive them. This perception is not unique to Europe as the same pattern can be observed with Syrian refugees in Turkey or in anti-immigrant rhetoric by the Republican candidates in the US electoral primaries (a country built upon immigrant legacies) and finally in the candidacy of Donald Trump. This shift in the subject of threat perception (from states perceiving threats to communities perceiving threats) would render some of the theories on threat perceptions as obsolete (for ex. David Singers Threat: Estimated Capability X Estimated Intent) and would beg for expanding the theoretical frameworks of studies in threat perceptions.

Departing from the insufficiency of theoretical perspectives and going into the depths of contemporary examples, the paper will scrutinize how and why migrants as opposed to states became the new threats for states but more importantly their communities in the European context and whether this perception is grounded in reality or constructed. The author will argue that those who feel excluded in their own system (inside Europe) are more likely to exclude others in return, creating a snowballing effect and will try to explain this trend by factoring in the historical/ colonial, globalization-related and War on terrorism-related foundations of such threat perception. For gathering data, the paper will look at European practices (of state and community level) in general but towards recent waves of refugees in particular to assess how and why migrants became the new plague for some states or communities and its consequences.


AFK-EuPRA – Panel 7 (Part 3):
Forced Migration and Inequality: Governance and Control of Migration

Chair: Vidar Vambheim (University of Tromso, Norway)

This panel presents critical approaches, both in a theoretical and methodological sense, to the rapidly developing physical, technological and symbolic control and government of inner and outer spaces and boundaries around and inside the European Union. Space is being symbolically constructed with reference to ownership and rights, and guarded by legal, physical and symbolic barriers. The barriers define which identities will get access to a specific type of space, and which are excluded from that space. Space is also controlled by establishing technologically defined and controlled zones, where some subjects and objects get access, others not, depending on specific criteria, profiling and ever-expanding technologies of control. We will analyse both criteria and technologies used to profile and identify subjects and objects that are considered “safe” or “legitimate”, excluding those that are considered not.


Peter Stuart Robinson (University of Tromso, Norway): The Proprietorial Constitution of Space: Towards a Political Economy of Mobility Management

The specification of various spatial demarcations, from nation-states to gated communities, has typically entailed a kind of gating, that is, the further specification of the conditions of their proper navigation. This social-constitutive practice at the heart of modern politics has typically been understood, following from Hobbes, as responding to concerns about security and thus creating communal conditions of order, as well as protecting the community from the potential pollutions of those stipulated and understood to be outsiders. Such an understanding represents a perfectly reasonable hermeneutic account. It is much more questionable to assume such expressions of collective meaning and understanding as, ‘We chose these measures in order to enhance our security,’ also offer a kind of explanation. Such rational-actor presuppositions are nevertheless readily embraced by conventional social science, which echoes the extraordinary faith in the salience and power of human agency of Western culture more generally.

The aim of this work is to shift the focus away from actor-centric accounts that root the efforts of policymakers and other agents to control and monitor flows of people, in rationally intelligible security concerns or, conversely, various forms of emotional response or psychological pathology. The explicit goal is to explore this kind of ‘geopolitical’ practice in terms of the social mechanisms of its production. This draws attention to the political economy of control in terms of the normalisation of relationships and domains, which are understood, at least partly, as economic, wherein various forms of return on investment are secured. The common root of such practices lies in commercial-industrial strategies of spatial management aimed at efficient utilisation of labour as a factor of production. A focus on such non-security aspects of the geopolitics of im/mobility draws attention to those mechanisms most readily occluded by actor-centric lines of analysis.

Martina Fischer (Bread for the World/Berghof Foundation, Germany): From the Margins to the Center – And Then Erecting Walls Again? A Critique of the European Union’s Foreign-, Security and Refugee Policies

In the past years a variety of papers have been presented by the European Commission and by the EU High Representative, outlining strategies of the EU in foreign-, security- and refugee policies. Many of these strategic documents reflect the ambivalence of the EU Policy. On the one hand the complementarity and coherence of approaches is emphasized; on the other hand, core elements of the foreign-, security- and refugee policy undermine aims in other policy fields.

Both, documents and statements by EU officials make reference to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed on UN level; in particular goal SDG No 16, related to peace, has been frequently mentioned. However, in-depth analysis of EU policies and discourses shows that they are dominated by security interests of the EU countries, while largely neglecting security needs of those outside EU. They are driven by a logic based on security rather than peace and sustainability. This logic is exclusive and paves the way for shielding the “Fortress Europe” and for militarisation of the EU’s foreign relations. Analysis of the root causes of (violent) conflict and migration movements, which would be a precondition for innovative politics, is almost missing.

The EU Commission’s intention to repurpose the “EU-Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace” (IcSP) is an example for the new paradigm and for a shift of priorities. Originally, the IcSP had been originally established for funding of peace building and reconciliation initiatives by civil society actors. Several member countries (including Germany) push for an amendment that allows to use this instrument for funding of military training and equipment. Armed forces in partner-countries in African and other regions shall be the recipients of “such empowerment”. Migration management and border control are the key words of the underlying strategies. These are also based on the assumption that first of all the military forces should be enabled to combat terrorist movements.

Another danger is that EU policies show a strong trend for mixing military and civilian funding. This tendency goes beyond the EU. The criteria established by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation for defining development related expenditures have been revised in this sense in February 2016, and there is more readiness today to accept the idea that funding military empowerment can be declared (and certificated) as a contribution to peace, stability and development.

In order to provide a comprehensive policy the EU should systematically strengthen its relations with civilian partners and civilian conflict management. Serious concepts for economic development are needed. Furthermore the EU should strengthen its instruments for protection of human rights and civil society, and support initiatives for good governance and institutional reforms. Furthermore, it is necessary that the EU member states self-critically assess their own contributions and responsibility for the lack of stability and live chances in the global south (as shown, for instance by questionable arms exports, investment decisions and climate policies). In particular countries with a colonial past should invest more capacities on coherent strategies and long-term commitments for sustainable economic development.

Daniela Irrera & Fulvio Attinà (University of Catania, Italy): Civil Society in Action: The Use of Non-Governmental SAR Operations in the Mediterranean as a ‘New’ Security Tool

The refugee and migration crisis has contributed to promote and consolidate new practices. The NGOs’ SAR Operations represent a new aspect of the humanitarian new normal phenomenon which is here analysed to deepen the existing knowledge about the response of the state, the citizens and the organised civil society to the crisis. The paper, which is based on an expert survey research conducted by researchers of the University of Catania, contends that Europeans overwhelmingly perceive irregular migrants as a threat.

In the first part of the paper, the existing scientific knowledge about the transformation of migration in the 21st century is enlightened. Secondly, the persistent uncertainty of the European leaders on how to respond to the humanitarian crisis and contains the supposed general opposition of the citizens to migrant inflow is discussed. Thirdly, the recent engagement of the NGOs in the SAR Operations at sea to rescue people in the Mediterranean is examined and tested. The assumption that the operations directly run by the NGOs are complementary to the governmental ones is discussed along with the view that they have contributed to bridge the gap opened by the EU lack of intervention in the early stages of the Mediterranean crisis. Empirical data are used to assess the perception of such practice and discuss its political and social legitimacy. In the conclusions, the non-governmental SAR operations are assessed to know whether they are going to remain for long in the humanitarian system.

ein Kommentar

  1. Christine · · Antworten

    I took part on panel 6 and would like to thank all participants for highlighting the role of education (of migrants and(!) the whole population), because this topic was missed by some people in the keynote. But I asked myself if the question of education is not clearly linked to the question raised up in one paper: „Is it Migration or Migrants that is the threat?“ Because without adressing this question it is unclear how to organize education and which aim is focused by educating people.

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