The history of global migration governance

Alexander Betts & Lena Kainz - Refugee Studies Center - Working Paper Series
10 August, 2017

“This working paper on the history of global migration governance has been written in the context of discussions on the Global Compact for Migration. The paper is aimed at a policy-making and diplomatic audience, and seeks to situate the current discussions within a historical context and enable the trajectory of the institutional architecture relating to migration governance to be better understood by all parties to the negotiations. It traces the evolution of migration institutions over the last 100 years and highlights key turning points that have enabled to pace of institutional developments to accelerate in recent years. It argues that one of the great challenges of global migration governance has been its fragmentation, and concludes with a series of recommendations about how policy-makers can manage fragmentation in a way that promotes international cooperation.”

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  The impact of post-Brexit delays and checks at Dover risk tailbacks on Kent motorways. Photo Credit: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

Brexit border chaos will cause huge delays and cost £1bn a year, says report

Article in The Guardian
31 July, 2017

I like the idea that “the border is a tax point – not a search point”: it should apply to movements of people as it applies to movements of goods, capital and services.

“Britain will be hit by huge border delays, require vast lorry parks in the south-east, and suffer more than £1bn a year in economic damage, according to a stark economic analysis of the likely impact of customs checks after Brexit…

The alarming assessment, by the Europe-wide Oxera consultancy, sets out what it describes as the most likely impact of the new border checks imposed after Brexit. The warning comes after Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, ruled that the government’s hopes of securing “frictionless” trade outside the EU was not possible…

The study also sounds the alarm over a new customs IT system due to be delivered just as Britain leaves the EU.”

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Moving Targets: An Analysis of Global Forced Migration

Haas Institute Report
31 July, 2017

“Moving Targets: An Analysis of Global Forced Migration investigates the historic and contemporary causes of forced migration as well as both the challenges and capacities of national and international refugee protections and resettlement efforts. 

Written by Haas Institute researchers Elsadig Elsheikh and Hossein Ayazi, this report provides an in-depth analysis of the historical and contemporary dynamics of forced migration worldwide, namely neoliberalization, securitization, and the climate crisis…

Aimed at advocates, practitioners, policymakers, and researchers, Moving Targets was written to provide a conceptual framework for understanding forced migration, support improvements in local, national, and international refugee policy, and identify research-based interventions to facilitate fairer refugee support mechanisms.”

To access the report, please click here

  Michel Euler / POOL / AFP | French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech during a citizenship ceremony in Orleans, central France, on July 27, 2017.

‘Hotspots’ in Libya: French President Macron’s troubling announcement

Article in France 24
28 July, 2017

“French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday he wanted to create “hotspots” in Libya this summer where migrants would be pre-screened for asylum claims”. That this announcement is “troubling” is a euphemism.

For those who remember, it is unfortunately not a new idea in Europe : “In the beginning of the current [2004] Iraq war, Tony Blair suggested the creation of refugee camps under the supervision of the EU but outside its territory. His “new vision for refugees”, published in March 2003, foresaw returning those who would apply for asylum in the EU to outside the EU’s borders. His vision was one of a ‘camp universe’, set up by EU officers and made up of Transit Processing Centres (TPC) in front of the gates of the EU, together with the UNHCR and the notorious International Organisation for Migration (IOM). From there they would be able to bring the refugees back to “safe” zones near their regions of origin and select a few for entry into the EU. When that plan became known to the public, it went down in a storm of protest.” (Helmut Dietrich , “The desert front – EU refugee camps in North Africa?”, Konkret (issue 12/2004), translated in Statewatch: (for the Blair memo, see:

Such an idea is essentially based on two fantasies.

The first fantasy is that, thanks to (hundreds of) billions of euros, one can stop migration through utter repression, operated in faraway countries without any effective accountability for human rights violations – in effect, doing there what human rights courts and institutions prevent one from doing at home –, all the while not responding whatsoever to the push factors (underdevelopment, bad governance, poverty and violence) and pull factors (exploitative jobs in underground labour markets, family reunification, diasporas) of migration movements. As long as push and pull factors will create movements, trying to contain them will deviate some movements, reduce temporarily some numbers, and considerably increase the suffering of migrants. People have always moved and will continue to do so.

The second fantasy is that such a policy choice would entail no long term international, political, financial, developmental, social or moral repercussions in one’s own backyard. This delusion will be morally, politically and financially costly for the Global North. It will drain development resources away from the priorities of the Global South – as the EU is already doing by rerouting development funds into the construction of detention centres, the implementation of integrated border management systems and the training of border and coast guards –, and, pushing migrants further underground, it will increase considerably the power of smuggling rings, unethical recruiters and exploitative employers: a deadly mix for migrants. The implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement has already doubled the number of deaths in the Mediterranean.

Australia is being systematically criticised by every international and Australian human rights institution for its offshore processing centres in Nauru and PNG. This shows how a morally bankrupt idea, developed for pure electoral expediency, can create a political stain that will not wash away (“Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh!”). And the financial cost of this policy is astronomical (over AUD$3Bn per year for 2000 persons in 2015).

Such an example should drive European leaders to explore better long term options: facilitating mobility through progressively increased legalisation, regulation and taxation of migration options at all skill levels.

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Opening the Door to a New Solution

Article in Forced Migration Forum
27 July, 2017

A truly excellent novel, now long-listed for the Booker Prize, about how the world could adapt to global mobility, and how individuals strive creatively when given mobility opportunities.

“Today, there are over 65.3 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. Of those, over 21 million are refugees. 21 million individuals have been forced to move from their homes in search of safety elsewhere. In our world today, refugees move through borders and swim through oceans; in Mohsin Hamid’s world in Exit West, refugees move by stepping through doors. Hamid offers readers (and perhaps even refugees themselves) a new lens through which to view and understand refugees: agency. The thread of agency is apparent throughout the novel – from the choices the characters make about their clothes and lifestyle, to decisions about the kind of life they want to live. However, the more apparent fact is that agency is dependent on mobility;  refugees need mobility to exercise agency over their lives.”

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