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Over the recent decades, it has been a common belief that the hope of beginning a new life in Europe turns into a real tragedy for many people with African and Asian origins, including Middle Easterners. A major humanitarian crisis caused by deaths (over 10% of reported arrivals) at sea is now commonplace.[1] Furthermore, according to a recent report by Amnesty International, at least 23,000 migrants have lost their lives trying to reach Europe since the year 2000.[2] This tragedy signals that Europe has been losing its war on illegal immigration. Some half a million illegal immigrants still enter the European Union annually, despite years of measures that have included policing, detention, and repatriation.[3] The UN refugee agency report in 2014, referring to the current Syrian crisis, states that:

“The number of refugees, asylum-seekers and people forced to flee within their own countries surpassed 50 million for the first time since World War II, and the four-year-old war in Syria has been the single biggest driver of the surging numbers. Last year, 1 in 5 displaced persons worldwide was Syrian.”[4]

In this paper, illegal immigration –also known as clandestine, undocumented or irregular immigration–[5] will be used to define a trauma that speaks to not only criminal but also humanitarian, social, economic, and political domains.

Within this perspective, in this essay I will investigate the reasons why the international system has failed to manage the current illegal immigration crisis in Europe. I will also suggest that the international system should manage this crisis in Europe through a constructivist perspective rather than a realist framework that gives priority to the state security precluding any cooperation.

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The Drivers of the Failure

To some scholars, the roots of the illegal immigration in Europe dates back to the feudal time, mostly related with economic concerns based on the restrictions on freedom of movement in particular in German lands and Britain.[6] But in fact, as a general consensus, the 1980s are known as the beginning of a trend of mass illegal immigration into Europe due to the emergence of unprecedentedly large numbers of asylum seekers.[7]

The development of human rights protection systems after the WW2 is considered to be the basis of the current immigration regime.[8] Needless to say, the main institutions in this regime are the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Geneva Conventions of 1949 set the guiding principles for the protection of refugees and stateless persons.[9] But as the recent events clearly demonstrate that this regime is insufficient to manage the current illegal immigration crisis in Europe.

From a general point of view, Afolayan summarizes almost all possible drivers of the crisis. “Population growth and population density, economic vulnerability and debt, socio-cultural issues, ecological disasters, social networking, government migration policies and regional economic integration.”

These reasons, according to Afoloyan, pave the way for the illegal immigration flow from, in particular, the Middle East and Africa to Europe.[10] In addition to the illegal border crossing cases, especially for the most of southern European countries, the majority of illegal immigrants in reality entered legally but overstayed or broke their visa conditions. Addo especially underlines the economic domain that in some cases the international system’s efforts, such as the Ministerial Euro-African Conference on Migration and Development held in Rabat in 2006, seem useless since the international system do not adequately address the underlying economic factors that drive illegal immigration.[11] As an another example, the European Commission, a part of international system, also offers two key instruments in its report regarding the control of the illegal immigration: the return and employer sanctions directives.[12] But these instruments seem to be useless too as the recent mass illegal immigration flow shows us.

With regard to the economic reasons of the crisis, recent studies show that, in Europe, pre-existing informal sectors that create informal employment triggers illegal migrant labour flows.[13] To support this assumption, Salt and Stein emphasize an important point that “smuggling of migrants has emerged as a profitable global business and has also partially transmuted into trafficking and exploitation”.[14] Some scholars such as Cornelius (2005), Ellerman (2006), Lahav & Guiraudon (2006), van der Leun (2006) also mention that economic interests sometimes lead to a de facto toleration in countering against the illegal immigration.[15]

From a constructivist perspective which argues that international reality is socially constructed by cognitive structures that give meaning to the material world, and has also noted the role of international institutions as actors in their own right [16], Vandystadt suggests that European states must reach an agreement on a directive creating a unique resident and work permit, and should develop directives of “seasonal employment” and “international inter-business mutations”.[17] With regard to employment and work permit, Duca also  emphasizes that the lack of an effective way for the regular and legal entry of the low-skilled employers causes illegal immigration in Europe.[18]

On this basis, we could argue that it is difficult to single out a set of shared measures within and across European states despite of the facts about the world. As aforementioned above, the existence of informal economy, black market, and exploitation of the refugees, conflicts of economic interest, and lack of agreed and collective norms are the problems that the international system has failed in finding new solutions. Therefore, from my point of view, the desire to struggle with the consequences of the illegal immigration can be materialized via the constructivist perspective which focus on certain social meanings of military power, trade relations, international institutions, or domestic preferences[19]. Furthermore, depending on its interest, beliefs, and ideology, constructivism has also emphasized the role of non-state actors more than other approaches.[20] So, in order to enhance the international efforts to manage the illegal immigration crisis, to set international rules and collective norms agreed by all the European countries might be effective and sustainable way to prevent the influx of immigrants[21].

Additionally, Kassar and Dourgnon highlight that some European countries increased the controls promoting more of a realist stance, which resulted in the diversification of routes, methods and departure points.[22] Furthermore, as an unexpected consequence of these realist stances of the European countries on the illegal immigration crisis, Fassin argues that “the erection of a “wall around the West” with restrictive and repressive immigration policies resulted in the massive production of “illegal aliens” in Europe”.[23] Fassin also emphasizes “the three pillars of the management: economy, police, and humanitarianism”. He also adds that the management of illegal immigration crisis has become dramatically harder over recent decades, once the policing become the principal instrument to govern the immigrants.[24]

Undoubtedly, ethnic, religious and political conflicts in Africa and Middle East from the 90s have increased the number of illegal immigrants.

The states in those regions have confronted with recurrent food crises, terrorist and security threats, trafficking in arms, drugs and human beings. Therefore, we can assume that there is a close link between ongoing crisis in African and Middle Eastern countries and illegal immigration, because the vast majority of the origin countries are located in those regions.[25] Considering the link between the origin states and the illegal immigration cases, it can be proposed that unless the international system could  devise sustainable solutions to the ongoing conflicts in Africa and Middle East, it is highly likely to fail to stop the mass illegal immigration flow towards Europe.

Within this context, it could be assessed that as an evolving crisis, the illegal immigration crisis in Europe calls for a close cooperation between not only states but also NGOs and IOs as well to manage it. With regard to this need, Broeders and Engbersen point out that “supranational actors such as the EU, private parties (e.g., airlines and transport companies), local governments, and public institutions, also have a role to play in the fight against irregular migration”.[26]

It is an increasingly accepted fact that the transnational non-state actors who interacts with each other, with states, and with international organizations, such as IOs, NGOs, and multinational corporations, should have important roles in changing states’ beliefs about the shared and agreed norms in management of the current illegal immigration crisis in Europe. Although illegal immigration cannot be controlled by only closing the doors, the development of the agency FRONTEX[27] to reinforce the external borders of Europe and Transnational Advocacy Networks (TAN)[28] which has built new links among civil society would be important steps to stop the illegal immigration.

By contrast, de Haas mentions that “policy making on this issue seems therefore to be caught in a vicious circle of more restrictions – more illegality – more restriction”.[29]  This vicious circle can be described by European states’ realistic approach which has a nature seeking to survive and security that acts as an obstacle to cooperation.[30] Needless to say, the lack of cooperation between European countries, and poor contact with both origin and transit countries to create agreed measures instead of using their borders as the front line against the illegal immigration is one of the important drivers of the failure of the international system.

Conclusion

To conclude, the European states should share the burden of illegal immigration more equitably.  As the recent debates in the international arena regarding the illegal immigration crisis in Europe point out that instead of realistic approach which is concerned with survival of the state and power struggle, and claims that anarchic system is dominant at international system, European states should adapt more of a constructivist paradigm that promotes the ideas of cooperation with all partners or stakeholders through developing collective norms suggesting to share the burden of the illegal immigration amongst the EU’s member states.

For instance, the idea of “distribution key” suggested by Anna Cecilia Malmström, EU commissioner on behalf of Sweden since 2010, stating that member states harboring fewer asylum-seekers, such as Poland, would take more, could contribute to development of the collective norms. Furthermore, distributing migrants among states in proportion to population could be another option.”[31] Needless to say to take these kind of measures, a European migration concept should be in the joint interest of all EU member states including a flexible European burden-sharing system just as flexible as the national ones.[32]

Finally, it is a common belief that the ongoing crisis and economic deterioration in Africa and Middle East fuel the illegal immigration. As Edward Said writes, “the greatest single fact of the past three decades has been, I believe, the vast human migration attendant upon war, colonialism and decolonization, economic and political revolution, and such devastating occurrences as famine, ethnic cleansing, and great power machinations.”[33] That’s why the road to permanent and sustainable solutions to illegal immigration crisis in Europe intersects with the road to stability and security in Africa and the Middle East.  

 

 

References:

  1. A Portes, ‘Toward a structural analysis of illegal (undocumented) immigration’, International Migration Review, 12 (4), 1978, pp 469–484; B Ghosh, Huddled Masses and Uncertain Shores, The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1998; B Jordan & F Duvell, Irregular Migration, London: Edward Elgar, 2002; and G Hanson, The Economic Logic of Illegal Immigration, CSR No 26, New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 2007.
  2. A.Afolayan, Issues and Challenges of Emigration Dynamics in Developing Countries, International Migration, 39 (4), p.10, 2001.
  3. Addo, Porous Policies, Illegal Immigration in Europe, Harvard International Review, Fall 2006, pp.10.
  4. Broeders and Engbersen, The Fight Against Illegal Migration, American Behavioral Scientist Volume 50 Number 12, 2007.
  5. Skran, Refugees in Inter-war Europe: The Emergence of a Regime, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.
  6. Fassin, Policing Borders, Producing Boundaries. The Governmentality of Immigration in Dark Times, The Annual Review of Anthropology, 40:213–26, 2011.
  7. de Haas, H., “Turning the Tide? Why Development will not Stop Migration”, Development and Change, Vol. 38 No. 5, pp. 819-41, 2007.
  8. European Commission (2010),1st Annual Report on Immigration and Asylum, COM (2010) 214, European Commission, Brussels.
  9. Kassar , P.Dourgnon, The Big Crossing: Illegal Boat Migrants in the Mediterranean, European Journal of Public Health, Vol. 24, 2014.
  10. International Relations, Principal Theories, https://www.princeton.edu
  11. J Salt & J Stein, Migration as a Business: The Case of Trafficking, International Migration, 35 (4), pp 467–494, 1997.
  12. J. BADE, Legal and Illegal Immigration into Europe: Experiences and Challenges, European Review, Vol. 12, No. 3, 339–375, 2004.
  13. Marchi, Ghosts, Guests, Hosts: Rethinking “Illegal” Migration and Hospitality Through Arab Diasporic Literature, Comparative Literature Studies, Volume 51, Number 4, pp. 603-626, 2014.
  14. Baldwin-Edwards, Towards a Theory of Illegal Migration: Historical and Structural Components, Third World Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 7, 2008.
  15. M Baldwin-Edwards, Semi-Reluctant Hosts: Southern Europe’s Ambivalent Response to Immigration,Studi Emigrazione, 39 (145), p 33, 2002.
  16. M Baldwin-Edwards, Immigration After 1992, Policy & Politics, 19 (3), p 199.
  17. Vandystadt, Immigration/Visas : Three Initiatives on Legal and Illegal Migration, Europolitics, No. 4209, 2011.
  18. Duca,”The Dark Side of European Immigration Policy”, Journal of Money Laundering Control, Vol. 14 Iss 2, 2011.
  19. The Economist, Europe’s Huddled Masses; Illegal immigration, 16 Agust 2014.
  20. The creation of Frontex, European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union, founded together with the Council Regulation (EC) no. 2007/2004 of the Council on October 26, 2004.
  21. Torpey, J. , States and the regulation of migration in the twentieth-century north Atlantic world. In P. Andreas & T. Snyder (Eds.),The wall around the West. State borders and immigration controls in North America and Europe(pp. 31-54). Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000.
  22. Washington Post, New U.N. Report Says World’s Refugee Crisis is Worse than Anyone Expected, 18 June 2014.
  23. Wendt, A. Social Theory of International Politics , CUP Cambridge 2000.
  24. A. Cornelius, Controlling ‘‘Unwanted’’ Immigration: Lessons from the United States, 1993–2004’,Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 31 (4), pp 775–794, 2005.
  25. Walt, S.M., International Relations: One Word, Many Theories, Foreign Policy, vol.110, pp.29-47, 1998.

[1] M. Baldwin-Edwards, Towards a Theory of Illegal Migration: Historical and Structural Components, Third World Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 7, pp1453, 2008.

[2] The Economist, Europe’s Huddled Masses, Illegal immigration, 16 Agust 2014.

[3] A. Addo, Porous Policies, Illegal Immigration in Europe, Harvard International Review, Fall 2006, pp.10.

[4] Washington Post, New U.N. Report Says World’s Refugee Crisis is Worse than Anyone Expected, 18 June 2014.

[5] A Portes, ‘Toward a structural analysis of illegal (undocumented) immigration’, International Migration Review, 12 (4), 1978, pp 469–484; B Ghosh, Huddled Masses and Uncertain Shores, The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1998; B Jordan & F Duvell, Irregular Migration, London: Edward Elgar, 2002; and G Hanson, The Economic Logic of Illegal Immigration, CSR No 26, New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 2007.

[6] M. Baldwin-Edwards, Towards a Theory of Illegal Migration: Historical and Structural Components, Third World Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 7, pp 1449–1450, 2008.

[7] M Baldwin-Edwards, Immigration After 1992, Policy & Politics, 19 (3), p 199.

[8] M. Baldwin-Edwards, Towards a Theory of Illegal Migration: Historical and Structural Components, Third World Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 7, pp 1451, 2008.

[9] C. Skran, Refugees in Inter-war Europe: The Emergence of a Regime, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.

[10] A.A Afolayan, Issues and Challenges of Emigration Dynamics in Developing Countries,International Migration, 39 (4), p.10, 2001.

[11] A. Addo, Porous Policies, Illegal Immigration in Europe, Harvard International Review, Fall 2006, pp.10.

[12] European Commission (2010),1st Annual Report on Immigration and Asylum, COM (2010) 214, European Commission, Brussels.

[13] W.A. Cornelius, Controlling ‘‘Unwanted’’ Immigration: Lessons from the United States, 1993–2004’, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 31 (4), pp 775–794, 2005.

[14] J Salt & J Stein, Migration as a Business: The Case of Trafficking, International Migration, 35 (4), pp 467–494, 1997.

[15] Broeders and Engbersen, The Fight Against Illegal Migration, American Behavioral Scientist Volume 50 Number 12, 2007.

[16] E.Adler, “Seizing the Middle Ground: Constructivism in World Politics”, European Journal of International Relations, Vol 3, Issue 3, 1997.

[17] N. Vandystadt, Immigration/Visas: Three Initiatives on Legal and Illegal Migration, Europolitics, No. 4209, 2011.

[18] R. Duca,”The Dark Side of European Immigration Policy”, Journal of Money Laundering Control, Vol. 14 Iss 2 pp. 158 – 169, 2011.

[19] Wendt, A. Social Theory of International Politics, CUP Cambridge 2000.

[20] International Relations, Principal Theories, https://www.princeton.edu

[21] Walt, S.M., International Relations: One Word, Many Theories, Foreign Policy, vol.110, pp.29-47, 1998.

[22] H. Kassar, P.Dourgnon, The Big Crossing: Illegal Boat Migrants in the Mediterranean, European Journal of  Public Health, Vol. 24, 2014.

[23] D.Fassin, Policing Borders, Producing Boundaries. The Governmentality of Immigration in Dark Times, The Annual Review of Anthropology, 40:213–26, 2011.

[24] Ibid

[25] H. Kassar , P.Dourgnon, The Big Crossing: Illegal Boat Migrants in the Mediterranean, European Journal of  Public Health, Vol. 24, 2014.

[26] Broeders and Engbersen, The Fight Against Illegal Migration, American Behavioral Scientist Volume 50 Number 12, 2007.

[27] The creation of  Frontex, European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union, founded together with the Council Regulation (EC) no. 2007/2004 of the Council on October 26, 2004.

[28] Keck, Margaret E., and Kathryn Sikkink. 1998. Activists beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Ch. 1, pp. 1-38.

[29] de Haas, H., “Turning the Tide? Why Development will not Stop Migration”,Development and Change, Vol. 38 No. 5, pp. 819-41, 2007.

[30] Walt, S.M., International Relations: One Word, Many Theories, Foreign Policy, vol.110, pp.29-47, 1998.

[31] The Economist, Europe’s Huddled Masses; Illegal immigration, 16 Agust 2014.

[32] K.J. BADE, Legal and Illegal Immigration into Europe: Experiences and Challenges, European Review, Vol. 12, No. 3, 339–375, 2004.

[33] L. Marchi, Ghosts, Guests, Hosts: Rethinking “Illegal” Migration and Hospitality Through Arab  Diasporic Literature, Comparative Literature Studies, Volume 51, Number 4, pp. 603-626, 2014.