University of Sussex
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Migration management: the radical violence of the international politics of migration

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posted on 2023-06-08, 11:51 authored by Eva Christina Oelgemoller
In the 1980s, the narrative of international migration was significantly altered in Europe. This thesis examines how this new narrative was brought about by policy-makers and shows how the narrative re-configured our understanding of international migration. Empirically, the focus of the thesis is the Inter-Governmental Consultations on Asylum, Refugee and Migration Policies in Europe, North America and Australia (IGC). These consultations are situated in the context of debates in the 1970s and 80s concerning ‘free-market conservatism’. The thesis argues that these debates comprised the conditions of possibility for the emergence of an 'informal plurilateralism'. Through thus far confidential memos between high ranking public servants, summaries distributed across embassies, background papers, minutes of meetings and personal letters, I trace the development of an altered discourse and the construction of a new figure: the ‘illegal migrant’. ‘Migration Management’, I argue, is best seen as a hegemonic paradigm which embodies a tool-box of mechanisms for governments to deal with international migration; introduces a distinctive way of treating human mobility; prescribes specific ways of constructing migrants, including a minority of illegal migrants who remain just outside of the European external boundaries, stripped of their juridico-political status. As such, these migrants are suspended from the community of those with a place and function. The figure of the suspended migrant points to the disappearance of the political, understood as a space where public encounter of the heterogeneous is possible. This raises crucial questions about what democracy is, how it works and how the political can be realised in a climate where the logic of necessity and efficiency has filled the space previously occupied by bipolar grand-narratives. Most urgently, it raises questions about the way in which the value of a human being is established, granted or denied. Arendt and Rancière help me to start addressing these questions.


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