MIGPROSP PhD researchers’ thoughts ahead of The Dynamics of Regional Migration Governance conference

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By Laura Foley and Andrea Pettrachin

As the two newest recruits to the MIGPROSP project, this is our first conference as part of the team and we are really looking forward to it. The programme for the conference, available here, is packed full of interesting papers and speakers and will make for two days of stimulating discussion. On the eve of the conference, we reflect what we are most excited about for the conference.

Laura: As part of the MIGPROSP project, my research analyses the governance of low-skilled labour migration in Southeast Asia so there are a number of speakers that I look forward to hearing, especially the opening panel on May 25th which includes Nicola Piper and Sandra Lavenex’s paper Regional migration governance in Asia: perspectives ‘from above’ and from below’. In the paper, they contrast the dissociation between formal highly selective mobility norms, which tend to reflect government’s preference for temporary movements of highly skilled professionals, with informal governance “from below” consisting of the “bottom up” mobilisation of civil society actors. In the paper, they seek to identify the venues through which these two largely dissociated processes may be brought closer to another.

On May 26th I am similarly looking forward to hearing Stefan Rother’s paper The uneven migration governance of ASEAN where he explores the uneven governance response to labour migration in Southeast Asia, notably the ‘glaring governance deficit’ of lower-skilled migration. Rother’s contribution will analyse how the governance deficit is addressed by the vibrant civil society in the region who provide ‘migration governance from below’. This is of particular interest as civil society organisations in Southeast Asia are some of the actors that will be included in my research.

As I am in the first year of the PhD and have very much been engrossed in the dynamics of migration governance in Southeast Asia, I also look forward to hearing insights about migration governance in other regions. For example, On May 26th I look forward to hearing Sarah Leonard’s paper Frontex and asylum seekers: between securitization and human rights where she will present the activities of the European External Borders agency Frontex, examining the various criticisms that have been levelled at the agency with regard to respect for human rights, especially asylum-seekers’ rights, and analysing the various changes that have been introduced to respond to criticisms.

Finally, I should add that, as I have never been to Florence before, I am really looking forward to seeing the city!

Andrea: Differently from Laura, my research investigates the governance of asylum-seeking migration in Italy and I am thus particularly looking forward to hearing the many speakers that are going to deal with issues related to the current European “refugee crisis”. It is so exciting, at the end of my first year, the idea of meeting scholars that are largely referenced in my literature review, to know how their research activity has recently developed and to speak to them in person!

I am of course looking forward to hearing all of the papers related to asylum-seeking migrations: among them, Barbara Oomen’s paper ‘Going local in migration governance: the interplay between city, national and regional refugee policy’, exploring the degree to which (networks of) cities increasingly seek to take a central stage in the welcome and integration of migrants, and Christian Kaunert’s paper on ‘Refugees, security and the European Union’, which analyses the extent and the modalities of the securitization of asylum-seekers and refugees in the European Union. Having spent some months of my life in Ceuta, the Spanish enclave in Morocco, I am also very interested to know something more about how the Moroccan migration regime is changing, which is at the core of Katharina Natter’s paper Changing migration regimes in Morocco and Tunisia: actors, interests and ideas.

I am finally really looking forward to hearing the contributions coming from within the MIGPROSP Project and to spend some time exchanging ideas and experiences with the other members of the Project. I am sure it will be a great experience!

The Dutch aren’t turning against immigration – the salience of the immigration issue is what drives Wilders’ support

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by James Dennison, Andrew Geddes, and Teresa Talò

The key story in the 2017 Dutch election campaign so far has been the high levels of support for Geert Wilders’ PVV in opinion polls. But what explains the PVV’s ability to attract voters? James Dennison, Andrew Geddes and Teresa Talò write that although Wilders’ success is frequently linked to hardening views on immigration, attitudes toward immigration in the Netherlands have actually remained fairly stable. The real root of the PVV’s support lies in the salience of the immigration issue itself, partially heightened by media coverage of recent increases in the numbers of migrants entering the country.

2017 has been widely billed as a year of potentially momentous elections across Europe, including in Germany, France and, on 15 March, in the Netherlands. Some commentators have speculated about a domino effect that would see mainstream governments fall as part of a pan-Western backlash against globalisation and high levels of immigration following the British EU referendum and American presidential election of 2016. At first glance, the Dutch election supports this interpretation: polls suggest that the anti-immigration PVV – led by Geert Wilders – may win the most seats of any party in the House of Representatives. If Wilders’ party comes first, should we interpret the result as another example of surging public demand for an end to immigration? Or are such election results less indicative of a radical change in public attitudes than has thus far been assumed? Read More

Argentina’s restrictive turn on migration: Trump’s first imitator in the Americas?

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by Diego Acosta and Leiza Brumat


Argentina’s history and national identity are inextricably linked to immigration. Indeed, between 1880 and 1930 the country was the world’s second largest recipient of migrants, behind only the US. The immigration policies of both nations were often aligned during the period. In 1902, for example, Argentina adopted a law facilitating the expulsion of foreigners amid concerns about labour movements and anarchists; in 1903 the US banned the naturalization of anarchists. After the US approved its 1917 Immigration Act, which excluded from entry numerous groups including epileptics, alcoholics, criminals, beggars, and those with a physical disability, Argentina quickly reacted with similar laws in 1919 and 1923, fearful that those denied permission to disembark in US ports would continue their journeys to Buenos Aires. Read More

More pathways for migrants to Europe can foil people smugglers – border clampdowns will not

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by Andrew Geddes and Luigi Achilli

By Ggia - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Syrian and Iraqi refugees arrive in Lesbos, Greece, from Turkey. Photo by Ggia – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

The ongoing migration and refugee crisis topped the agenda at a meeting of EU political leaders in the Maltese capital, Valletta, earlier this month. Malta’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat, captured the urgency of the situation when he told the European Parliament in late January: “The European Union will be seriously tested unless we act now.”

The backdrop to this meeting is a dystopian image of Europe threatened by a migrant invasion of epic proportions managed by a criminal cartel of smugglers and traffickers. This nightmare vision continues to fuel resurgent populist and extreme right political parties. Containment and prevention of migrants reaching the EU, plus efforts to strengthen cooperation with neighbouring countries such as Libya, are widely seen as necessary political responses. Read More

How can global migration governance find innovative solutions in times of anti-immigrant sentiment?

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by Marcia Vera Espinoza

Hague_Institute_FlagEarlier this month experts from around the world gathered at The Hague Institute for a two-day workshop on global migration governance as part of the Global Governance Reform Initiative (GGRI). The GGRI is a joint project between The Hague Institute, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Observer Research Foundation (New Delhi) that seeks to analyse the deficiencies of the current international system in key areas of governance and propose policies and initiatives for improvement. Read More

Brazil’s new migration law: a huge step forward for migrant rights protection

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by Diego Acosta

brazil-1542335_960_720This week (6 December) the Brazilian Congress voted by a majority of more than 70% in favour of the adoption of a new migration law. This law will replace the present framework adopted in 1980 during the military dictatorship (though it will only come into force after ratification by the Senate and six months after its official publication).

Despite its recent financial and political problems, Brazil remains a key country in the global arena. Together with Russia, India and China, Brazil is one of the BRICs and an economic giant – indeed the ninth largest economy in the world. Moreover, Brazil is both an emigration and immigration country and a crucial actor in the development of free movement of people and the bid to construct a regional citizenship in South America. Read More

Comparing migration governance in Europe and South America

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By Diego Acosta and Andrew Geddes

How do regional responses to migration differ in Europe and South America? This is the question tackled by new MIGPROSP research, published in the European Journal of Migration and Law.

Points of contact

There are important points of contact between Europe and South America.

  • The European Community (as it then was) strongly supported MERCOSUR’s creation in 1991.
  • In 2011, there were 3.1 million nationals of South American countries residing in the EU and around 1.3 million EU nationals who’d moved in the other direction.

But there are tensions too. The EU’s 2008 law on the return of irregular migrants, known as the Returns Directive, prompted a strongly critical reaction from South American governments.
A MERCOSUR declaration deplored the directive and pointed out the hospitality offered by South American countries to large numbers of European migrants. Read More

Free movement in South America: the emergence of an alternative model?

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by Diego Acosta


MERCOSUROver the last 15 years, South American governments and regional organisations have adopted an expansive discourse about migration that entails welcoming all migrants and promoting the free movement rights of foreigners. At a time when the European Union (EU) free movement regime has suffered a major setback with the United Kingdom voting to leave the bloc—an outcome heavily influenced by concerns over intra-EU mobility—South America’s move seems all the more noteworthy.

In contrast to their counterparts in Europe and the United States, South American politicians and civil servants stress the universality of migrants’ rights and the inefficacy of restrictive responses to migration. Read More

Inside San Diego’s Otay Mesa detention centre

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by Diego Acosta

Otay Mesa Detention Centre, San Diego

Otay Mesa Detention Centre, San Diego

Although much of my research focuses on legal aspects of undocumented migration, I’d never visited a detention centre for irregular migrants. So when the opportunity arose in May this year to see inside the Otay Mesa detention facility near San Diego (where a Russian citizen had died just days before), I couldn’t pass it by.

The first thing that strikes the observer is how far the facility is located from downtown San Diego. Indeed, it’s very close to the Mexican border. Having finally arrived after more than an hour’s drive, and after going through a double electrified fence and registration, we are conducted into a room where we are given a presentation by CCA personnel. CCA — the Correction Corporation of America — is a private company making huge profits on running such centres ($227 million in 2015). Read More

The EU referendum and Britain’s broken immigration politics

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by Andrew Geddes

The decision in 2004 by Tony Blair’s New Labour government to allow unfettered access to the UK for citizens of the 8 central and east European EU newcomers has had monumentally important implications. Most other member states imposed transitional restrictions of up to 7 years. If Britain had done so too then it’s probably safe to say that the scale of movement to Britain would have been tiny in comparison with actual numbers and Britain would still be in the EU.

If about one thing, the 2016 referendum was about immigration, but British immigration politics are broken. While strained at times, it once was that a two party Con-Lab consensus established in the 1960s removed the issue from wider public debate. This consensus has long since been stretched way beyond breaking point fuelled not least by the steep growth in migration from other EU members after 2004.

London June 7 2016; Photo by David Holt

London June 7 2016; Photo by David Holt

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