Risk Politicization Strategies in EU Migration and Asylum Policies

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By Maria Ferreira | 11 October 2010


Asylum seekers by country of origin

The title of the article Risk Politicization Strategies in EU Migration and Asylum Policies, comprises its three main elements: the concepts of risk, security and European Union (EU) policies in the wide field of migration and asylum.

Policy-making in the European Union is often dependent on the balance between member states’ preferences and the Union’s interests represented by the non-intergovernmental European institutions. Thus, I can claim that European policy-making confronts individuation with social incorporation. Sociological-institutional approaches to europeanization, study socialisation and appropriateness mechanisms in European institutions. As such, these perspectives analyse the tensions between individuation and social incorporation. Those approaches drew my attention to the “grid-group” cultural theory as a viable way to understand and explain the political behaviour of European actors. I argue that the policy dynamics of EU migration policies is carving a hierarchical risk culture whose risk politicization strategies reify migrants as a risk group.

I will adopt a constructivist perspective on security. This option will allow me to deconstruct the articulation between migration and identity and to study the implications of claims concerned with societal insecurity. As discussed throughout the article, migration is an example of an area that can be constructed as an existential threat to the symbolic and functional survival of a society. Revealing the close link between migration and the politics of security highlights the fact that identity is a particularly suited element to be tackled by the every day practices of risk control.

Targeted governance and risk profiling are addressed as two of the most important risk politicization strategies. Targeted governance and risk profiling assume a specific importance since they highlight two main components of the politics of security, namely processes of objectivation (identity cards, passports, bureaucratic categories) and subjectivation (individual or group alternative identifications) aimed at delimiting the groups to be “secured”.

The article is structured into three sections. It starts to look at how migration can be understood as a political arena. Focusing on the security-migration nexus the article discusses discursive and non discursive securitizing strategies in order to illustrate how migratory movements are increasingly being represented as potential threats to societal stability. The second section explores cultural-symbolical theories of risk. The article interrogates the features of hierarchical risk cultures and in what ways the nature of institutional environments, based on diverse cultural bias, produce different political outcomes. In a third section, EU migration and asylum policies are represented as products of an institutionalized threat environment. The article discusses the institutional, political and strategic dimensions of securitizing migration in the EU, highlighting in what ways risk management strategies in this area are not based on exceptional politics but on daily practices of risk control. It is argued that the nature of the policy-making process in the migration arena is promoting a fettered and intergovernmental environment for policy-making and is favouring a hierarchical rationality responsible for triggering a particular sensitivity regarding border maintenance. The rationale for the control of the Mediterranean border of the EU is particularly emphasized. The article concludes by highlighting how security policies are deeply articulated with security knowledge and in what ways that knowledge constitutes the main resource for securitizing migration in the European Union.



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* Published in the Second Issue of Journal of Global Analysis (JGA)

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