Martin Geiger: International Migration – Management, Organization and Policy

Introducing Martin Geiger

Martin GeigerMartin Geiger, a German Geographer, is a Research Fellow at IMIS, the Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies at the University of Osnabrück, Germany.

Previously, he has been affiliated with the European Migration Centre in Berlin, the EUROFOR offices in Florence and as a guest researcher with the Universities of Granada, Spain and Timisoara, Romania.

In the interview, dr Geiger elaborates on the added value of the new book “The Politics of International Migration Management (Migration, Minorities and Citizenship)” that he edited, together with dr Antoine Pécoud (UNESCO, Paris). Moreover, what do the editors want to achieve with the book, and why have they selected a critical approach? In addition, Mr Geiger discusses the rationale behind international migration management, the immigration policies of the European Union and the role of the International Migration Organization.

Interview

International Migration – the book

Martin GeigerWhat does the new book add to the existing literature in the field?

This edited book is about ‘international migration management’, a notion that has become popular to capture the renewed ways in which migration is addressed by governments and intergovernmental organisations and that designate proactive and concerted policies that aim at ‘managing’ the movement of people in a ‘post-control’ spirit. Yet, very little is known in terms of empirical evidence and of the actual practices that arise out of migration management. Available literature remains mostly at the level of advocacy, investigating what could or should be done rather than what is being done.

“The Politics of International Migration Management (Migration, Minorities and Citizenship)” addresses this gap by bringing together contributions that document the developments taking place under the ‘migration management’ umbrella. It includes both empirical investigations of new forms of migration policy, and analytical explorations of their political and ideological foundations. It develops a critical perspective on the profound implications of ‘migration management’ for the politics of migration. It features case studies from all over the world (Mexico, West Africa, Eastern Europe or the Asia Pacific) and from different disciplines (law, political science, geography and sociology).

What do you hope to achieve with the book?

It is the first book to explicitly address migration management in an academic, independent and critical manner – thus providing a valuable perspective on a ‘hot topic’. Moreover, the book provides a comprehensive coverage of the issues at stake, of different disciplinary approaches, and of different world regions. Finally, it targets both academics (scholars and students at the graduate and postgraduate level) and professionals working on migration-related issues, in policy fields, think tanks, IGOs or NGOs (given the current policy interest in migration management).

Why have you chosen for a critical approach?

Available literature remains mostly at the level of advocacy, investigating what could or should be done rather than what is being done. “The Politics of International Migration Management (Migration, Minorities and Citizenship)” addresses this gap by bringing together contributions that document the developments taking place under the ‘migration management’ umbrella.

It includes both empirical investigations of new forms of migration policy, and analytical explorations of their political and ideological foundations. It develops a critical perspective on the profound implications of ‘migration management’ for the politics of migration. It features case studies from all over the world (Mexico, West Africa, Eastern Europe or the Asia Pacific) and from different disciplines (law, political science, geography and sociology).

International Migration – Policies

Why is there a need to manage international migration?

The proponents of migration management often argue that the global migration system is clearly under strain or that migration is out of control while at the same time many political scientists and ‘managers’ of migration claim that the nation state has been hollowed out and is not any longer able to control migration. International migration management has been elaborated as a concept for a better understanding of migration flows.

Throughout the world, governments and intergovernmental organizations, such as the International Organization for Migration, are now developing new approaches aimed at renewing migration policy-making. International Migration Management includes calls for cooperation between governments to govern migration flows; it is inspired by an understanding that migration is a normal process in a globalizing world rather than a problem. Migration Management furthermore carries a ‘post-control’ spirit that goes beyond the restrictions on peoples’ mobility to draft proactive policies. It calls for a holistic approach to migration, an approach that is not exclusively centred on security or labour, but also on development and human rights.

Has the EU regulation of international migration changed since the 1980s?

Following the Amsterdam Treaty (1999) there has been substantial supranationalisation while EU migration policy previously was inter-governmental and policy-making was characterized by a high level of informalism and secrecy. Many agreements, including the Schengen Treaty and Dublin Convention, have been elaborated behind closed doors and under circumvention of EC institutions. Since 2004, the EU has been active in building up own capacities, e.g. the EU border agency Frontex. Nevertheless, most approaches to manage migration are out-sourced and entrusted to non-EU actors such as the IOM. An interesting facet of the EU common migration policy since the early 1990s is policy implementation by non-EU actors in the territory of non-EU countries.

What role does the International Migration Organization play in this respect?

The co-authors of “The Politics of International Migration Management (Migration, Minorities and Citizenship)” argue that migration management is characterised by the emergence of new actors in the politics of migration (such as IGOs, NGOs or think tanks) that function as ‘spin doctors’ or ‘service-providers’ to governments – thus enabling an externalisation (or outsourcing) of migration politics. These actors contribute to the elaboration of new discourses and worldviews, around notions such as the ‘migration-development nexus’, ‘circular’ or ‘temporary’ migration, human trafficking, ‘illegal’ or ‘transit’ migration, etc.

In turn, these new discourses determine and legitimate new practices, such as counter-trafficking efforts; training of civil servants in transit and sending countries; development of migration policies in countries lacking strategies in the field; return migration and readmission programmes, either forced or voluntary; and development-focused projects aiming at enhancing the positive impact of migrants, diasporas and remittances on regions of origin. These practices are characterised by their apolitical and technocratic nature, as they would not result from political choices but from ‘technical’ considerations and informal decision-making processes. Yet, such practices convey normative guidelines on who should what and how, thus enabling the emergence of new and subtle forms of control.

The International Organization for Migration as the single biggest intergovernmental organization dealing with the management of migration plays a leading role in elaborating and promoting new standards, discourses and approaches in the management of migration. However, IOM and its activities have not been in the focus of research for a long time. It is only since some years that IOM attracts the attention of researchers, more multiperspective and engaged-critical research is needed what concerns the argumentations and justifications underpinning IOM’s migration management activities. The same applies to the often problematic effects of migration management and the interventions of IOM in sending countries that are at the same time often fragile states.

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