2016 Spring Meeting

On May 27th, the Dutch Association for Migration research organized a successful event on
(un)controlled migration”: border control and it’s implications in cooperation with the WODC at the Ministry of Security and Justice in the Hague. The meeting provided an opportunity for discussion between researchers and policy makers.

Maartje van der Woude (Leiden University) presented her research on the Mobile Security Monitor (Mobiel Toezicht Veiligheid in Dutch) (https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/nieuws/2016/04/wat-er-echt-gebeurt-in-de-nederlandse-grensgebieden). The MSM allows members of the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee (Koninklijke Marechaussee in Dutch) to carry out spot checks in the 20 km border area between the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. Based on extensive empirical research that was carried out over a period of 23 months –observation, focus group interviews, semi-structured interviews and informal conversations she discussed to what extent the MSM is (a) a legitimate way of monitoring cross-border mobility and (b) to what extent the MSM in its current form is the most effective way of doing so. In response, Lars Walrave (MinVenJ) expressed his appreciation for this research project, and emphasised that border control policies in the Schengen process are relatively novel and in flux.

Theodore Baird (Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam) presented an exploratory social network analysis of the organizations presenting at SMi Border Security conferences (https://www.smi-online.co.uk) between 2008-2015. The comparison of results suggested that the most important organizations in the network are, according to their overlapping scores of centrality, similarity within fields, and position within the ‘core’: governments, EU agencies, transnational firms, intergovernmental organizations, and research organizations. The discussion, launched by Tycho Walaardt (MinVenJ) highlighted the difficulties of doing research in this less than transparent field, as well as the absence of humanitarian discourses and actors in these conferences.

Arjen Leerkes (WODC and Erasmus University Rotterdam) discussed parallel developments in globalization where on the one hand an expansion of border control can be witnessed while on the other hand cosmopolitan identifications have become stronger in contemporary societies, particularly in the so-called “global South”: more and more people – including young populations in source countries of migration – are beginning to perceive themselves as (also) being part of a global community. In other words, while the importance of bordering has generally increased since the 1990s, territorial borders seem to have become less 'natural' and legitimate in people’s minds. Dr. Leerkes suggested that this lack of legitimacy might undermine the effectiveness of deportation policies. The discussion, kicked off by Isabelle Swerissen (MinVenJ), explored possible explanations for the increased cosmopolitanism observed by Dr Leerkes.

Finally, Polly Pallister-Wilkins (University of Amsterdam) discussed the ways consideration for the welfare of people on the move at Europe’s borders is enacted in a range of practices concerned with rescuing, intervention and border policing. This focusing on people on the move as both at risk and a risk collapses processes of saving lives and policing lives in on each other. This process of collapsing in turn facilitates and legitimates greater and more elaborate interventions in Europe’s borderlands as appeals to the protection of humanity place ‘rescuers’ in privileged and powerful positions. Pallister-Wilkins discussed these processes in conjunction with humanitarian rescue efforts and border policing interventions in the central southern Mediterranean and the Aegean based on sustained empirical fieldwork with those actors engaged in rescue/intervention, including both border control agencies and humanitarian NGOs. The discussion, launched by Roel Jennissen (WODC), focused on whether and how NGOs engaged in rescue operations in the Mediterranean position themselves as a-political or as supporters or critics of European border and migration regimes.

The meeting was organized by Saskia Bonjour (University of Amsterdam and DAMR) and
Djamila Schans (WODC and DAMR) and chaired by Özge Bilgili (Maastricht University and DAMR)