Insight Turkey
Insight Turkey
Challenging ideas
On Turkish politics and International affairs

Insight Turkey > Articles |

Securitization of Migration in the EU and Africa: A Case Study

The phenomenon of migration, seen at every stage of human history, became politicized after the Second World War, was restricted after the 1973 oil crisis, and was included among the various security issues after the Cold War. As a result of the 9/11 attacks and the explosions in the leading cities in Europe, migration became the focus of security policies. This study analyzes the securitization of migration from Africa to Europe as a case study through the lens of the Copenhagen School and explores the European Union’s efforts to create a common migration policy. It asks to what extent the relationship between migration and security affects these and argues that decisions taken under the influence of securitization hinder the creation of an effective immigration policy. It assesses the success or failure of these policies and asks why the unsuccessful policies failed.

Securitization of Migration in the EU and Africa A Case
A Libyan coast guardsman stands on a boat during the rescue of 147 illegal immigrants attempting to reach Europe off the coastal town of Zawiyah, 45 km west of the capital Tripoli, on June 27, 2017. TAHA JAWASHI / AFP via Getty Images






Migration is the movement of people from their native lands to another country in order to live in better conditions. It is often motivated by the desire to escape from famine, civil war, or occupation. Yet, the phenomenon of migration, which is an ancient social reality, cannot be defined merely as the physical displacement of individuals or communities. In addition to a change of place, migration refers to an entire process that at times includes arduous travel, extreme risk, and, if successful, adaptation to a host society.1 The phenomenon of international migration, in particular, necessitates a series of socio-economic and cultural changes to the persons undertaking migration, and to both the origin and destination country. Thus, migration is a social phenomenon that has both causes and consequences for the countries of origin and destination.2

Migration, which had been encouraged by many nation-states due to the need for labor during the 1960s, began to be considered a threat and evaluated within the framework of security after the 1973 oil crisis. In the context of the post-Cold War proliferation of security issues, migration came to be discussed within the framework of both social and cultural security concepts. This study examines the causes and consequences of migration from Africa to Europe and explores in detail how this migration came to be considered undesirable and turned into a crisis. This study aims to reveal how the concept of securitization, which is the result of the migration-security relationship, shapes EU policies regarding migration from Africa. It examines how the EU, which claims to be founded on the principles of human rights, justice, and freedom, contradicts its own values by pointing to the dilemma between security and human rights when it comes to migration; and through the imposition of restrictive policies, it implements to satisfy its member nation-states.


Theoretical Discussion


The Copenhagen School, which is the main theory employed in this study, opposes the thesis that the only element that endangers the survival of states is military power. For instance, in People, States, and Fear,3 Barry Buzan expanded the concept of security to include the environment, economy, politics, and society. Buzan divides security into two categories: national security, centered on sovereignty, and social security, centered on the continuation of identity and society. Buzan considers threats to identity as essential threats; migration is considered a factor that damages national identity and social structure since over time, the influence of the migrating people changes their host society.4

The Copenhagen School differs from Realist and Liberal theories on the migration issue. Realists and Neo-realists hold that states seek to protect themselves against threats from other states. However, the Liberal theory claims there is an inclusive relationship between migration and security, and that human mobility will contribute to the establishment of an environment of peace in the world. The Copenhagen School argues that the over-expansion of the concept of security will harm the concept of security, but accepts that it is no longer possible to examine security only in the context of military power in the globalizing world. It tries to find a middle way between these two approaches.

Migration is a controversial issue in Europe that affects the daily policies of EU member states on the national level, and the integration process on the supranational level

The reason for choosing the Copenhagen School in this study is that with the securitization theory that the school brought to the literature, it is possible to conduct a clear analysis of why and how the phenomenon of migration turns into a security problem. The concept of securitization means securitization is a constructed process. In this framework, the concept or subject to be securitized is first drawn to the field of security and thus perception is created that it poses a danger. As a result, the concept or subject becomes securitized. Thanks to this concept the reasons behind the externalization of immigration and security-oriented approaches of the states can be reached, and the natural consequences of evaluating immigration within the framework of security policies can be clearly explained. The theory that gives the best answer to the question of why the EU has implemented anti-democratic immigration policies that do not reconcile with its own values is the Copenhagen School, which claims that securitization of immigration will have negative consequences. Unlike other traditional theories, the Copenhagen School identifies immigration as a security issue that affects the behavior of states.


Securitizing Immigration in the European Union


Migration is a controversial issue in Europe that affects the daily policies of EU member states on the national level, and the integration process on the supranational level. Because immigration policies affect such sensitive areas as national sovereignty, national identity, culture, employment, development, citizenship, and internal affairs, the realization of supranationalization in the area of migration policy is more difficult compared to other general policies.5 As a result, a security-oriented perspective is seen in the ensemble of EU migration policies.6 A closer look at the history of migration to Europe may shed helpful light on this issue.

Western European countries, which were devastated in WWII, needed a robust workforce to redevelop their wrecked industries. They accordingly opened their doors to receive immigrants from certain countries and promoted migration in the 1950s and 1960s. For instance, Belgium employed a labor force from Italy after the war, and France accepted migrant workers as a means of ensuring its development and improving its inadequate demographic situation due to low birth rates and loss of life during the conflict.7 In the post-war period, Europeans did not see immigrants as a threat, because they thought they would return home in time, and because they were working in difficult areas where the Europeans did not desire to work.8

The emergence of international migration as a national security problem for Europe mostly coincides with the post-Cold War period.9 In the bipolar post-Cold War world, where security was only achieved by military force and the security of the state was the main target, the phenomenon of migration was drawn into the field of the security policies that were produced in this context. European countries, which suffered great economic losses in the oil crisis in the 1970s, moved away from the policy of encouraging labor migration and started to adopt a ‘zero migration policy.’ This policy, established by the EU on the basis of a relationship between migration and security, has never been fully implemented due to reasons such as family reunification and the right to be a refugee. One of the last moves in attracting immigration to the field of security was the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. in 2001, which exasperated the atmosphere of confusion, uncertainty, and insecurity affecting EU immigration policy. The attacks activated preexisting dynamics in the European internal security system. With this period, the matter of migration was handled as a threat and started to be mentioned within the security discourse.10 The terrorist attacks that took place in Madrid on March 11, 2004, and in London on July 7, 2005, had a significant impact on considering immigration in the context of security and designating it as an international crime in Europe.11

Although the EU countries have made efforts to create a common immigration regime, the sensitivity of individual nation-states to protecting their sovereignty often gets in the way of these attempts, and efforts to establish common migration policies remain incomplete

The concept of ‘immigration regime’ generally refers to the legal integrity that includes the ability of migrants and refugees to take refuge in a country, their rights, benefits, and settlement conditions. Although the EU countries have made efforts to create a common immigration regime, the sensitivity of individual nation-states to protecting their sovereignty often gets in the way of these attempts, and efforts to establish common migration policies remain incomplete.

It is possible to examine the transformation of migration into a security area in Europe on two levels. One of them is the EU process at the supranational level, and the other is the process within the nation-states themselves. Until the 1990s, migration was mostly evaluated on a national basis; after this time, supranationalization began and the problem was handled on a global basis.12 The valuation of migration on the axis of security indicates a very sensitive point in terms of politics and has strategic importance in the context of national security, as states hesitate to lose control over their own lands. States that believe that measures taken at the EU level are more effective cooperate on the issue of migration in order to ensure their own security. Despite these differences among states, reducing illegal immigration is still a political priority, both at the national and EU level.13

The immigration regimes of the 1970s in Europe did not lead to a rapid rise in irregular land and sea migration. Indeed, there was no rapid increase until the 1990s. Therefore, in this period, migration was not perceived as a problem and was not handled in the context of security until the Schengen Agreement, which emerged largely for political and symbolic reasons, and gave the right to free movement among European nation-states while building walls for others.14 The security concerns experienced by the EU have changed the image of the EU in the outside world, causing it to be perceived as a ‘Fortress Europe’ with internal borders removed but external walls rising.15 In the early 1990s, with the introduction of visa requirements for North Africans, migrant boats became visible along the coasts and legal routes were replaced with irregular ones. Since this time, migration routes have diversified to include the Italian island of Lampedusa, Spain’s settlements in North Africa, Ceuta and Melilla, Spain’s Canary Islands, the Greece-Turkey land border, and Lampedusa again after the 2011 Arab Spring. One of the most prominent issues in contemporary Europe is a large number of refugees and migrants arriving in the EU from other parts of the world. Between September 2013 and September 2015, the monthly entry of asylum seekers into the EU quadrupled.16

According to surveys conducted in mid-2015 that asked EU citizens about the most important issues facing the EU, immigration was the number one concern. This widespread concern among the public has been fanned by media discourses and metaphors that aimed to increase anti-immigration sentiment. While some of the discourses and interpretations circulating in countries along and outside of migration routes followed by immigrants in this latest ‘crisis’ stem from the experience of accepting incoming immigrants, the most virulent anti-immigration discourse remains largely fictitious and arises from politicized and mediated visions that particularly aim to portray immigrants as a danger and a threat. The 2015 and 2016 refugee crises were directly dominated by meta-discursive terminology deliberations about building a border fence and placing a maximum limit on refugees.17

Inequalities in income distribution and access to health and education within the continent increase intracontinental migration


Migration from Africa to Europe


Causes of Migration

When African migration is examined, it is seen that there are two types: intracontinental migration and intercontinental migration. Intracontinental migration takes place due to geographical proximity, income differences, civil war, cultural connections, and environmental factors such as floods and droughts. Inequalities in income distribution and access to health and education within the continent increase intracontinental migration.18 Despite the increasing performance of the Sub-Saharan economies since the 2000s, the growth rate has not developed enough and has not led to structural change, industrialization, and labor mobility toward more productive sectors.19 Societies in Africa face not only strong international competition but also an internal competition that causes inequality in income distribution within the continent, unequal access to education, and health, and the social exclusion of vulnerable groups.20 These factors, which reflect inequality in a broad sense, are the main causes of economic migration. In particular, the increase in the number of people without access to medical services appears to have a strong impact on migration flows. The high death rate in some regions, where medical care is inadequate, reflects existing inequalities. Therefore, the direction of migration from Africa is toward countries with high income, social security, and urbanization.

Since economic opportunities are the most important factor in intercontinental migration, the majority of the migration flow from Africa is toward Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, especially European ones.21 Africa is the continent where the most migration in the world originates, and Europe is the continent that receives the most migration. Indeed, most immigrants to Europe are from Africa; since 1950, there has been a constant influx of migration from Africa to Europe. Given its geographic proximity, many African migrants consider Europe the best option.22

African migration to Europe tends to follow the historical and linguistic traces of colonialism. For example, England and France are migration destinations favored by former British and French colonies, respectively. However, African migration has become more widespread and has expanded to northern countries, especially Germany and the Netherlands, and even to southern countries such as Italy, Spain, and Portugal. By the 1990s, more than half of the migrants coming to Europe originated in Africa.23 Europe has long been acquainted with irregular migration from the Maghreb countries. When Spain and Italy established visa requirements for North African migrants in the early 1990s, hundreds of thousands of North African people tried to cross the Mediterranean illegally.

Some African immigrants have been forced to temporarily or permanently leave their traditional habitats due to significant environmental degradation that jeopardizes their existence or seriously affects their quality of life

Many migrants think of North Africa as their first stop, and those who fail to enter Europe generally choose to stay in North Africa as the second-best option, rather than returning to their home countries. Between the years 2003-2004, Morocco and Tunisia enacted new migration laws with heavy penalties for irregular migration. There are criticisms that these laws are mostly made with the pressure of the EU and that these two countries act like the police of Europe. In order to reduce migration, the EU has tried to establish cooperation by means of the Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreements Except for Libya during the Qaddafi’s period, all North African countries signed these agreements with the EU, aiming to create a free trade area in the coming years.24

A critical factor driving the number of African migrants attempting to reach Europe is the prevalence of devastating political conflicts in Africa. As Figure 1 indicates, 1.21 million Africans lived in another African country in 2019. The internal migration rate, which was 17 million in 2015, rapidly increased to 19 million by 2019. Migration from Africa to other continents, especially Europe, has also increased rapidly since 2000. As of 2019, it is estimated that approximately 10.6 million African-born Africans live in Europe, 4.6 million live in Asia, and 3.2 million live in North America.25


Figure 1. Internal Migration in Africa and Migration Rates from Africa to Other Continents


Source: World Migration Report 202026


The Heidelberg International Conflict Research Institute (HIIK) analyzes and ranks conflict zones on a scale of 1 to 5 degrees, 1 being the lowest and 5 the highest degree of conflict. In general, although no place in Europe is rated with 4 or 5, it is possible to see 4 or 5 degrees in almost every region of Africa.27 According to the HIIK’s 2020 conflict areas map, the countries with the highest number of conflicts are mostly found on the African continent.


Map 1. Conflict Areas at National and International Level in 2020

Source: Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict, 202128


Regions shown in black and dark blue in Map 1 are those where war or civil war is intense, which are rated with 4 and 5. The continent where these regions are most concentrated in Africa. In this context, it is clear that people have to migrate to save their lives.29 Data collected from the Armed Conflict and Incident Data Project show an increase in the number of deaths from conflict in Africa, peaking in the first quarter of 2015 in Nigeria and neighboring countries as the terror of Boko Haram escalated.30 Although the rates of migration have decreased slightly over time, they were above average in previous years. Between 2008 and the first quarter of 2018, European countries were the preferred destinations for African refugees; Italy received 262,000 applications for asylum, France 238,000, and Germany 219,000. Spain, which has been the target of more irregular migration in recent years, received 25,000 African asylum applications between 2008 and 2018. During this period, the highest number of refugee applications from Africa originated in Somalia180,000; meaning that 2 percent of the entire Somali population migrated to Europe between 2008-2018. Similarly, about 2 percent of Eritrean citizens sought asylum in Europe.31 Somalia and Eritrea were followed by Nigeria with 132,000, Guinea with 81,000, Algeria with 72,000, and the Democratic Republic of Congo with 68,000. Migration movements in general continued at the same rate until the 2011 Arab Spring. Since 2013, the number of applications has increased rapidly, especially for Italy, Germany, and France.

The remarkable increase in refugees from many African countries since the end of 2013 led to the establishment of the search and rescue operation Mare Nostrum in the Mediterranean by the Italian navy. With the participation of other countries, the institution evolved into Frontex, which provides border control for the EU. The lives of many immigrants were saved by Mare Nostrum. Yet, critics have argued that rescuing and bringing more people to Europe encourages irregular migration, as it increases the perception that it is possible to reach the continent outside the legal channels.32

The success of measures to detect and apprehend migrants must be evaluated in terms of reducing the proportion of migrants entering undetected and reducing the number of future entry attempts

In 2013, the migration rate of Syrians, Eritreans, and Somalis from Africa via the Mediterranean increased sharply. Although immigration from other Sub-Saharan countries continues, the majority of immigrants attempting to enter the EU through North Africa by irregular means are from these three countries. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 3,279 migrants died while trying to cross the Mediterranean in 2014, and an estimated 1,750 migrants died in the first six months of 2015. Although the largest number of refugees seeking international protection in the EU are of Syrian origin, Eritreans and Somalis were the refugees with the fastest increase, with the application rate increasing by 270 percent in the last quarter of 2014 alone.33

Some African immigrants have been forced to temporarily or permanently leave their traditional habitats due to significant environmental degradation that jeopardizes their existence or seriously affects their quality of life. Environmental degradation refers to temporary or permanent unsuitable physical, chemical, and biological changes in the ecosystem. Environmental changes in West and Central Africa affect human livelihood and mobility. For example, the slow increase of sediments in the Sahel is becoming increasingly volatile and causing droughts and floods. At the same time, rapid population growth has led to intensification of cropping, deforestation, and overgrazing; all of which cause land degradation. Despite the increase in agricultural scale in the region, food shortages still affect millions.34 As of June 2016, 4.6 million people faced the danger of starvation in the Lake Chad Basin. Millions of people in West and Central Africa are dependent on Lake Chad for their water source; yet, the volume of the lake has decreased by 90 percent over the past 40 years due to anthropogenic causes such as drought and increased water use. Naturally, migration rates rise in years when drought and hunger increase.35

In addition, the demographic makeup of immigrants has changed over time and the majority of those who want to migrate both legally and illegally are qualified. The biggest reason for this is that EU countries are now more selective and the level of education has increased in tandem with urbanization in the countries of origin. Demand for migration has increased due to reasons such as high unemployment rates and lack of job satisfaction among these young people who have increased education levels. This “brain drain” has a negative effect on the country of origin.36 Although the statistical data of brain drain cannot be determined exactly, it is quite intense. For example, one scientific institution in France alone has 1,600 researchers who emigrated from the Maghreb. This situation is not acceptable for underdeveloped or developing countries that need working individuals. Seventeen percent of the educated and skilled working population of Morocco, which has the highest brain drain among the Maghreb countries, immigrates to OECD countries. If migration to non-OECD countries is added, this rate rises to 20 percent.37

Another changing characteristic of Maghreb immigrants to Europe is an increase in the number of female immigrants. In general, when the migration from Africa to Europe is examined, men are in the majority. This situation has changed since the 2000s. One of the important factors here is the liberalization of women in the countries of origin in parallel with the increase in education level and unemployment rates. In addition, the increasing demand for domestic workers, caregivers, cleaners, and other workers in the informal service sector in destination countries is an attractive factor for female immigrants who are generally preferred in these sectors.38


Policies Enacted by EU for Migration

The EU has tried to determine new policies in parallel with the recurring migration crises. One of these is the Dublin Convention, which was signed in 1990 and entered into force in 1997. According to this regulation, asylum applications will be made in the country where the refugee first sets foot. However, the implementation of this Convention has differed in practice from country to country and over time. For example, 48,000 applications were received in 2010 by Germany, which was not the first country of entry; this number increased dramatically in 2015 to 477,000.39 In the European Agenda on Migration held in 2015, cooperation with other countries was prioritized to combat migration. In this context, a Joint Agenda Declaration on Migration and Mobility was signed at the Valletta Summit in November 2015 between the EU and Ethiopia, the largest state hosting immigrants in Africa.40 In accordance with the Cotonou Agreement (2000), which aimed to develop cooperation between Africa and Europe, the EU has created more funding initiatives for specific states. For example, a special fund has been made available to Ethiopia through the European Development Fund, whereby the EU offered a grant of 674 million Euros between 2009 and 2013, specifically to be used in the fields of transport, regional integration, rural development, famine, and democratic management. This amount has been increased to €745 million, covering the fields of agriculture, national health system, infrastructure, and energy.41

It has been shown that the development of economic capacity across the population increases migration more in the long and medium-term rather than reducing it

Goals such as migration management and partnership took shape after the Euro-Africa Conference on Migration and Development held in Rabat in the summer of 2006. The conference was organized after a Spanish guard killed more than 10 African immigrants trying to reach the EU by breaking the fences surrounding the colonial settlements of Spain and the EU. In addition to this incident, the entry of large numbers of immigrants from Africa to Europe in 2005 and 2006 made the conference necessary for the EU. Here, both the Spanish government and the Commission argued that the long-term solution could not rely solely on security measures, but that steps should be taken to reduce inequalities between the North and the South. Aid allocated to Africa is obviously insufficient to reduce the huge gap in living standards between the EU and Africa. So, despite the optimism created by the Rabat Conference and the measures taken to prevent irregular migration, the migration of African immigrants to the Canary Islands could not be prevented, and tensions have continued to rise in Europe.42 Since 2005, numerous EU-Africa declarations, partnerships, and other cooperation frameworks have been established to accomplish the mutual management of African migration. However, despite all the equality partnership, win-win dynamics, and all the talk about African development, the asymmetrical power relationship between the EU and Africa remains an obstacle to taking concrete steps toward cooperation.43

At the meeting of the European Commission with the African Union in Addis Ababa in 2006, the Commission presented a package of proposals that could form the core of the EU’s migration policy toward Africa in the coming years. The Commission made it clear that the EU needs labor, and that labor migration can be received from countries with high unemployment rates in Africa. However, according to the reports from the meeting, it is the EU that will make the decisions about who will be accepted, and when and where migrant labor will be needed. It is possible to see this approach in the concrete proposals of the Commission and the EU’s stance on temporary work permits and seasonal work.44 When the EU’s African partnership policy on labor migration is evaluated comprehensively, it is seen that the type of labor migration envisaged by the partners is temporary and subject to selection. This is a logic that mainly serves the national interests and political agendas of EU member states while increasing the vulnerability of third-country workers.45


Most of the EU budget for operational activities on migration is spent on financing actions at sea borders. Since 2008, Frontex’s operational presence around the Canary Islands has become permanent. The political uncertainty triggered by the outbreak of the Arab Spring uprisings since 2011 has caused the direction of migration to shift toward the Strait of Sicily and beyond, and from there to the Central and Eastern Mediterranean. The crisis affecting the Euro-Mediterranean border control regime in 2015 forced more than 1 million refugees to the EU borders, mainly Italy and Greece. In the face of this unprecedented refugee and migrant influx, the EU has lost control of its own borders. Most of the member states expressed that the ease of free movement of Schengen should definitely be questioned and began to take unilateral measures to provide internal border control. However, others emphasized that the crisis of the EU border regime is an opportunity for further consolidation attempts and that Frontex’s role and resources need to be increased;46 Frontex’s budget, which was €19 million in 2006, was increased to €460 million in 2020. It is expected to increase to an annual average of €900 million for the 2021-2027 period.47

During 2015, more than 150,000 immigrants tried to enter the EU via the Central Mediterranean route. Although these figures show a partial decrease compared to 2014, there is a perception that the geopolitical instability caused by the Arab uprisings will continue to propel migration. In the meantime, the “hotspot approach” has been added to the EU’s migration agenda. According to the plan envisioned by the Commission, Frontex will first set up Migration Management Support teams to support the National Border Police in identifying, tracing, and fingerprinting migrants in hotspot areas and returning those not in need of protection.48 Intervention on the Central Mediterranean route was strengthened and the EU Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) Med was established to support Frontex under the leadership of the Italian Navy. With the end of Qaddafi’s rule in Libya, the EU held talks with the new administration in order to extend the EUNAVFOR Med operations to the Libyan region and to restart the technical assistance that was interrupted in 2013; Frontex provided training to Libyan coast guard teams in 2016.49

Strategies for managing migration from Africa to Europe have been formulated in two key areas of tension. First, boat migration has become an urgent humanitarian problem, as it has resulted in great loss of life. The continuation of boat migration from Africa despite various political interventions for many years has increased the concerns of states about the inability to control migration.50 Detecting and apprehending immigrants is a prerequisite for managing immigration in accordance with democratically created laws and regulations. The success of measures to detect and apprehend migrants must be evaluated in terms of reducing the proportion of migrants entering undetected and reducing the number of future entry attempts. However, it is very difficult to use capture statistics as an indicator of success. The number of arrests does not provide accurate information on the proportion of immigrants, as the number of undetected entries is unknown. Undetected deaths on the migration route also make it difficult to know the number of entries and therefore complicate deterrence assessments.51

One policy implemented by the EU to prevent immigration from Africa is to send immigrants back to their home countries. An effective return policy sends a strong signal to communities of origin that irregular migration is not the solution, and thus has a strong deterrent effect on future migration attempts. However, when the policy is not implemented effectively, the opposite situation may occur. When irregular migrants avoid returning and staying in Europe, prospective migrants come to the conclusion that deportation documents are not so important after all. As a matter of fact, despite the decision to return, thousands of irregular migrants in Europe continue to stay on EU territory irregularly. An effective return policy depends on cooperation between countries of origin and transit. In 2006, when illegal boat migration from West Africa to the Canary Islands reached its peak, Spain signed readmission agreements with Morocco, Mauritania, and the Sub-Saharan countries. As a result of cooperation with the country of origin, Senegal, more than 6,000 migrants who arrived in the Canary Islands by the end of 2006 were repatriated. Spain already has bilateral agreements with most West African countries.52 The implementation of readmission agreements is very costly and difficult due to humanitarian reasons. In addition, North African countries are generally reluctant and lack the resources to retrieve large numbers of irregular migrants.53

In addition to formal agreements, states also make informal agreements regarding returns. They may choose to address the readmission issue through the exchange of letters and Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs), or by embedding agreements in a broader framework of cooperation, including forms of mutual assistance (e.g., police cooperation arrangements). Because they are informal, they are not usually published in official bulletins, nor recorded in official documents or correspondence. France, Germany, Greece, Italy, and Spain are the countries most involved in informal agreements of this kind. More than two-thirds of informal readmission agreements are with Southern and Eastern Mediterranean and African countries. The most prominent feature of these tacit agreements is their relationship with domestic and regional security concerns.54

Through comprehensive partnerships with the EU and third countries, migration should be based on equal consideration of the interests of the EU and partner countries

Another deterrent effort is to prevent the illegal employment of immigrants. The flow of illegal boat migrants is partly related to the draw of illegal employment opportunities in Europe. Job opportunities available for irregular migrants in Europe undermine the message that immigration must be managed legally. In 2009, the European Parliament adopted the sanctions directive, which designates standard penalties for those employing irregular migrants. These penalties remain ineffective, however, as some sectors of the economy benefit from the cheap and flexible labor force of illegally resident immigrants. Also, if irregular migrants are already present, preventing them from working means pushing them toward crime in order to survive.55

Since the late 1990s, there has been a growing trend toward preventive migration control that seeks to address the root causes of migration in order to influence the decisions of potential migrants.56 Following the strategy laid out on the European level, Spain’s 2006-2008 African Plan targeted the field of integrated migration and development within the framework of wider cooperation efforts. In keeping with this goal, Spain provides financial support to Senegal with the Return to Agriculture Plan (REVA) plan, which aims to create employment in agriculture. It is thought that creating employment in agriculture and fisheries will discourage youth from attempting irregular migration. However, it has been shown that the development of economic capacity across the population increases migration more in the long and medium-term rather than reducing it. Senegalese data shows that potential immigrants are not very interested in government employment or development-promoting initiatives. The lack of faith in this program stems from similarly unsuccessful plans and a lack of trust in the government. Another reason is that the vast majority of Senegalese youth do not see agriculture as an attractive alternative to migration.57

In addition to these attempts, the EU has created funds to ensure the development of migrant regions in order to prevent migration from Africa. The most important of these is the EU Development and Cooperation Fund, which concentrates especially on African countries. For example, a solar power plant was established in Burkina Faso, drinking water drillings were opened in Togo, high-speed internet connections were made to Sub-Saharan countries and ovine breeding was supported in Somalia. By allocating these funds, EU countries tried to create permanent solutions with long-term development projects.58 Meanwhile, there was a growing understanding between EU institutions and member states that existing EU tools were not sufficient to address the migrant crisis and that there was a need to pool various sources of funding to address migration more coherently. The sharp increase in 2015 in the number of migrants has created administrative, reception, border control, and financial difficulties in many EU countries, and urgent changes have been required in national and European immigration-related policies, institutions, and instruments. The influx of refugees decreased in 2017 but still remains well above pre-2013 figures, suggesting that such inflows will continue to be significant in the coming years. As a result, the European Commission has proposed expanding a trust fund originally planned for the Sahel region into a much larger initiative including Sahel/Lake Chad regions Horn of Africa, and North Africa. As a result, the European Union Emergency Trust Fund (EUTF) was adopted at the November 2015 Valletta Summit as part of a broader set of commitments and plans to address migration outlined in the Valletta Action Plan.59 The trust fund is planned from 2015 to 2020 and it is extended for 2021 and 2022. Total funding of this fund is given as €900 million for North of Africa, €2,145 for Sahel/Lake Chad and 1,808 million for Horn of Africa at the factsheet of EUTF for Africa between the years of 2015-2021. The main purpose of this fund is to eliminate poverty, insecurity, and conflicts, which are the cause of migration flows in these regions, and thereby to reduce irregular migration.60 The EU’s aid to Africa is not only actualized within the framework of humanitarian concerns, however, and such aid is not free from political concerns. In other words, it serves an instrumental function to prevent migration.61





The securitization of the EU’s policies, which are based on the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, and respect for human rights, is only possible if these values are ignored. In addition, decisions taken under the effect of securitization may prevent the creation of an effective immigration policy. Thus, the EU cannot fulfill its legal obligations toward migrants.

The trend toward securitization in the EU and elsewhere is constituted by both people and authorities with the power to establish structures and policies. Center-right and radical-right parties politicize the issue and try to perpetuate the (mis)perception that immigration is a threat to the cultural structure and internal security of the indigenous population. An increase in their voting rates in national elections in European countries demonstrate that these efforts have been successful. Similarly, media in EU countries use concepts such as ‘invasion,’ ‘immigrant army,’ and the need to ‘protect the country’s borders against immigrants,’ to evoke a sense of embattlement and the need for protection. As a result, European citizens are convinced that strict measures should be taken against immigration. When the public is persuaded, it becomes easier for the administrations to take measures that do not comply with the EU’s founding values. Conversely, the approach of European states to irregular migration is shaped by the attitudes of their citizens. Concerns about migration among the European people cause EU states to create control-oriented migration policies. Since the EU is not independent of its members, the attitudes of the European people toward immigrants affect the political structure of both the member states and the Union itself. The weight of the issue of migration is evident in the scenarios developed for how Europe will be shaped by 2025 in the White Paper on the Future of Europe, published by the EU on March 1, 2017.62

Migration is an undeniable fact of today’s European Union. Today, around 37 million people born outside the EU live within its borders. The increase in the immigrant population, which constitutes approximately 7 percent of the total population, is one of the main characteristics of 21st century Europe. Therefore, it is imperative to develop effective policies for the integration of third-country immigrants and refugees in the EU. In order for asylum and migration policies, and border management to be effective, the integration processes of refugees and immigrants at both the national and regional level must be compatible. In other words, it is imperative to make national migration policies consistent with the general European approach.63 Through comprehensive partnerships with the EU and third countries, migration should be based on equal consideration of the interests of the EU and partner countries. The complex challenges of migration and its root causes must be handled for the benefit of the EU and its citizens, partner countries, immigrants, and refugees. Only by working together will the EU and its partners be able to effectively manage migration. In the New Asylum Pact, this is defined as a mutually beneficial partnership.64

An important finding of this study is the fact that the EU and its member states generally produce response policies according to needs. European countries that encouraged migration in order to meet development needs between the years 1950-1970 started to restrict migration after the 1973 oil crisis and the economic crisis. Today, it is possible to find the security perspective in almost all of the policies implemented by the EU in the field of migration. For example, the main purpose of the policy of preventing migration at its source by developing the region economically and socially is actually to keep immigrants in their own places. For example, the policy of preventing migration at its source focuses on the protection of borders rather than the observance of humanitarian sensitivities, therefore it can be said that it is not effectively functional.

Today, the institutions created by the EU to prevent migration act entirely with a focus on security. For example, Frontex drags the migrant boats it detects in the seas. This act itself contradicts the principle of non-refoulment in the international protection regime. In this context, it can be said that the EU does not fulfill its international protection responsibility according to the 1951 Refugee Convention that prevents asylum seekers from being sent to countries where they face possible persecution based on race, religion, and nationalityMoreover, the EU’s efforts to create a common migration policy are hampered by the national security concerns of its members. The EU, which strives for transnationalization and consolidation, takes into account the sensitivities of the member states while forming its migration policies and cannot develop policies independently of them. This shows how effective national states are still in the decision-making process. If the EU does not take necessary measures in collaboration with its members and third countries away from securitization, uncertainty regarding migration will continue.




1. Sabri Çakır, “Geleneksel Türk Kültüründe Göç ve Toplumsal Değişme,” Journal of Social Sciences, 24 (2011), pp. 12-14.

2. Eytan Meyers, “Multilateral Cooperation, Integration and Regimes: The Case of International Labor Mobility,” The Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, Working Paper 61 (2002).

3. Barry Buzan, People, States and Fear: An Agenda for International Security Studies in the Post-Cold War Era, (London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991), p. 8.

4. Buzan, People, States and Fear, p. 8.

5. Gökay Özerim, “Avrupa’da Göç Politikalarının Ulusüstüleşmesi ve Bir Güvenlik Konusuna Dönüşümü: Avrupa Göç Tarihinde Yeni Bir Dönem mi?” Ege Stratejik Araştırmalar Dergisi, Vol. 5, No. 1 (2014), pp. 11-48.

6. Sühal Şemşit, “Avrupa Birliği Göç Politikasının Güvenlikleştirilmesi ve Dışsallaştırılması: Türkiye’ye Yansımaları,” Dokuz Eylül University Social Sciences Institute, Unpublished PhD Thesis, (2010).

7. Stephan Castles and Mark J. Miller, Göçler Çağı, (İstanbul: İstanbul Bilgi Üniversitesi Publications, 2008).

8. Peter Stalker, The No-Nonsense Guide to International Migration, (Oxford: New International Publications Ltd., 2001), p. 23.

9. Andrew Heywood, Küresel Siyaset, (İstanbul: Adres Publications, 2013), p. 87.

10. Nazif Mandacı and Gökay Özerim, “Uluslararası Göçlerin Bir Güvenlik Konusuna Dönüşümü: Avrupa’da Radikal Sağ Partiler ve Göçün Güvenlikleştirilmesi,” Uluslararası İlişkiler Dergisi, Vol. 10, No. 39 (2013), pp. 105-130.

11. Mandacı and Özerim, “Uluslararası Göçlerin Bir Güvenlik Konusuna Dönüşümü.”

12. Özerim, “Avrupa’da Göç Politikalarının Ulusüstüleşmesi ve Bir Güvenlik Konusuna Dönüşümü.”

13. “Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. Study on the Links between Legal and Illegal Migration,” European Commission, (2004), retrieved from

14. “Asylum and New Asylum Applicants: Monthly Data,” Eurostat, (2018), retrieved from

15. Ayhan Kaya, Avrupa Birliği Hakkında Merak Ettikleriniz, Avrupa Birliği’ne Giriş, (İstanbul: Hiperlink Yayınları, 2013), p. 104.

16. “Asylum and New Asylum Applicants.”

17. Michał Krzyżanowski, Anna Triandafyllidou, and Ruth Wodak, “The Mediatization and the Politicization of the “Refugee Crisis” in Europe,” Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Studies, Vol. 16, No. 1-2, retrieved from, pp. 1-14.

18. “World Migration in Figures,” Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, (October 2013), retrieved from

19. Michael Lipton, “Income from Work: The Food-Population-Resource Crisis in the ‘Short Africa,’” Leontief Prize Lecture, Tufts University, (2012), retrieved from
02/incomefromworkapril2012.pdf .

20. Rene Loewenson, Lexi Bambas, and Sarah Wamala, “Globalisation and Women’s Health in Sub-Saharan Africa: Would Paying Attention to Women’s Occupational Roles Improve Nutritional Outcomes?” Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, Vol. 38, No.4 (2010), pp. 6-17.

21. Jesus Gonzales-Garcia and Montfort Mlachila, “Beyond the Headlines: Migration from Sub-Saharan Africa Has Far-Ranging Effects on Home and Host Countries Alike,” Finance and Development, Vol. 54, No. 2 (June 2017), pp. 48-50.

22. Katarzyna Swierczynska, “African Emigration to Europe: Social Cohesion and Inequalities Nexus,” Economics and Sociology, 11, No. 1 (2018), pp. 188-204.

23. Peo Hansen and Stefan Jonsson, “Demographic Colonialism: EU African Migration Management and the Legacy of Eurafrica,” Globalizations, Vol. 8, No. 3 (June 2011), pp. 261-276.

24. Hein De Haas, “Morocco’s Migration Experience: A Transitional Perspective,” International Migration, retrieved from, pp. 39-70.

25. “World Migration Report 2020,” International Organization for Migration, (2020), retrieved from

26. “World Migration Report 2020,” p. 41.

27. “Conflict Barometer 2020,” Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict, (March 2021), retrieved from

28. “Conflict Barometer 2020,” The Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research (HIIK), (2020), retreived from

29. Demetrios G. Papademetriou, “The Global Struggle with Illegal Migration: No End in Sight,” Migration Policy Institute, (2005), retrieved from

30. Clionadh Raleigh, Andrew Linke, Harvard Hegre, and Joakim Karlsen, “Introducing Acled: An Armed Conflict Location and Event Dataset Special Data Feature,” Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 47, No. 5 (2010), pp. 651-660.

31. Philippe Fargues and Sara Bonfanti, “When the Best Option Is a Leaky Boat: Why Migrants Risk Their Lives Crossing the Mediterranean and What Europe Is Doing About It,” Migration Policy Center Policy Brief, (Florence: European University Institute, 2014).

32. Fargues and Bonfanti, “When the Best Option Is a Leaky Boat.”

33. “Annual Risk Analysis,” Frontex, (2014), retrieved from

34. “Livelihood Insecurity: Climate Change, Migration and Conflict in the Sahel,” United Nations Environment Programme, (May 2011), retrieved from

35. “Livelihood Insecurity.”

36. Philippe Fargues, “Arab Migration to Europe: Trends and Policies, International Migration Review, Vol. 38, No. 4 (2004), pp. 1348-1371.

37. Mohamed Mghari, “Exodus of Skilled Labor: Magnitude, Determinants and Impacts on Development,” Arab Migration, (2004), pp. 71-89.

38. Mghari, “Exodus of Skilled Labor.”

39. “Outgoing ‘Dublin’ Transfers by Receiving Country (PARTNER), Legal Provision and Duration of Transfer,” Eurostat, (2018), retrieved from

40. “Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and to the Council: EU Action Plan on Return,” European Commission, (2015), retrieved from

41. Nicholas Mead, “Melilla: Bloodbath on the African-Europe Frontier,” Open Democracy, (2005) retrieved from

42. Mead, “Melilla.”

43. Alexander Betts, Global Migration Governance, (Oxford: University College Oxford, 2008)

44. Peo Hansen and Sandy Brian Hager, The Politics of European Citizenship: Deepening Contradictions in Social Rights and Migration Policy, (New York: Berghahn Books, 2010).

45. Sergio Carrera and Raül Hernandez, “The Externalization of the EU’s Labour Immigration Policy, towards Mobility or Insecurity Partnerships?” Centre for European Policy Studies, 321 (2009).

46. Giuseppe Campesi, “Frontex and the Production of the Euro-Mediterranean Borderlands,” in Claudia Gualtieri (ed.), Migration and the Contemporary Mediterranean, (United Kingdom: Peter Long Ltd., 2018).

47. “Special Report/08: Frontex’s Support to External Border Management: Not Sufficiently Effective to Date,” European Court of Auditors, (2021), retrieved from

48. “Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and to the Council.”

49. “Frontex Helps Train Libyan Coast Guards,” Frontex, (2016), retrieved from

50. Meng-Hsuan Chou, “EU and the Migration-Development Nexus: What Prospects for EU Wide Policies?” Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), (2006).

51. Dennis Broeders and Godfried Engbersen, “The Fight against Illegal Migration: Identification Policies and Immigrants’ Counterstrategies,” American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 50, No. 12 (2007), pp. 1592-1609.

52. “General Report 2006,” Frontex, (2007), retrieved from

53. R. Böhning, “Helping Migrants to Stay at Home,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 534, No. 1 (1994), pp. 165-177.

54. Jean-Pierre Cassarino, “Informalising Readmission Agreements in the EU Neighbourhood,” The International Spectator, Vol. 42, No. 2 (2007), retrieved from, pp. 179-196.

55. Oliver Bakewell, “Keeping Them in Their Place: The Ambivalent Relationship between Development and Migration in Africa,” Third World Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 7 (2008), pp. 1341-1358.

56. Christina Boswell, European Migration Policies in Flux: Changing Patterns of Inclusion and Exclusion, (London: Blackwell Publishing, 2003), pp. 7-15.

57. Bakewell, “Keeping Them in Their Place.”

58. Hansen and Jonsson, “Demographic Colonialism,” pp. 261-276.

59. “Valletta Summit Action Plan,” European Council, (2015), retrieved from

60. “The European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Stability and Addressing the Root Causes of Irregular Migration and Displaced Persons in Africa,” European Commission, (2015), retrieved from

61. De Haas, “Morocco’s Migration Experience,” pp. 39-70.

66. “White Paper on the Future of Europe, Reflections and Scenarios for the EU27 by 2025,” European Commission, (March 1, 2017), retrieved from, pp. 129-268.

63. “On a New Pact on Migration and Asylum,” European Commission, (2020), retrieved from

64. “On a New Pact on Migration and Asylum.”

Labels »  

We use cookies in a limited and restricted manner for specific purposes. For more details, you can see "our data policy". More...