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Migration management for the benefit of whom? Interrogating the work of the International Organization for Migration

  • Balsillie School of International Affairs, Wilfrid Laurier University

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This paper examines the relationship between the nation-state and migration through the activities of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The IOM operates at the intersection of nation-states, international human rights regimes, and neo-liberal governance. We find that the IOM enforces the exclusions of asylum seekers and maintains the central role of nation-states in ordering global flows of migration. In addition, we argue that the IOM acts on behalf of nation-states by using the language of international human rights, as though working in the interests of migrants and refugees. In providing a geographic appraisal of the IOM alongside its image and presentation with an analysis of its activities on voluntary returns, we address the new spaces of ‘networked’ governance that control and order migratory flows in the interests of nation-states.
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Migration management for the benefit of whom? Interrogating the
work of the International Organization for Migration
Ishan Ashutosh
and Alison Mountz
Department of Geography, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA;
Department of Geography, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, USA
(Received 31 December 2009; final version received 26 March 2010)
This paper examines the relationship between the nation-state and migration through
the activities of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The IOM operates
at the intersection of nation-states, international human rights regimes, and neo-liberal
governance. We find that the IOM enforces the exclusions of asylum seekers and
maintains the central role of nation-states in ordering global flows of migration. In
addition, we argue that the IOM acts on behalf of nation-states by using the language of
international human rights, as though working in the interests of migrants and refugees.
In providing a geographic appraisal of the IOM alongside its image and presentation
with an analysis of its activities on voluntary returns, we address the new spaces
of ‘networked’ governance that control and order migratory flows in the interests of
Keywords: Internation al Organization for Migratio n; nation-state; migration;
detention; neoliberalism
So we have two lines, then. Along the first the state is reterritorialized as a particular place,
a territory with an inside and an outside. Along the second its border controls are dispersed
and laid over other states, intergovernmental organizations, private agents like airlines, and
mobile task forces. In the space between these two lines we find something new.
William Walters (2004, p. 253)
Although some refugees are selected by states for resettlement from camps abroad, others
travel great distances to make claims once arriving on sovereign territory of states that will
hear and assess claims on the basis of a well-founded fear of persecution. Increasingly,
however, nation-states are enacting ever more exclusionary measures to stop migrants
from accessing sovereign territory by preventing an individual’s ability to legally gain
employment or seek political asylum (Mountz 2010). They are doing so with a series of
informal practices through which they operate beneath the radar of the international
community by collaborating and contracting out work on migration. As the above quote
suggests, nation-states operate transnationally in enacting projects of exclusion and
excision through non-governm ental entities that effectively use the language of human
rights and international civil society to thwart migrants and refugee claims. This
transnationalization of state activities (Glassman 1999, Walters 2004, Sparke 2005,
ISSN 1362-1025 print/ISSN 1469-3593 online
q 2011 Taylor & Francis
DOI: 10.1080/13621025.2011.534914
Citizenship Studies
Vol. 15, No. 1, February 2011, 21–38
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Mountz 2006, Coleman 2007) must be understood through analysis of those institutions
that enable reconfigurations of state sovereignty. To look only at the nation-state as
transnational subject is a ‘red herring of sorts, for the nation-state relies on a range of non-
governmental institutions to enact neoliberal projects. By far, the largest and the most
well-resourced institution to have taken up this work is the International Organization for
Migration, known globally as the IOM.
The IOM does important humanitarian work, such as rebuilding housing after the
tsunami in Sri Lanka and reintegrating internally displaced people in Colombia, the IOM’s
largest field expenditure of 2008 (IOM 2009b). The IOM also, however, engages in some
ethically and politically questionable work along the edges of sovereign territory and
jurisdiction. With over 400 field sites around the world as of October 2009 (IOM 2009c), the
IOM steps into work where the nation-state reaches its sovereign limits, finding itself
constrained by international law and guided if not restricted by UN conventions. While
anti-detention and anti-deportation activists and human rights groups are increasingly
targeting the IOM and asking for accountability, recent scholarly work on the securitization
of migration (e.g., Bigo 2002, Huysmans 2006) seems to have overlooked the IOM as a key
player in the process. Border enforcement strategies, in particular, rely on the ability of the
IOM to operate on behalf of, yet beyond the traditional bounds of the sovereign state. Yet in
recent research undertak en by the authors on offshore border enforcement practices, the
IOM emerged repeatedly in seemingly unlikely and unseemly sites between states.
the IOM engaged not only in border enforcement but also in transport and detention
practices that contained rather than facilitated human mobility.
Due precisely to its in-between nature and in-between locations, the IOM proves
difficult to locate geographically and institutio nally. Geographically, the IOM is
headquartered in Geneva, with most ‘back office’ administrative functions based in
Manila and Panama City’s City of Knowledge (IOM 2009a), once the US Army Base of
Fort Clayton. In terms of categories of institutions, the IOM is ‘neither fish nor fowl.’ It is
an inter-governmental organization whose ‘members’ are nation-states, its constitution
shared in the broad and ever increasing range of global governance organizations that were
formed after the World War II. Like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank,
institutions that have been analyzed as exemplars of neoliberal globalizatio n (Peet et al.
2003, Harvey 2005), the IOM represents a novel form of neoliberal governance and is
indicative of the transformations of sovereignty that extend beyond capital flows to
include the management of migrant bodies. Federal governments contractually employ the
IOM to carry out a range of migration-related services that governments find themselves
unable or unwilling to carry out for legal and political purposes. This diffi culty of
categorization works productively for the IOM, which is able to position itself in creative
ways to carry out the transnational work of states, while turning a profit and employing the
language of rights. For these reasons, the IOM stands at the intersection of the nation-state,
international human rights regimes, and neo-liberal governance.
The IOM acts on behalf of ‘member states’ and makes consistent appeals to what Ong
(2006) has described as the ‘ethical geographies’ of NGO administration. As we will
discuss, however, the IOM is not an NGO. In carrying out its work of managing migration,
the IOM reveals how states structure migratory flows through inclusions and exclusions
legitimized in the language of humanitarianism that has been aptly referred to as a
‘colonialism of compassion’ (Hyndman 2000). Furthermore, the geography of this work
matters. As Ong argues, ‘interactions between noeliberalism and state action produce a
variety of outcomes for unconventional spaces of government’ (2006, p. 75). What kinds
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of ‘unconventional spaces’ of governance does the contracting of the IOM enable? We
seek to answer this question.
This paper places the IOM alongside recent ideas about migrant exclusions and the
geographical reconfigurations of the nation-state. Contemporary understandings of the
nation-state have shifted from indicators of its decline to its rescaling and calls for locating
political and social processes beyond its territories (Agnew 1994). Conceptualization of
these transformations in sovereignty has ranged from Hardt and Negri’s (2000) territorially
boundless global system of contemporary Empire, to the state’s ‘internationalization’
marked by an increasing dependence on a transnational elite (Glassman 1999), to Brenner’s
(2004) analysis that examines contractions and expansions of states that produce
distinct scales of control and activity. Regardless of how these geographies of power
are conceptualized, what remains certain is that these changing forms of state power
regulate the movement of bodies that Ong (1999) has described as the formation of
the hierarchical or ‘flexible’ regimes of citizenship and, more recently, as neoliberal
exceptions (2006).
Using the IOM as our laboratory, we suggest that the dynamics underlying the shifting
geographies of the nation-state can be best illustrate d through an analysis centered on
migratory flows and nation-state exclusions carried out thr ough non-state institutions. We
argue that the IOM works entrepreneurially in its occupation of spaces between states,
categories of institutions, and scales of operation. The IOM profits from this fluidity,
which has implications for conceptualization of geographies of sovereign power and
practice. The contemporary salience of the nation-state is simultaneously maintained
while seemingly undermined through appeals to international human rights regimes
carried out and ‘enforced’ by organizations like the IOM. The language of rights
and international humanitarianism allows the IOM to operate in these geographically
ambiguous zones, legitimized by the nation-state, but operating transnationally.
Holding both the nation-state and the IOM in concert and in tension as symbiotic
transnational objects and subjects of study, we proceed in the next section by providing a
historical and geographical appraisal of the IOM. The third section addresses the language
of legitimacy deployed by the ‘migration agency,’ representative of both the failure as well
as the transformations of normative, nation-state centered under standings of human rights.
The fourth section offers evidence and discussion from the field of the IOM’s practices of
voluntary return to highlight the consequences of IOM services on the lives of migrants
and on the politics of national belonging. Our conclusions discuss the implications of
our argument for conceptual understandin gs of nation-states and the IOM in struct uring
contemporary landscapes of human migration and displacement.
From logistics agency to migration agency
Although IOM has no legal protection mandate, the fact remains that its activities contribute
to protecting human rights, having the effect, or consequence, of protecting persons involved
in migration. IOM (2009b)
States increasingly curb mig rant agency and mobility by stopping potential asylum seekers
from reaching sovereign territory to make claims (Mountz 2010). The USA detains asylum
seekers on Guanta
namo Bay, Guam, and Tinian where their acce ss to asylum is mediated
by distance and isolation. In addition to detention on islands, states station immigration
control officers in foreign airports where they try to iden tify potential asylum seekers
before they reach sovereign territory of the USA, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, or
Canada. The IOM is at the center of these efforts with services that effectively mask these
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practices of the nation-state through the language of ‘humane and orderly migration.’
For these reasons, the IOM has been typified as a humanitarian organization (Beigbeder
1991), but this language effaces the coercive practices inherent in detention and the
ordering of movement.
The origins of the IOM can be traced to the emergence of international human rights
norms following the World War II. Stateless persons, characterized by Hannah Arendt as
having been ‘ejected from the old trinity of state-people-territory’ (1951, pp. 281 282),
were given legal status and limited protection as refugees in the 1951 Convention Relating
to the Status of Refugees. In December of that year, the US-organized Brussels Conference
on Migration established the Provisional Intergovernmental Committee for the Movement
of Migrants from Europe (PICMME), followed by the Intergovernmental Committee for
European Migration (ICEM) 2 years later (IOM 2009e). Mr George Warren, who led the
US delegation, successfully promoted the creation of an inter-governmental committee
that would focus exclusively on the transportation of displaced persons in Europe through
arrangements with governments that would also support the ‘free movement of persons’
(Karatani 2005, p. 537).
During the 1970s and the 1980s, the ICEM expanded beyond Europe with operations that
included the resettlement of refugees from Bangladesh and Nepal to Pakistan during the 1971
Bangladesh War and Indo-Chinese resettlement in 1975. These activities were reflected in
the 1980 rebranding of the ICEM as the Intergovernmental Committee for Migration and by
the end of the decade, the IOM. According to IOM’s legal advisor, Richard Perruchoud, the
IOM was established to address the shifting geographical focus of refugee services ‘as
migratory movements developed outside Europe, particularly between relatively poor and
less poor countries’ (Perruchoud 1989). As an inter-governmental agency, the IOM shapes
migration flows through exclusionary practices on behalf of member states. As shown by
Hyndman and Mountz (2008), governments have abrogated international commitments
through policies that prevent refugees from making claims on sovereign territory. Writing
about the intensified denials of asylum in France and Europe, Derrida (2001) notes that
international law has not changed since Arendt’s (1951) ruminations on the rise of stateless
persons, but is still relegated to treaties between sovereign states. Beyond the texts of these
treaties and state-sanctioned rights, the IOM steps in.
The IOM enforces sovereign exclusions through the management of refugee camps
and detention centers that, following the work of Agamben (1998, 2005), are the new
spaces of exception. Those excluded are reduced to ‘bare life,’ an exception decided by the
sovereign, a suspension of law that is the very ground for its rule (Agamben 1998, 2005).
The conce ntration camp, Arendt noted, served as the only ‘country’ provided to the
stateless, whi ch is precisely why for Agamben (1998) the camp represents the nomos of
modernity.’ Through scholarship on deportation and detention the camp has been
extended to the different contested sites of modernity through which sovereign power and
refugee exclusions are co-constituted. Today’s camps and exceptions traverse the
spectacular and the mundane, from the crossing of state borders where each traveler is
reduced to bare life through routine bureaucracy (Salter 2008), to the uneven zones of
indetermination characterized by Didier Bigo (2007) as the ‘banopticon’ where new forms
of control and juridical power emerge and are contested. In the ‘borderscapes’ (Rajaram
and Grundy-Warr 2007) of Europe (Walters 2002, 2004), Australia (Perera 2007, Rajaram
2007), and the USA (Gregory 2004, De Genova 2007), the IOM manages the blurred
boundaries between international law and national sovereignty.
The following sections show that the IOM has cast itself as a global institution of
cosmopolitan ethics by using the lan guage of unconditional hospitality and
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humanitarianism as expressed in Immanuel Kant’s 1795 essay, Perpetual Peace (1991).
Such language masks the organization’s activities that assist states in preventing refugees
from crossing their borders. The IOM represents a form of institutionalized ‘strategic
cosmopolitanism’ that, as Katharyne Mitchell reminds us, readily becomes ‘a technology
of rule’ (Mitchell 2007, p. 709). Such technocratic forms of rule transform the coercive
mechanisms of the state that include exclusions and removal into actions largely seen as
consensual through the ‘weak legal gloss’ of human rights (Douzinas 2007, p. 151). The
IOM, then, can be seen as a significant consent-generating apparatus of the neo-liberal
state, and a neoliberal form of what Wolch (1990) called ‘the shadow state,’ wherein
functions of the social welfare state are devolved to other servicing institutions. The rise of
international human rights regimes, as Benhabib (2006, p. 27) suggests, ‘ought to govern
the behavior of sovereign states’ and is therefore ‘one of the most promising aspects of
contemporary political globalization processes’. Yet the underbelly of this order, that
weaves states together while simultaneously subordinating them under the language of
international human rights, is confronted in Nauru, Lombok, Libya, Iraq, and the multiple
transit routes of global migrations in the global economy.
Shifting geographies of exclusion called ‘transport’ accompany shifting moralities. The
language of human rights is redeployed as a means of restriction and excision that functions
through national sovereignty and yet, in discourse and jurisdiction, transcends and
transgresses sovereignty, operating just beyond its limits. States are thus using coercive
apparatuses in the name of consensual legitimacy. Consensual modes of operation include
consultative processes, creative lang uage, and corporate practices with a bottom line. States
are appealing to public audiences with the language of human rights regimes, but in practice
excluding migrants and undermining responsibilities as signatories to the 1951 UN
Convention relating to the status of refugees and its 1967 Protocol.
The language of humanitarianism is essential to the IOM’s projects in the liminal
zones between nation-states. In this sense, the IOM can be seen as a component of Hardt
and Negri’s Empire (2000) as the organization presents itself as committed to global peace
and order transcendent of the nation-state. Sparke (2005) critiques Empire as an ‘anemic
geography’ in which the ahistorical illusions of a territorially limitless, post-imperial
ascendancy of transnational capital are conflated with the specific geographies of political
power and control. Keeping Sparke’s critique in mind, we examine both the language of
the IOM and its practices at the limits of sovereign territory.
Headquartered in Geneva, near the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO), and down the street from the World Health Organization
(WHO), the IOM promotes the orderly flow of migrants by providing services for the
transfer of migrants and refugees as well as a forum on international migration. The
headquarters is located a few kilometers north of the UN’s Palais des Nations, the former
League of Nations headquarters, and the United Nations High Commission on Refugees,
‘the refugee agency.’ As the ‘migration agency’ the IOM adopts the lexicon of the UN,
showcasing large flags of its 127 ‘member-states’ in the front windows of its Geneva
headquarters (Figure 1).
The trails of transnational capital and humanitarian organizations centered in Geneva
attest to the IOM’s insertion into these networks of power (Hyndman 2000). Visitors to the
IOM’s headquarters must mimic entry to the United Nations by handing over their
passports at the front desk to enter. Although it is not part of the United Nations, the IOM
‘maintains close working relations with UN bodies and operational agencies’ (IOM 2001),
leading some to confuse it as a UN-affiliated organization, an association in which the
IOM is perfectly sanguine (e.g., Glanz and Rubin 2007).
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The pres entation of the IOM can be fruitfully conceptualized through what Erving
Goffman characterizes as ‘front-stage’ and ‘backstage’ behaviors of the individual.
The former consists of ‘the expression that he gives,’ the latter ‘the expression that he
gives off (1959, p. 2). In Goffman’s analysis of the individual, the front consists of
elements such as setting, tone, manner, and appearance (1959, p. 29). The epigraph that
opens Goffman’s book highlights the importance of what lies on the surface in the form of
language and image: ‘Words and images are like shells, no less integral parts of nature
than are the substances they cover, but better addressed to the eye and more open to
observation’ (George Santayana, quoted in Goffman 1959, p. ix). Also central to the front-
stage performance is ‘idealization,’ clues that the individual ‘aspires’ to a higher soci al
class. In a similar vein, our analysis of the language of the IOM shows its aspiration to UN
status in the stratification of organizations, as made clear in its Kosovo program: ‘while not
part of the United Nations system, IOM maintains close ties with the UN and has
established partner ships with a wide range of international governmental and non-
governmental organizations worldwide’ (IOM 2003). Front-stage behavior also includes a
degree of mystification, ‘in which the performance of an individual accentuates certain
matters and conceals others’ (1959, p. 67). Meanwhile, the backstage performance
transpires out of sight, ‘being cut off from [the front stage performance] by a partition and
guarded passageway’ (Goffman 1959, p. 113). Again, the labrynthean global architecture
of the IOM its administrative back offices and hundreds of field projects mirror
Goffman’s juxtaposition of the symbiotic front and backstage performances.
Through its 127 ‘member states,’ 17 ‘observer states,’ and a wide range of partnerships
with NGOs, the IOM is involved in all manner of migra tion-related activities, from
organizing workshops for migrants and displaced people to training border patrol
employees and managing off-shore processing centers. Member states ‘states with a
demonstrated interest in the principle of free movement of persons’ comprise the IOM’s
governing council. Each member state has one representative and is allocated one vote.
The executive, composed of 35 member states elected for 2-year periods, reviews the
IOM’s policy (IOM Constitution).
Figure 1. Photograph of IOM headquarters, Geneva, May 2006, Alison Mountz.
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Of particular interest, given analysis of the IOM, are the five key functions are
delineated in the organization’s constitution. The first two relate to the ‘transfer’ of
migrants and ‘refugees and d isplaced persons ... for whom arrangements may be made
between the Organi zations and the States concerned.’ The next two functions of the IOM
involve a wide range of ‘migration services’ including ‘medical examinations’ and
‘similar services’ for ‘voluntary return migration.’ Finally, the IOM also seeks to ‘provide
a forum to States as well as international and other organizations for the exchange of views
and experiences’ on migration (IOM 1989).
The IOM has grown remarkably over the last 10 years in terms of budget, employment,
and projects in ‘the field. In 1998, the IOM had 67 member states. By 2006, member
states numbered 116. As of December 2009, there were 127 member states. During that
same time frame, expenditures nearly quadrupled, from US$242 to US$952 million in
2005 (IOM 2008a) and currently exceeding US$1 billion (IOM 2009b). As of December
2008, the IOM had over 400 field locations, with the greatest number of field locations in
Colombia, Indonesia, and Sudan (IOM 2009c). Whereas there were 686 projects carried
out in those locations in 1998, projects numbered 1400 in 2005 and over 2000 in 2008
(IOM 2009a). Finally, and remarkably, the IOM employed 1100 operational staff
members in 1998, but by 2006, this number had nearly quintupled to 5400 employees. By
the end of 2008, the IOM staff totaled 7127, of which 6069 were officials, while 1058 were
employees (IOM 2009a). The organization’s largest operational expenditures were in the
areas of ‘movement, emergency, and post-crisis management followed by ‘regulating
migration’ (IOM 2009a). This recent, rapid, and significant increase in size, scope, and
profit signals the success this for-profit entity has found. The IOM succeeds by occupying
a niche with migra tion-related services provided to nation-states. This success also
suggests the importance of researching its expanding and expansive role in what
governments and suprastate agencies alike call ‘migration management.’
We are all citizens of the same humanitarian world
The IOM works not only in the lega l gray zones between domestic and international law
but also in geographically ambiguous zones, where state jurisdiction remains unclear. It is
precisely through this ambiguity that ‘disorderly’ flows of migration and displacement are
ordered and regulated by the nation-state. The decentralized structure of the IOM
represents a constitutive node in this network, the institutionalized and state-sanctioned
underbelly of global flows that promotes state policies on immigration. To accomplish
this, the IOM relies on the importation of flexible labor, made clear in the following quote.
The demographic and social structure in the industrialized world has created the need for
workers and professionals from other countries. Large-scale migration for work represents
potentially difficult adjustments, but economies that desire to remain competitive cannot
ignore the need for change. Facilitating migration for work can be a win-win proposition.
(IOM 2009d)
As we have argued, the IOM strategically synthesizes the language of international
humanitarianism and equally prevalent discourses of national security. This latter
discourse manifests in the control over migrant bodies at a variety of scales, from
‘biometric borders’ (A moore 2006, Sparke 2006) to what Dick Marty, the EU’s rapporteur
on secret rendition, called the ‘global spider’s web’ of US detention facilities on sovereign
territory (Council of Europe 2006, p. 10). It is in these transformations of the nation-state,
from an emphasis on the unity of national territory (Scott 1998) to a networked command
over global space (Hardt and Negri 2000), that the IOM’s practices become paramount.
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They represent a blurring of what Appadurai delineates as two contrasting forms of global
organization: the vertebrate world ‘organized through the central spinal system of
international balances of power’ and the ‘cellular world, whose parts multiply by
association and opportunity rather than by legislation or design’ (Appadurai 2006, p. 129).
The IOM carries out a broad range of projects related to human migration that it
categorizes as ‘managing migration,’ ‘counter-trafficking,’ ‘migrant movement and
processing assistance,’ and ‘migration research.’ The IOM runs humanitarian projects
designed to protect migrants and their human rights, like the 2006 anti-trafficking campaign
that featur ed pop star Ricky Martin of ‘Livin’ la vida loca’ fame as its spokesperson. The
IOM also played a key role in building housing in tsunami-affected areas and has recently
garnered attention for its partnerships with the United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR) in Iraq in assisting internally displaced persons. In 2008, IOM
provided ‘movement assistance’ to 190,647 persons, mostly through ‘resettlement
programs’ and ‘refugee repatriations’ (IOM 2009b). Th e organization labels its programs
with beneficent names like ‘Managing Migration for the Benefit of All,’ a slogan we will
return to in the context of the IOM’s voluntary return program (IOM 2009d).
The IOM serves agenda s of what policymakers call ‘managed migration’, assisting
nation-states in a desire for order over what man y consider disorderly flows. While
much global migration is characterized by disorder and displacement, the IOM offers
services to its clients (read ‘member states’) to control, partic ularly in the management
of detention and deportation regimes. Many of these projects involve the housing and
transport of transnational migrants. Castles (2007) establishes a pervasive ambivalence
surrounding ‘migration management’ and urges caution against a ‘top-down’ model and
its ‘technocratic undertones.’ Yet in technocratic fashion, the IOM effective ly traverses
the global with the effective use of discourses on humanitarianism (Castles 2007,
pp. 5051).
While making order out of disorder and exercising control in the chaos of
displacement, however, the IOM traffics in another language altogether: that of
‘protection’, ‘opportunity’, and ‘partnership.’ But the IOM also has a dark side that its
more savvy higher-ups proved reluctant to discuss in interv iews. In some ways, the ‘good’
work done by the IOM serves to obscure some if its ‘shady’ operations. The corporation
operates entrepreneurially where opportunities arise to profit from the landscape of human
migration. Sometimes, these activities involve assistance to migrants, but they also offer
assistance to states in forms that can put migrants at risk, imperiling well-being and
infringing on human rights. This work is often couched in the broader organizational
language of ‘opportunity, assistance, membe rship, and partnership.
Human rights organizations have asked exactly who the IOM aims to protect. Some of
its programs appear to operate in the interest of the protection of states over asylum
seekers. In an interview, one official explained that the IOM ‘provides the opportunity’ for
‘weaker’ (meaning poore r, source country, and transit states) to bring border enforcem ent
up to the standards of stronger states (meaning wealthier, western states). Sometimes, such
opportunities were granted in the form of brokering bilat eral arrangements for return, and
at other times, the IOM was contracted to do the material labor of exclusion. As one
example, the IOM was contracted to run the detention of asylum seekers on islands as part
of Aus tralia’s ‘pacific solution’ to reduce the arrival of asylum seekers by sea. The IOM
often brokers these ‘partnerships’, including bilateral arrangements for return, easing the
issue of travel documents, and providing charter flights for return. These are among the
reasons why No Borders warns us that the IOM is ‘a Janus faced organisation, aiming to
win trust, cooperate with and using NGOs on the one hand but acting as a reliable partner
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of national governments. Be aware!’ (No Border Network 2009). Human Rights Watch,
furthermore, has pointed out that the IOM adopts the language of protection but has no
mandate to protect and no protocol to investigate human rights violations that transpire
under its watch.
IOM policy statements have evolved and been fine-tuned over the years to reflect the language
of ‘effective respect’ for migrants’ rights. While the adoption of rights language and
development of policy reflecting such language is encouraging, we feel that IOM has not
appeared to have learned from past mistakes. Human Rights Watch calls on member states of
the Governing Council to send a clear message to IOM that it must observe international
human rights and refugee protection norms in all its operations. (Human Rights Watch 2003)
By brokering bilateral arrangements between the member states behind closed doors,
the IOM facilitates collaborative measures of exclusion and eases the way for ‘voluntary
returns.’ The timing of this growth corresponds with a steady decrease in the granting of
asylum among the largest states with managed refugee resettlement programs (UNHCR
2006, Castles 2008). We see this correspondence as significant, given that one of the
largest, and most popular programs run by the IOM in recent years is called ‘Voluntary
Return’. This program provides ‘opportunities’ for displaced persons, often asylum
seekers, to return home to conflict-ridden source countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
Individuals receive free transit home and a small cash sum to restart their lives in exchange
for the withdrawal of their asylum applications requests for protection on the basis of a
‘well-founded fear’ of return home from ‘host’ countries such as the UK. A paper issued
by UNHCR further clarifies the ways in which the IOM assists states in return migration
after state interception.
IOM recognizes the sovereign right of States to determine which non-nationals may be
admitted to and remain in their territories .... Many States which have the ability to do so find
that intercepting migrants before they reach their territories is one of the most effective
measures to enforce their domestic migration laws and policies. While mindful of the
protection issues raised in interception programmes of States ... IOM’s role with respect to
persons intercepted by States is focused on facilitating voluntary return, including related
counselling (sic) .... IOM’s role is (1) to support States in their implementation of orderly
migration practices, including return migration and (2) to complement that of other
organizations such as UNHCR in ensuring that the protection needs of refugees are met.
(UNHCR 2001)
IOM support of state policies is clearly articulated here in the language of human
rights. Its complementary role with respect to international organizations is used as a
restriction and means of excision, restricting policies that function through national
sovereignty and yet, in discourse, transcend it. States are thus using coercive apparatuses
in the name of consensual legitimacy. Consensual modes of operation include consultative
processes, creative language, and corporate practices with a bottom line. States are
appealing to public audiences with the language of human rights regimes, but in practice
excluding migrants and undermining responsibilities as signatory to Convention and
The contractual relationship between states and the IOM cultivates ambiguity and
concealment of abuses. Who is responsible for offshore activities that preclude access to
asylum? If a person held in detention has a choice between indefinite detention and return
offered by the IOM, is return ‘voluntary’? Who is responsible for human rights violations
in facilities managed by the IOM, acting on behalf of member states?
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For return to Iraq, press ‘1’
Just before the US invasion of Iraq, the IOM established an ‘Iraq Response Team at
Cyprus’ Flami ngo Beach Hotel (IOM 2008b). After the invasion, the IOM established
the Iraq Transition Initiative, focusing on the rehabilitation of key infrastructure,
suspended in 2004 because of violence. They have had more success with their Assisted
Voluntary Return (AVR) program. The quote that headlines this section was taken from
the automated voicemail system of the London office of the IOM in June 2006 and is a
reference to AVR. While the voluntary return program for Iraqi nationals represents the
diversity of work done by the IOM, it also highlights the intermingling of neo-imperialism
and neoliberal policies through the regulation of migrant bodies. When interviewed, a
respondent at the IOM offices in London explained that the rationale behind ‘Press 1 for
Iraq’ was the popularity of the program. According to the IOM spokesperson, many people
were agreeing to a free return trip to Iraq and cash that would enable them to restart their
lives. In exchange, the returnee also agreed to withd raw her asylum application from
consideration by the Home Office. This interview was conducted in June 2006, the height
of fightin g and civilian deaths in Iraq.
IOM Ira q’s AVR program has assisted 13,890 Iraqi
nationals, located primarily in the UK, Lebanon, and Germany, to return to Iraq (IOM
A brief analysis of materials distributed to potential clients of the IOM’s return
program illustrates the language we have discussed here. IOM’s slogan dominates the
package visually, announced in large block letters on the front cover of the file:
explain the return program. Glossy pages feature ‘Stories of return,’ large photos with
short texts depicting people who were returned and started sma ll businesses with their
financial incentives. A list enumerates the benefits of return and another page addresses
‘frequently asked questions.’ There, a language of order prevails, ‘The objective of the
Voluntary Assisted Return and Reintegration Programme is to help individuals to return to
their home country in an orderly and dignified way’ (IOM 2007). The materials also draw
on the language of opportunity; the leading line on a large, colorful poster explains the
opportunity of return: ‘IOM helps every asylum seeker who wishes to return to his/her
home country.’ Where asylum seekers who withdraw claims are eligible for financial
incentives through the Voluntary Assisted Return and Reintegration Program (VARRP),
‘irregular migrants’ are not. The package pays for travel documentation, flights, and
assistance with departure and arrival.
Charts and graphs, meanwhile, list the numbers of applicants and returnees per year,
mirroring conflicts around the world. In 2006, the program was expanded from the UK and
new offices were opened so that VARRP could be operationalized from London,
Liverpool, and Glasgow. With support of the European Refugee Fund, the IOM offered
additional financial incentives for return through the ‘Pilot Enhanced Returns Scheme.’
For 6 months, the normal reintegration package increased from 1000 to 3000 pounds per
family member. In the UK in 2006, the largest number of applicants and returnees came
from and were returned to Iraq. In sum, 4618 Iraqi citizens applied and 2420 departed.
These numbers were triple those of the next largest group of returnees, this one to
Afghanistan, with 1261 applicants and 831 departed. The ‘Stories of Return’ are organized
by continent with examples from countries in Africa, Asia, South America, and Europe.
Although Iraq is the largest group returned, there are no stories that feature returnees to
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Although daily we hear of military participation in conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan and
even of the plight of the estimated 2 million refugees in the region, we hear less of the
plight of asylum seekers who flee conflict, chaos, and persecution at home, yet remain
hidden from view and forgotten by an international community that profits from the
promise of return. Another example involves the IOM’s work in Australia’s thwar ting
of migrants trying reach the shores of the nation-state through interception that rested
upon Australia’s interception in the South Pacific. Under Prime Minister John Howard,
the Australian government was not sympathetic to asylum seekers. In 2001, Howard
implemented the Pacific Solution in response to the Tampa incident (Mares 2002). The
MV Tampa was a Norwegian vessel that came to the assistance of a smuggling ship in
distress that was carrying 433 asylum seekers. Australia refused to allow the ship to dock
at the nearest port. A stand-off ensued in the following days, not unlike a more
contemporary boat carrying Sri Lankan asylum seekers off the coast of Indonesia that
Indonesian authorities ref used to allow to port in Merak (Refugee Action Collective 2010).
The Tampa incident proved a turning point in Australian investments in interception and
detention offshore. The migrants were brought to detention centers on Nauru and
Christmas Island in order to inhibit access to asylum in Australia. Poor treatment and lack
of acce ss to legal representation have been well documented in the years that followed in
this limbo in detention on islands (see Mares 2002, Gordon 2005).
An aggressive detention and deportation regime internal to sovereign territory
accompanied these substantial investments in interception at sea and the towing of boats of
asylum seekers to islands offshore. Some of these islands were Australian territory (such
as Christmas Island), othe rs foreign territory (including Nauru). Australia’s Pacific
Solution also included the ‘power of excision’, a parliamentary decision in 2001 to
retroactively remove small islands and coastal lines from Australia for the purposes of
migration, effective ly removing the opportunity of those detained on Pacific islands to
ever seek asylum.
In order to carry out its ‘Pacifi c Solution,’ Australia has proven an important client of
the IOM. The IOM played a key role in the Pacific Solution under Howard by managing
the detention center at Nauru. Nauru, which became an independent republic in 1968,
has long been a strategic site in the territorial domination of nation-states. A German
possession occupied by Australia during World War I, followed by a Japanese occupation
during World War II, Nauru became a United Nations Trust Territory under Australian
administration. With the depletion of phosphate mining at the hands of Australian mining
companies, Nauru’s financial crisis worsened, providing a basis for Australia to further
entrench its influence. Australia contracted detention on Nauru, a facility that was both
part of and yet beyond Australian state territory. Nauru was in financial crisis at the time of
detention, and conditions in the center there reflect this pauci ty of resources (Mares 2002,
Gordon 2005). Detainees lacked amp le access to the most basic needs, including fresh and
clean water. Instead, limited access to salt water for a few hours during the day
exacerbated medical issues that were not tended to due to the lack of medical care (Mares
According to a fact sheet released by Australia’s Department of Immigration and
Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA), the IOM managed the offshore processing
facilities and provided a range of ‘holistic programs’ that included excur sions for shopping
and swimming and ‘freedom of movement’ between 8 am and 7 pm, Monda y through
Saturday. Oxfam has challenged the assertion made by the Australian government that
since these ‘processing centers’ are managed by the IOM, detainees are not held in
‘Australian immigration detention’ (Oxfam 2002, p. 18).
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Australia also contracts the IOM and funds the Indonesian government to hold
hundreds of asylum seekers on Indonesian islands (Human Rights Watch 2002). These
detentions are key to Australia’s ‘Pacific Solution’, a policy designed to interc ept and
detain those attempting to reach sovereign territory by sea to make an asylum claim.
Unlike Australia, neither Indonesia nor Nauru is a signatory to the 1951 Convention,
which means that a person does not have the right to make a claim there. In a document
released by the UNHCR, the IOM affirmed the sovereign right of States who ‘find that
intercepting migrants before they reach their territories is one of the most effective
measures to enforce their domestic migration laws and policies’ leaving the IOM to
‘assist’ with return migration. They further go on to state that ‘when IOM encounters
migrants presenting claims for asylum or other forms of protection in its activities,
IOM refers them to the relevant authorities national or UNHCR for appro priate
consideration’ (UNHCR 2001).
Even after the change in leadership in the Australian government and new Prime
Minister Kevin Rudd’s announcement in 2008 that the Pacific solution had ended,
Australia continues to contract the IOM and Indonesian authorities to house hundreds of
migrants in limbo on various Indonesian Islands. Detentions in remote locations raise
concerns about the protection of human rights in offshore detention centers that are funded
by signatory states to the Refugee Convention, but carried out by the IOM. The means by
which this is achieved, however, is through the language of international hu man rights.
One example of work in the zones between states involves a facility managed by the
IOM on the small island of Lombok east of Bali. There, it is estimated that hundreds of
would-be asylum seekers are housed in open facilities, grouped by country of origin.
Twice a month the IOM brings them a small ration to buy food. On a visit to Hazara
asylum seekers from Afghanistan in the city center of Mataram, the capital of the
Indonesian island of Lombok, the profitable ‘order’ the IOM attempts to impose on the
displaced became clear. This group was intercepted by the Austr alian navy at Ashmore
Reef and sent to Indonesia. They originally numbered 240, but many were accepted by
Canada and Australia on humanitarian appeals; 21 adults and children who remained were
asylum seekers who had fled the Taliban in 2001 in search of peace and safety. Hazara
minorities were persecuted by the Taliban, and in 1998 over 2000 were killed by the
Taliban in Mazar-e-Sharif (Mares 2002).
During a visit by the second author in December 2007, detainees spoke poignantly of
life in limbo in Indonesia and their efforts to seek asylum elsewhere. They did not believe
that Afghanistan was safe for return and shared the recent announcement that the Taliban
controlled 50% of the country. One of their friends had been recently returned by the IOM
and fled subsequently to Pakistan. From there, he emailed the group on Lombok and
pleaded with the IOM not to send anyone else back.
While isolated on islands for several year s, this group developed a web presence and
worked with highly organized advocates and lawyers in Australia. After being on the
island for so long, two Afghan men married Indonesian women and had children born on
Lombok. During the visit, I first met the men in the courtyard and then women and
children in the more private interior spaces of the shoddy hotel called Wisma Nussantara.
The asylum seekers in Indonesia were not allowed to work or leave the island and
depended on stipends provided by the IOM. The cumulative stress of uncertainty led to
poor sleep and stomach and head pains. The migrants learned Bhasa as well as English.
Whereas the IOM would not provide access to language classes or local school ing for the
small group of children, the adults made their own arrangements to learn English and to
send one of the remaining children to school.
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The fact that asylum seekers are held in limbo in Indonesia on behalf of Australia for
several years highlights the deployment of international humanitarianism in the name of
thwarting the largely ineffectual human rights regimes predicated on the involvement of
nation-states. The UNHCR turned down their claims, but Canada, New Zealand, and even
Australia provided many who used to live here with humanitarian visas to start their lives
anew. Meanwhile, the IOM continued to hide those who remained from view, alongside
more recent arrivals from Sri Lanka, Iraq, Vietnam, and Iran. After visits by outsiders, they
were issued warnings and accused of lying about their situation. They are visited every few
months by the Indonesian immigration authorities and asked if they would return home.
Each time they chose to remain, convinced that Afghanistan was not in fact safe for return.
In December, 14 police officers and immigration authorities arrived at the hotel at 8 am
and again asked the men if they would return home. ‘We can’t,’ they replied, according to
women family members left behind. All nine men were then removed with one extra
change of clothes and flown to quarantine prison in Makassar on Sulawesi. At that point,
the local office of the IOM stopped returning telephone calls or answering the door,
refusing accountability or even admission in Geneva to the work of detention.
The women and children remained and were up all night and repeated, ‘We are
worried. What can we do?’ Three generations of mothers, sisters, and children alternated
between tears, defiance, and silence. The IOM ceased daily visits on the day of the
removal. One of the children had been in the hospital. The women believed that the
authorities had waited until the father returned home with the child in order to remove all
of the Afghan men at once.
Imprisoned on the island of Sulawesi, the men were in isolation and separated from the
women and children in the family. They were hungry, receiving only meager amounts of
rice. Their mother and sisters could not leave the island of Lombok, some 300 miles away.
They worried constantly about brother, husband, father, son all of the men in their small
community who were taken away by Indonesian authorities after refusing to return to
Seven months later, on July 2, 2008, and in a different cont ext rel ated to the
management of migrants and refugees, the IOM office in Damak, Nepal was bombed. In a
joint statement, the IOM, UNHCR, and UN World Food Program condemned the
‘senseless violence’ of the act and suggested that the number of attac ks on the IOM would
impede all services related to the over 100,000 refugees in seven UN camps in the eastern
region of the country ( 2008). Although no group has taken responsibility
for the attacks, the IOM’s third-country resettlement of over 20,000 refugees from Bhutan
primarily to the USA has been controversial, as evidenced by the underground Bhutan
Communist Party Marxist Leninist Maoist’s dubbing of resettlement as ‘human
trafficking.’ In another statement, the Bhutan Gorkha National Liberation Front (BGNLF)
condemned third-country resettlement for the denial of repatriation that prevents the
Bhutanese refugees from demanding their fundamental rights in Bhutan (Adhikari 2008).
As demonstrated by these brief examples, the volition that is seemingly inherent in the
IOM’s programs of voluntary return raise fundamental issues regarding the organization’s
role in maintaining geo-political divides that attempt to keep ‘others’ out of nationa l
territories, while masking such practices through effective use of discourses of
globalization and ‘win win’ propositions. The relationship between coercion and consent,
when it involves the regulation of migrants, seems to have favored a largely celebratory
language of consent while practices remain coercive. Hidden from view are the migrants
and would be refugees that are caught between state-based exclusions and the com-
passionate assistance provided by the IOM. As Hannah Arendt wrote in earlier contexts,
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these migrants remain stateless within an international regime that curiously only furthers
their inability to make appeals to the guarantor of rights, the nation-state.
The IOM functions as a state apparatus in supranational guise, suggesting that the
contemporary global order hardly ‘undoes’ the Westphalian state. The nation- state
contracts human im/mobility out to the IOM in order to further entrench state territoriality
with dominant national cultures that give rise to stateless persons. The roles played by the
IOM suggest that the Westphalian state is not finished, but in a process of becoming through
what Ong (2006) identifies as ‘neoliberalism as exception.’ By analyzing the IOM as an
institution strategically placed between the nation-state and international civil society, we
have called into question the scales of governance that attempt to order migration and the
very sites where this governance transpires, looking at ‘a checkered geography of
governing resulting not from an anemic state apparatus but from a deliberative neoliberal
calculation as to which areas and which populations are advantageous or not advantageous
in appealing to global markets’ (Ong 2006, p. 77). It is in these exceptional sites migrant
bodies in in-between territories that the IOM transforms the state through the language of
international humanitarianism, giving the appearance of state subjection to global protocols
that would otherwise signal the limits of the nation-state.
The IOM creates networks across governmental, inter-governmental, and non-
governmental actors. Within this nexus, the IOM is able to ‘regulate’ migration through
seeming egalitarianism that enforces the ‘rights’ of migrants and marks the
transformations of citizenship, moving away from notions of citizenship as a right, to
citizenship as a gift (Hage 1998). Just as Honig (2001) argues that democracy must have a
‘foreigner’ to function, so too must the IOM maintain the gift of citizenship as a privilege
that can be given and taken away. States, meanwhile, retain power with ironic gestures
toward migrant rights that are couched in the language of empowerment promulgated by
the IOM. States retain their powers precisely through the idiom of human rights, whose
conceptual power emerges from the contestations over human rights discourse that is
centrally important for refugees, but also acts as the very means by which the nation-state
can further centralize itself in the production of global flows. When the IOM works on
behalf of states, its collusion must be treated in the realm of international ethics of
migration and mobility; not as exclusive from the law or subject to a separate set of
standards for for-profit institutions.
Human rights and refugee advocacy organizations have worked creatively in Australia
to overcome the tactics of isolation employed by the government. They designed letter
writing campaigns to reach those on islands and were in the process of assembling a case
to submit to the government on humanitarian grounds on behalf of one family in the hotel
that served as a detention facility. Meanwhile, No Borders and other activist campaigns
and reports by Human Rights Watch (2003) and Amnesty International (2009) have
targeted the IOM. In response to criticism by advocates, the IOM started a series of
consultative processes that happen annually. Refugee and migrant advocacy organizations
have an opportunity to provide feedback to the IOM at these mee tings. Those interviewed
between 2006 and 2008, however, expressed frustration with the superficial nature of these
exchanges. Whi le given the opportunity to share concerns, they did not feel that this
process had resulted in any meaningful changes to the work of the IOM. They asked on
whose behalf the IOM acts and called attention to those projects enacted quietly in the
name of national security in ambiguous sites between states. They raised the important
I. Ashutosh and A. Mountz34
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question of who can be held accountable for human rights violations that occur in liminal
zones managed by the IOM.
We thank many people who gave time in the field to support this research. We are also grateful to the
editors of Citizenship Studies, three anonymous reviewers, and Jennifer Hyndman for thoughtful
feedback. This research was supported by a Research and Writing Grant from the John D. and
Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
1. This research consisted of semi-structured interviews, visits to detention centers, and archival
analysis in Australia, Indonesia, Italy, Switzerland, England, and the USA between 2006 and
2. Subheadings are taken from IOM publications, websites, and voicemail messages.
4. Also see IOM (2008), ‘While not formally part of the UN system, IOM has a similar
intergovernmental structure consisting of a Council, a Standing Committee on Programmes and
Finance, an Executive Committee and a Subcommittee on Budget and Finance’ (footnote 1).
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I. Ashutosh and A. Mountz38
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... 'Acceptable' alternatives are not easy to conceptualise and, according to Erdal & Oeppen (2018), migrants' options are often restricted by information received from immigration authorities and international NGOs (for instance, the UNHCR, the IOM). By shaping the options available to migrants, humanitarian returns operated by the IOM take a form of externalised migration management or control (Ashutosh & Mountz, 2011;Brachet, 2015;Triandafyllidou & Ricard-Guay, 2019). Pécoud (2013) describes such efforts as a preventive way to discipline local states and shape aspirations of potential and failed migrants. ...
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Over recent years, with the support of international NGOs, many thousands of irregular migrants were ‘returned’ to West Africa from Libyan detention centres. Through extensive ethnographic fieldwork with different groups of returnees in Benin City, Nigeria, I studied the establishment and evolution of the ‘returnee’ identity. Making use of labelling, social identity and performativity theories, I found that the performance of the returnee identity for Western donors, researchers and the media creates opportunities for the returnees to regain respect in their communities. Emphasising the role of performativity in identity formation, I use the metaphor of a theatrical play. Initially scripted by the EU border-externalisation policies, the return-migration play has evolved to fit in local political realities. On the frontstage, returnees were adjusting to the EU counter-migration agenda, testifying about the risks of irregular migration. Backstage, however, they kept pursuing their migration aspirations, also using the returnee identity to establish themselves in the city and gain some level of political recognition.
... However, a fixed and standardized definition of sustainable reintegration could ossify the predicaments which have been highlighted with respect to assisted-return and migration management, namely, the fact that it speaks to a hypothetical world lacking transnational asymmetries, socio-economic inequalities and multifarious political barriers (Oelgemöller, 2017;Pécoud, 2015). Other shortcomings are its technical and economic nature (Ashutosh and Mountz, 2011;Strand et al., 2008), its sedentary bias (Jeffery and Murison, 2011) and its inattention towards returnees' sense of belonging (Lietaert et al., 2017). Return-migration experiences are hard to generalise or standardise, as situations of wellbeing and struggle can occur simultaneously, with migrants' views on their own return and reintegration experiences varying over time (Lietaert et al., 2017). ...
... Furthermore, our analysis of displacement in South Asia contributes to the scholarship of migrant (im)mobility (Ashutosh and Mountz 2011;Hyndman 2012;Ehrkamp 2017;Hyndman and Giles 2017), refugee camp management (Agier 2011;Brun and F abos 2015;Dunn 2017), and urban refugees (Campbell 2006;Grabska 2006;Sanyal 2012Sanyal , 2018 through two concepts that underwrite research on refugees-urban citizenship and securitization. Conceptions of urban citizenship have highlighted that the city is where refugees create new forms of urban belonging and participation that challenge national imaginaries (Holston and Appadurai 1998;Holston 2001;Baubock 2003). ...
This article analyzes displacement in the context of three communities in South Asia: Afghan refugees in Pakistan, Sri Lankan Tamils in India, and Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. In each of these cases, refugee management emerges out of the complexities of geopolitics and humanitarianism and becomes central to urban questions of the right to move and remain in the city. Drawing on scholarship in the geopolitics of migrant (im)mobilities, refugee studies, and South Asia studies, we argue that displacement threatens the contours of belonging and citizenship across South Asian nation-states. For these reasons, the cities where the displaced live have become the locus of national unbelonging and state violence through entangled forms of securitization and urbanization. In particular, we detail the spatial and socioeconomic segregation of displaced populations in which they are subject to mundane bureaucratic violence and the role that social class plays in navigating the exclusions triggered by displacement. In the cities where the displaced settle, the displaced shape the urban economy, whereas the state applies strategies of spatial control that aim to nationalize urban space while maintaining the refugees as forever displaceable.
... IOM, 2009 : 39 ;UNGA, 2018). En effet, au nom de la défense des « droits de l'Homme » des migrants, mais aussi pour que la migration devienne « productive » et contribue effectivement à l'accumulation économique mondiale, les flux doivent être régulés (Ashutosh et Mountz, 2011 ;Felli et Castree, 2012). Bien que l'OIM mette désormais l'accent sur la promotion de la mobilité comme adaptation aux changements environnementaux, la gestion des migrations reste limitée par des approches néolibérales et néo conservatistes (Bettini et al., 2016). ...
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FRANCAIS: Le Sénégal fait partie des pays les moins avancés (PMA) fortement vulnérables aux changements environnementaux, dont les dérèglements climatiques, qui fragilisent davantage les conditions de vie de leurs populations et leurs écosystèmes. Depuis une dizaine d’années, des académiques, des praticiens du développement et des décideurs politiques semblent convaincus de l’idée de migrants fonctionnant (potentiellement) comme des « agents adaptatifs » à divers niveaux et secteurs économiques de leur pays d’origine. Cette thèse en sciences et gestion de l’environnement repose notamment sur ce constat : si la mobilisation de la diaspora en vertu d’un discours global affirme leur nécessité et leur contribution potentielle pour l’adaptation, les dynamiques sociales et politiques sous-jacentes sont encore peu démontrées dans la littérature et les études de cas. Dans ce contexte, l’objectif principal poursuivi par la thèse est de comprendre le rôle des dimensions politiques et écologiques dans les pratiques translocales - compris ici comme transferts politiques - de membres de communautés migrantes originaires de zones affectées par des changements socio-environnementaux. Cette recherche vise à comprendre si - et comment - des pratiques de transferts politiques des membres de communautés migrantes contribuent aux processus d’adaptation aux changements environnementaux dans des villages ruraux sahéliens. Pour répondre à cette question, nous proposons une analyse originale, multisites, multiniveaux et multi-acteurs des pratiques de transferts à travers le cas d’étude suivant : des migrants en Belgique membres de la communauté haalpulaar originaire de villages dans la moyenne vallée du fleuve Sénégal. Nous appréhendons leurs pratiques dans leurs diversités et leurs logiques issues du champ social translocal de développement villageois. Cette thèse utilise plusieurs méthodes qualitatives (observations non participantes, entretiens individuels et collectifs) pour analyser les pratiques translocales des migrants haalpulaaren en Belgique à travers les perceptions socio-environnementales et les discours des migrants internes (à Dakar) et internationaux (en Belgique) et des non migrants restés au village d'origine. Cette thèse propose dès lors une démarche articulée en quatre étapes principales : (1) La revue critique de la construction conceptuelle du champ d’étude de la migration comme stratégie d’adaptation installe un cadre théorique novateur, développé sur base des données empiriques récoltées. Cette recherche interdisciplinaire adopte une perspective de résilience sociale translocale avec une approche ethnographique éclectique et Bourdieusienne, informée par le champ de la political ecology. (2) Au niveau empirique, nous analysons les perceptions des risques environnementaux qui affectent les conditions de vie dans la région de la moyenne-vallée du Fleuve. Face à la vulnérabilité des villageois aux changements environnementaux, nous tentons de saisir les représentations sociales qu’ils ont des migrants internationaux, notamment leurs attentes et demandes sociales en lien avec ces aléas environnementaux identifiés. Si notre analyse intègre plusieurs secteurs-clés en termes de moyens de subsistance locaux, elle se penche plus en profondeur sur le secteur de l’agriculture. Ce choix s’explique par l’importance de l’adaptation aux changements environnementaux dans ce contexte spécifique, où les niveaux de vulnérabilité sont très élevés. Ensuite, nous analysons le rôle que jouent les perceptions socio-environnementales des migrants internes (néo-Dakarois, membres de villages d’origine) sur les attentes sociales envers les migrants internationaux. Quelles sont les articulations entre ces attentes des néo-Dakarois, d’une part, et leurs contributions depuis Dakar aux stratégies d’adaptation au village d’origine, d’autre part ? Finalement, en Belgique, ce sont les perceptions et expériences socio-environnementales des migrants haalpulaar qui nous intéressent, tant avant qu’après leur projet migratoire. (3) Ensuite, nous procédons à une analyse des principales pratiques translocales des migrants internationaux. Celles retenues sont identifiées par nos répondants, au Sénégal et en Belgique, comme des transferts améliorant à un niveau collectif les conditions de vie villageoises affectées par des changements environnementaux. Cette analyse intègre l’examen des dimensions politiques qui traversent ces pratiques, révélant des processus et mécanisme sociopolitiques dans le champ social translocal au niveau du village sénégalais et en Belgique. L’analyse de ces mécanismes translocaux fait appel à l’implication des changements de rapports de pouvoirs par les institutions sociales (famille, entreprises, associations). Nous distinguons les pratiques translocales d’adaptation aux impacts environnementaux à évolution lente (adaptation à plus long terme, ex ante) et celles qui servent à faire face aux effets environnementaux/climatiques à évolution rapide (coping strategies à plus court terme, souvent ex post). (4) Finalement, nous dressons une typologie des migrants haalpulaaren en Belgique par rapport à leurs capacités à s’engager dans des pratiques de transferts politiques, qui puissent servir aux stratégies d’adaptation collectives dans leur village d’origine. Notre travail a permis de montrer les limites structurelles des capacités des migrants à s’engager dans des pratiques de transferts qui permettent d’améliorer les conditions de vie affectées au pays d’origine par des changements socio-environnementaux. En effet, ils sont contraints par des conditions sociales translocales, qui sont notamment significativement traversées par des enjeux politiques. Ils construisent leurs capacités d’adaptation (capitaux) dans plusieurs sites à la fois, et à des échelles diverses (famille, association, entreprise, village…). Les divers capitaux dans le sens de Bourdieu (1986) nécessaires pour acquérir une reconnaissance sociale s’accumulent ou se (dé-)construisent dans un espace et un champ social translocal, du pays de destination et celui du pays d’origine (notamment au village d’origine, mais souvent aussi à Dakar). Les moyens d’existence (les ressources) et l'amélioration des conditions de vie des villageois passent notamment par la construction du capital social translocal (des réseaux et partenariats). Les capacités d’adaptation collectives s’en retrouvent modifiées et généralement renforcées. La reconnaissance sociale des membres de la communauté villageoise envers les migrants engagés et opérant divers types de transferts – familiaux ou communautaires - confère une légitimité et un pouvoir politique, non seulement aux migrants mêmes et à leur famille, mais aussi à leur communauté villageoise. La thèse établit ainsi des connexions et interdépendances complexes entre les différents sites et niveaux impliqués dans les pratiques de transferts, ayant effectivement ou potentiellement des conséquences et retombées politiques. Elle démontre comment les conditions translocales façonnent le champ social de développement villageois et les marges d’actions des émigrés en matière de contributions à l’adaptation collective. En même temps, ces effets politiques – intentionnels ou non – semblent précisément utiles à mobiliser les ressources privées et/ou publiques nécessaires à l’adaptation des groupes au sein de la communauté villageoise d’origine. À la lumière de ce travail, l’une de nos recommandations principales est de penser aux pratiques de transferts des migrants non seulement sur le plan des moyens d’existence par rapport aux stratégies d’adaptation endogène, mais aussi en ce qui concerne les implications de changements de relations de pouvoirs impulsés par l’extérieur. En effet, ces changements de relations de pouvoirs peuvent influencer les capacités d’adaptation et les vulnérabilités des institutions sociales translocales au village (familles, entreprises, associations). De plus, nous encourageons davantage de réflexions et d’analyses critiques dans les recherches portant sur divers types de transferts des migrants. Et ce, particulièrement au vu de l’immense défi que posent les changements environnementaux auxquels les migrants « agents adaptatifs » sont attendus à participer, sans que nécessairement ils puissent y répondre. ENGLISH: Policymakers and scholars increasingly assume migrants to be “agents of change” (Grabowska et al., 2017), “agents of development” (Sinatti & Horst, 2015) or “adaptive agents” in the face of climate change for their country or community of origin (Ransan-Cooper et al., 2015). However, we argue that this should not be argued ideologically, but should be investigated more thoroughly. Indeed, it is mostly assumed in a neo-liberal fashion, notably in the New Economics of Labour Migration theory, that the migrant-actor is a flexible, resilient individual coping in a too often depoliticised context. Very few research has been done so far in what I investigated in the migration as adaptation-research strand. The role of remittances for social resilience has been addressed (Adger et al., 2002). The literature contains many references to factors that favour social resilience, such as financial remittances, livelihood diversification, participation in decision processes, openness to innovations (through social remittances), and many more (Siegmann, 2010; Béné et al., 2012; Grabowska et al., 2017). However, there are very few studies simultaneously integrating in their analysis: 1. The translocal dimension of remittances or “translocality”. Most studies look at in-situ impacts – at the place of origin or destination on a general level – neglecting the translocal dimension of migration (Sakdapolrak et al., 2016). 2. Political dimension, including translocal power relations in the analysis for adaptation and social resilience. In this regard, the thesis mobilises Pierre Bourdieu’s Theory of Practice and the critical field of political ecology. 3. Ecological/environmental dimension looking further at emic perceptions of adaptation to environmental change, including climate change. 4. various social entities or translocal social institutions in the village of origin and in the country of destination, beyond the classical household-level analysis (i.e., family, association, enterprises). The general objective of the thesis is to understand the role of political and ecological dimensions in translocal practices - understood here as political remittances - of members of migrant communities from areas affected by environmental change. More specifically, this qualitative, multi-sited research focuses on the contribution of members of the Haalpulaar migrant community in Belgium to the process of adaptation to environmental change in rural villages in the Fouta-Toro region (Middle Valley of the Senegal River, northeast Senegal). To do so, we adopt a translocal perspective with an eclectic ethnographic approach focusing on transnational practices and their political dimensions. The translocal practices selected are those that, according to our respondents, improve living conditions in the context of environmental change. Furthermore, these practices reflect the political dimension of transnational relations between international migrants in Belgium and development actors at the village level. In this respect, salient socio-political conditions in their village of origin and in Belgium determine the extent whether international migrants can act as "adaptive agents" for their community of origin. We therefore use a translocal social resilience approach, with an analytic lens informed by Pierre Bourdieu’s Theory of Practice and political ecology. The thesis’ operational framework is articulated in four main steps: 1. An emic perceptions analysis of environmental risks that affect living conditions in the Middle River Valley region. Within the villagers’ vulnerability context to socio-environmental changes, we try to grasp the social representations they have of international migrants, notably their expectations and social demands in relation to these identified environmental hazards. Then, in Dakar, we also analyse the perceptions of environmental risks of internal migrants from the Fouta-Toro region and we assess the social expectations and demands towards the diaspora and the links with the latter in terms of remittance practices towards the village of origin. Finally, in Belgium, we are interested in the socio-environmental perceptions and experiences of Haalpulaar migrants, both before and after their migration project. The emic perceptions approach is used to assess the discourse on practices in the translocal social field of village development. 2. An analysis of the major transnational practices of migrants with collective adaptation effects. In order to objectify the extent to which migrants can be considered as 'adaptive agents', we assess how the transnational practices and (political) commitments of these migrants enhance the adaptive capacity and resilience of the community. The assessment is made by examining ex ante slow-onset environmental adaptation practices (longer-term adaptation) and ex post rapid-onset environmental/climatic impacts (shorter-term coping strategies). 3. An analysis of the political dimension of the transfer practices identified as having an effect on adaptation to environmental change. In this context, we are interested in the socio-political dynamics and processes in the translocal field at the village level in Senegal and Belgium. The analysis calls for the involvement of changing power relations by social institutions in these translocal mechanisms (family, enterprises, associations), particularly in collective coping strategies influencing the livelihoods (resources) and living conditions of villagers. 4. Finally, we draw up a typology of Haalpulaar migrants in Belgium in relation to their capacity to contribute to coping strategies in their village of origin. The thesis shows that the capacity of migrants to engage in collective adaptation strategies through various remittance translocal practices is strongly limited and constrained by social structure, notably composed of a political dimension. Hence, the improvement of living conditions at collective level beyond the household in the country of origin demands changing power relations through social and political networks. This will lead the international migrants to build their capacities (their ‘capitals’) in multilevel translocal conditions that shape the field of village development and the margin of action of the emigrants. While translocal practices are necessary for the migrants to acquire social recognition and legitimacy, the migrants’ various capitals in the sense of Bourdieu (1986) are constructed in a translocal space, amongst which in the country of origin and destination. These practices allowing for collective adaptation in the village of origin carry significant symbolic and political stakes.
... In this way, migration management is about "making the unruly governable" (Bettini, 2014: 180). The management rationale is usually framed as a necessary defence of migrants' human rights but is also designed to ensure migration remains economically productive and under the control of states (Ashutosh and Mountz, 2011;Felli and Castree, 2012). ...
Academic and policy domains are increasingly constructing 'migration as adaptation' as a policy ideal against alarmist, security-oriented approaches to the climate-migration nexus. However, our knowledge of how development actors in national contexts view and use migration as adaptation in practice remains limited. Based on 90 interviews with development stakeholders, this paper demonstrates the limited reach of the migration as adaptation policy ideal in Senegal's development sector. It is considered too vague a concept to operationalise and is in tension with the wider discursive context on migration and development, marked by sedentary bias which requires 'addressing the root causes of migration', including environmental change, to 'fix populations in place'. A dominant discourse accommodates sedentary bias. It allows for a narrow application of migration as adaptation through 'return migration' and 'diaspora mobilisation' projects. These target only existing migrants, avoiding new mobility solutions. A minority counter-discourse rejects sedentary bias, emphasising freedom of movement.
A brief analysis of the dominant discourses on migration with their main goals of upholding the sovereignty of the nation-states and disciplining migrants. The subchapters trace the evolution of some of these concepts—which institutions brought them at which point in time to the global agenda? The examples include discourses on migration management, migration and development, remittances, human rights of migrants, and circular or temporary migration.
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This project explores the social construction of migration as a security threat, using the securitization theoretical framework. It comprises a case study of the Dominican Republic where an estimated 250,000 Haitian migrants and their descendants were rendered stateless by a 2013 ruling of the Constitutional Court on their right to citizenship. Migration as a security threat is understudied in South-South migration which accounts for the major part of global population movements. This case study examines how Haitian immigrants are constructed as security threats discursively and through institutionalized practices, ultimately leading to the legitimation of extraordinary security measures towards them. The project explores the role of state and non-state actors in threat construction and examines how these overlap with ethnocultural identity construction. Document and discourse analyses were used to examine a range of textual and non-textual data sources including speeches, policy documents, and publications from political actors and non-state actors. These were triangulated with interviews and survey data to generate a “thick description” of the intersubjective process of threat construction, not just as an elite-driven discursive process resulting in a “state of exception” but also as an insidious process of the routinization of the extraordinary. The history of dictatorship and the narrative of “pacific invasion” as a threat to the Dominican “imagined community” presented an enabling context for securitized cognitive frames to translate national security habitus into migration practice. The study reveals how neutral-sounding laws, and jurisprudence from higher courts have reinforced these cognitive frames and justified extraordinary measures, despite contestation from civil society actors and intergovernmental organizations. Bureaucratic exclusions from access to citizenship, the militarization of borders, and mass deportation then appear as the outcomes of a dynamic, intersubjective securitization process. The project ultimately advances the argument for an approach to securitization theory that combines the two dominant perspectives in the field: one focusing on discourse and the other focusing on institutionalized practice. The focus on South-South migration presents securitized migration as a phenomenon that transcends the developed world. It highlights the need to address the debilitating human security outcomes in migratory flows to the developed and the developing world.
Humanitarian migration relates to the movement of people who feel somehow forced to move. Yet, distinguishing which migration forms fall under the label of humanitarian migration is not straightforward. Migration research has a history of separating between ‘forced’ and ‘voluntary’ migration flows, however, this distinction has been challenged since the 1990s. This chapter includes an overview of research in the broad area of ‘humanitarian migration’, and summarises key research trends concerning refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced people, victims of trafficking and unaccompanied migrant minors.
This chapter explores the effectiveness of the Afghan Government’s policy framework for the returnees primarily based on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the United Nations Development Programme initiative towards re-integration and capacity-building for the nation. It explores the pros and cons of the policies adopted by the Afghan Government in conjunction with these international bodies towards the people returning mainly from Pakistan and Iran since 2014. The situation presents a complex scenario of engagement on the issues of deportation and containment of forceful returns of the Afghans staying in those countries. The overarching objective of the Afghan Government is to help promote repatriation and sustainable re-integration with the host communities in their places of origin. The Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework (ANPDF) is giving much importance to well-planned and managed settlement as sine qua non for re-integration. In this light, the chapter concludes that, first, re-integration still remains a difficult proposition. Second, the Afghan Government continues its efforts to assimilate them into the social and economic fabric of the country.
In the wake of the social, economic, and political crisis in their own country, millions of Venezuelans have fled to neighboring Colombia. This study aims to understand how temporary shelters in Colombia meet the needs of Venezuelan newcomers—and why, in many cases, they do not. Using the framework of temporal uncertainty, this article explores how periods of waiting perpetuate a form of violence on migrants which shelters attempt to mitigate. Findings highlight the challenges of shelter work in this context and the obstacles facing one of the largest migrations in the world today.
Cambridge Core - Texts in Political Thought - Kant: Political Writings - edited by H. S. Reiss
Neoliberalism--the doctrine that market exchange is an ethic in itself, capable of acting as a guide for all human action--has become dominant in both thought and practice throughout much of the world since 1970 or so. Writing for a wide audience, David Harvey, author of The New Imperialism and The Condition of Postmodernity, here tells the political-economic story of where neoliberalization came from and how it proliferated on the world stage. Through critical engagement with this history, he constructs a framework, not only for analyzing the political and economic dangers that now surround us, but also for assessing the prospects for the more socially just alternatives being advocated by many oppositional movements.
Few recent phenomena have proved as emblematic of our era, and as little understood, as globalization. Tying ethnography to structural analysis, Flexible Citizenship explores how political upheavals and global markets have induced Asian elite families, in particular, to blend strategies of migration, capital and cultural accumulation. She details how their transnational practices of flexibility manipulate different immigration regimes as well as schemes of multiculturalism in advanced liberal societies. Refuting claims about the clash of civilizations, Ong presents a clear account of the cultural logics of globalization as Asian peoples disperse and shape forms of Asia-Pacific modernity.
The book critically engages with theoretical developments in international relations and security studies to develop a fresh conceptual framework for studying security.Contents 1. Politics of insecurity, technology and the political2. Security framing: the question of the meaning of security3. Displacing the spectre of the state in security studies: From referent objects to techniques of government4. Securitizing migration: Freedom from existential threats and the constitution of insecure communities5. European integration and societal insecurity6. Freedom and security in the EU: A Foucaultian view on spill-over7. Migration, securitization and the question of political community in the EU8. De-securitizing migration: Security knowledge and concepts of the political9. Conclusion: the politics of framing insecurity
What should we do about foreigners? Should we try to make them more like us or keep them at bay to protect our democracy, our culture, our well-being? This dilemma underlies age-old debates about immigration, citizenship, and national identity that are strikingly relevant today. In Democracy and the Foreigner, Bonnie Honig reverses the question: What problems might foreigners solve for us? Hers is not a conventional approach. Instead of lauding the achievements of individual foreigners, she probes a much larger issue--the symbolic politics of foreignness. In doing so she shows not only how our debates over foreignness help shore up our national or democratic identities, but how anxieties endemic to liberal democracy themselves animate ambivalence toward foreignness. Central to Honig's arguments are stories featuring "foreign-founders," in which the origins or revitalization of a people depend upon a foreigner's energy, virtue, insight, or law. From such popular movies as The Wizard of Oz, Shane, and Strictly Ballroom to the biblical stories of Moses and Ruth to the myth of an immigrant America, from Rousseau to Freud, foreignness is represented not just as a threat but as a supplement for communities periodically requiring renewal. Why? Why do people tell stories in which their societies are dependent on strangers? One of Honig's most surprising conclusions is that an appreciation of the role of foreigners in (re)founding peoples works neither solely as a cosmopolitan nor a nationalist resource. For example, in America, nationalists see one archetypal foreign-founder--the naturalized immigrant--as reconfirming the allure of deeply held American values, whereas to cosmopolitans this immigrant represents the deeply transnational character of American democracy. Scholars and students of political theory, and all those concerned with the dilemmas democracy faces in accommodating difference, will find this book rich with valuable and stimulating insights.