ArticlePDF Available

'Losing Leverage' in the Neighbourhood. A Cognitive Frame Analysis of the EU's Migration Policy



The EU-Turkey Deal consolidated a shift in the EU's migration policy. The deal is the culmination of the dominance of the security frame and depicts the continuous externalisation of the EU's responsibility of asylum-protection and burden-sharing. The strengthening of the security frame has weakened the humanitarian norms that previously dictated the EU's behaviour. The weakening of the humanitarian norms, combined with rigid security thinking in the humanitarian arena of refugee protection, has led to the EU losing some of its comparative advantages in negotiations. Simultaneously, the instrumentalisation of the value of asylum, paired with an increased number of asylum seekers, has given negotiation leverage to the neighbouring countries turned service providers. These changes in perception and norms have created a power shift, at the disadvantage of the EU, creating a more levered footing for negotiations between the parties. This article tracks the historical shifts in the global refugee regime to explain how today's situation was created. Hereby, the existence of two competing cognitive frames-humanitarian and security-is assumed, tracked and analysed. Afterwards, we zoom into the details of the EU-Turkey Deal and show that the EU has started treating refugees as a security problem rather than a humanitarian issue, breaking the normative fabric of the refugee regime in the process. We also display how Turkey was able to capitalise on this new reality and engage with negotiations of other neighbouring countries of the EU that point towards a change of dynamics in the global refugee regime.
‘Losing Leverage’ in the Neighbourhood. A Cognitive Frame Analysis of the
EU’s Migration Policy.
Jyri Jantti and Benjamin Klasche,
Tallinn University, School of Governance, Law and Society
Article accepted for publication in International Studies:
To cite: Jantti, J & Klasche, B. (2021 [forthcoming]). ‘Losing Leverage’ in the Neighborhood. A
Cognitive Frame Analysis of the EU’s Migration Policy. International Studies.
Abstract: The EU-Turkey Deal consolidated a shift in the EU’s migration policy. The deal is the
culmination of the dominance of the security frame and depicts the continuous externalisation of the
EU’s responsibility of asylum-protection and burden-sharing. The strengthening of the security frame
has weakened the humanitarian norms that previously dictated the EU’s behaviour. The weakening
of the humanitarian norms, combined with rigid security thinking in the humanitarian arena of refugee
protection, has led to the EU losing some of its comparative advantages in negotiations.
Simultaneously, the instrumentalisation of the value of asylum, paired with an increased number of
asylum seekers, has given negotiation leverage to the neighbouring countries turned service
providers. These changes in perception and norms have created a power shift, at the disadvantage of
the EU, creating a more levered footing for negotiations between the parties. This article tracks the
historical shifts in the global refugee regime to explain how today’s situation was created. Hereby,
the existence of two competing cognitive frames humanitarian and security is assumed, tracked
and analysed. Afterwards, we zoom into the details of the EU-Turkey Deal and show that the EU has
started treating refugees as a security problem rather than a humanitarian issue, breaking the
normative fabric of the refugee regime in the process. We also display how Turkey was able to
capitalise on this new reality and engage with negotiations of other neighbouring countries of the EU
that point towards a change of dynamics in the global refugee regime.
Keywords: Non-Traditional Security, Cognitive Frames, EU-Turkey Deal, Migration Policy,
Refugee Regime, Political Leverage
On 20 March 2016, the European Union (EU) and its neighbour Turkey entered into an agreement
that formally intended to limit the influx of irregular migrants entering the Union through Turkey’s
territory. The agreement known as the EU-Turkey Deal essentially allows the EU to send back
irregular migrants that arrive in Greece via Turkey. In return, the EU agreed to allocate a total of 6€bn
in aid to help Turkey handle their responsibility to host refugees.
In other words, the EU outsources
the responsibility to provide asylum to Turkey, in exchange for political compromises and monetary
support. A deal of this kind is only possible in a world where the humanitarian responsibility deriving
from the global refugee regime moves to the decision-making background. The regime was based on
two humanitarian responsibilities: the refugee’s right to asylum and, the idea of global solidarity, or
burden-sharing between signatories. States have tried to avoid the burden created by refugees since
the creation of the regime, but this intensified with the end of the Cold War which saw the emergence
of a new security landscape. The new landscape included non-military threats to individuals and
societies, enabling perceving irregular migration as a potential economic, identity-based, cultural and
political threat. In this article, security is understood through the non-traditional security lens of the
Copenhagen School (Buzan, Waever & De Wilde 1998 ), which includes non-military threats (see
also, Paris 2001, Tadjbakhsh 2013), with a specific weight on the definition of human security put
forward by the United Nations Human Development Report 1994 (UNDP 1994).
The spike of incoming refugees to Europe in 2015 led to a disintegrated response from the member
states and the EU’s previously strongly humanitarian approach to fulfilling their responsibilities was
suspended. The EU-Turkey deal must be viewed as a continuation of the persisting development in
the refugee regime, according to which, refugees are seen as a security threat and not as a
humanitarian responsibility. It further externalises the responsibility to protect asylum-seekers to the
EU’s neighbourhood countries and commoditises the burden-sharing concept. The outsourcing of
responsibility creates a new dynamic between the EU and neighbouring countries, and possibly
between the North and the South
at large. The third countries in the South continue to carry the most
substantial part of the burden (Gibney, 2007, 2014; Miller, 2007; Owen, 2012) but are now in a
position to gain political capital.
We propose that the new situation created by the EU’s focus on security can be understood by
analysing cognitive frames in the refugee regime. These explain how actors perceive reality and how
actions are based on these realities. An analysis of these frames to study human behaviour has been
brought forward by Sociologist Erving Goffman (1974) in the 1970s. By relying on his approach and
several interpretations of others, it was most recently introduced as a viable methodological approach
for the studies of international relations (Klasche & Selg, 2020). Cognitive frames are modes of
interpretation that are socially constructedan intersubjective pattern of defining and interpreting
reality collectively’ (Hughey, 2015, p. 140). Based on this, all interactions are guided by experience-
laden cognitive frames, and behaviour can change when other frames obtain the dominant position.
By following these methodological guidelines, we are assuming the existence of a humanitarian and
a security frame which, when in the dominant position, dictate the behaviour in the interaction with
asylum seekers. With the security frame in the driver seat, we argue that neighbouring countries are
slowly gaining leverage as the political leaders of the EU need to accommodate the new desire for
security-driven policies in the previously humanitarian area of refugee responses. This new reality
also has negative effects on the outlook of the refugees themselves, which now face even harsher
situations outside of the EU. However, this aspect is outside of the scope of this article but has been
explored by others (see e.g., Gazzotti, 2020, Şimşek, 2017, Van Reisen et al., 2019).
This article suggests that the change in the EU’s policy towards incoming refugees can be explained
by the shifting of frames. The dominant humanitarian-idealist (‘our responsibility’) frame shifting to
the background and, consequently, moving the national security (‘our rights’) frame to the forefront.
Publicly, the EU still uses the humanitarian language; however, this article will shed light on the
underlying security norms by focusing on the EU’s and Turkey’s actions and their consequences. We
do so by laying out the global refugee regime’s historical development whilst carefully tracking the
dominating frame. To do so, we are analysing the contents of EU statements and action plans, and
primary data collected by IOM and UNHCR regarding the consequences of state actions. We round
this up with a selection of secondary scholarly literature. Analysing the cognitive frames will help
unearth normative changes that other types of analysis might overlook or consider irrational. We point
out that the strong humanitarian traditions and norms of the EU are diffusing, which is causing ripples
in the global refugee regime. This requires the EU’s neighbourhood states to navigate in a new
normative environment. For refugees the EU’ concentration on reducing irregular migration
movements without sufficient improvements in increasing the legal pathways to safety, combined
with increasingly divided opinions and responses within the EU, has made the passage more
dangerous for the ones desperate enough to try. Neighbourhood countries, on the other hand, have
been quick to adapt to the new normative surroundings and embraced the bargaining possibilities it
has brought along. This has been particularly visible in the EU-Turkey Deal, which marked the
beginning of a new negotiation era. We also find similar themes in the EU’s migration deals with
Morocco and Libya.
This article proceeds as follows. First, we introduce the cognitive frames-based methodology and
show that it is an appropriate way to study the problem at hand. Here we are focusing on the frame
properties, briefly touch on the methodology’s ontological foundation, and describe how the analysis
should be conducted. The second part of this article establishes the existence of a humanitarian and
a security frame based on a historical account of the global refugee regime. The third part analyses
how the dominance of the security frame in the refugee regime has affected the dominant norms,
perceptions and strategies, which are dictating the level of cooperation in the refugee regime. We use
the EU-Turkey Deal as a case, supported by examples of Morocco and Libya. Lastly, we look at how
these changes have affected the dynamics between the EU and neighbouring countries and its political
implications. Namely, the unprecedented leverage these changes have given to neighbouring
countries. Doing this, the article aims to achieve three goals: Firstly, to participate in the incipient
discussion around cognitive frames analysis as a feasible research methodology in the field of
international relations, with distinct benefits. Secondly, to provide an example of how to execute a
cognitive frame analysis. The example shows how the changes in the cognitive frames have been the
key factor behind changed behaviour, not merely the increased number of refugees. Thirdly, to show
the frame changes effects on perceptions and strategies and this way, its political implications for the
EU and neighbouring countries. In the process, shedding light on the new dynamic taking place in
the negotiations.
Methodology note: Cognitive frames and pragmatist ontology
The next paragraphs introduce a cognitive frames-based methodology, and in more detail, what their
noteworthy properties are and how they can be tracked and studied. This is followed by a brief
exploration of the ontological underpinnings that are at the foundation of the approach. Finally,
arguments for the justified use of the methodology in the context of this study are presented.
The existence of (cognitive) frames and their role in experiencing reality and decision-making has
been plentifully explored in sociology (e.g. Collins, 2014; D’Antrea et al., 2016; Goffman, 1974;
Hughey, 2015) and psychology (e.g. Nelson et al., 1997) but to a lesser degree in political science
(Surel, 2011) or international relations (e.g. Adler, 1997; Barnett, 1999). In their effort to bring
forward a systematised cognitive frames-based methodology to IR, Klasche and Selg (2020),
however, show that it is a useful methodological tool to research a globalised and heterogeneous
global landscape. Applying a sociological concept that initially aimed to analyse the behaviour of
individuals and societies to states and other international actors might seem outlandish. However,
there is a clear trend in IR, especially in the constructivist and psychological camp, to
anthropomorphise states and speak of them as single actors with different sets of interests (see
Weldes, 1996, p. 280; or Wendt, 1992). The same can also be said for the EU, if not in all policy
domains, then certainly regarding the relationship and fostering of norms with its immediate
neighbourhood (Zielonka, 2008). By applying a cognitive frames-based methodology in the realm of
IR, we believe to credibly understand the creation of interest and intentions of single actors on the
global scale. In this case, we deem it viable to consider both parties involved in the deal (EU and
Turkey) as interest-laden and distinct actors of which the analysis of cognitive frames, and norms
connected to them, will give insight on the actual reason for their behaviour.
To be able to track cognitive frames, it is first necessary to understand what frames are, how they are
created, and what their properties are once in existence. According to Goffman, every actor is subject
to several cognitive frames comprising cultural elements, religion, history, language, or belief
systems (1974, p. 27). The frames themselves are created by continuous interaction (experience) of
the actor and the frame content. This can happen via different discourses created by domestic or
international leaders, media, or social movements (Klasche & Selg, 2020, p. 8) or the continuous
repetition of practices (e.g. traditions) by the population. For example, this makes the population of
the EU both passive receivers of the frame and active creators. Regardless, the discourses or practices
need to capture the frame subjects’ attention continuously, and its persistence will decide whether the
frame remains in the dominant position and how long it will stay intact (Klasche & Selg, 2020, p.
10). In the context of this article, it is, for example, necessary that migrants are continuously depicted
as security threats in the public discourse and not as an issue that requires humanitarian responsibility.
Once a frame is in a dominant position, it changes the perception of reality and accordingly, the
actors’ behaviour subject to it. Considering that many individuals constitute states or other
international actors (like the EU), we need to think of cognitive frames as something that needs to
affect the collective mind. To have such an impact it is sufficient if many subjects agree at least to a
minimal degree to what is appropriate behaviour based on the rules of the frame (Gray et al., 2015,
p. 118). This is a quite important aspect of the shift in the particular case described in this article.
Initially, as we will show in our analysis below, most Europeans sympathised with the humanitarian
frame until a critical mass shifted towards the security frame and dictated appropriate behaviour.
Once a frame is created and accepted by its subjects, it is essential to understand its properties and
understand how they can change. Klasche and Selg (2020) identify three frame properties that need
to be carefully tracked to understand its influence on the frame subjects the durability, the reach
and organisational setup. Next to the continuous need to capture the individual’s attention (see also
Aaltola, 2008, p. 18) the frame’s durability gets enhanced if it brings clear, practical value, if more
and more individuals become frame subjects or if it gets used as a political tool (Klasche & Selg,
2020, p. 13). If none of these aspects are longer met, the frame starts to be challenged and questioned
by its subjects, and it could be replaced by another one, move to the background, or even dissolve
(Collins, 2014, p. 20). The reach of the frame described here is the ability for the frame to expand and
add numbers of subjects to its reach. Next to the importance of regional proximity between old and
new subjects, a so-called ‘paradigmatic predisposition’ (Collins, 2014, p. 16) is necessary for a new
frame to be accepted. In other words, a fertile breeding ground for the security frame ideas was
necessary. The last property that needs to be considered is the organisational structure of cognitive
frames. Because many cognitive frames exist at the same time, many will simultaneously affect
individuals at the same time. This is referred to as lamination or layering of frames (Goffmann, 1974,
p. 82). In this layered setup, specific frames will be more prevalent than others and oust them to the
background, and we can speak of a hierarchical organisation of frames (D’Antrea et al., 2016, p. 301).
In this fashion, we will argue in the analysis of this article that the security frame has taken the
dominant position around 2015 and moved the humanitarian frame to the background where it still
exists and partially influences the actors’ behaviour.
Since every methodological approach has to (even just tacitly) rely on certain ontological and
epistemological assumptions (Hay, 2006), it is necessary to mention these here. Klasche and Selg
(2020) placed pragmatist philosophy at the foreground of their cognitive frames-based methodology,
pointing out pragmatists focus on experience and practices as reality shaping factors (see among many
Cornut, 2017; Friedrichs & Kratochwil, 2009; James, 1909). The ontological focus on practices is
especially helpful in understanding the role that changes in the behaviour of actors play in the long-
lasting modifications of the regime. This article also subscribes to these pragmatist philosophical
notions concerning the analysis of cognitive frames.
Finally, we want to emphasise the applicability of this methodology with the case of this study. The
shift in the EU’s behaviour culminating in the EU-Turkey deal points to the fact that the EU views
reality in a new light. We also argue that the shift was gradual, but not linear, and was affected by
substantial changes in the global refugee regime. The humanitarian frame that initially dominated the
EU’s view on the migration crisis slowly moved to the background (as shown in the empirical
analysis) and the security frame took its dominant position propelled by changes in public discourses
and practices inside the EU. The study of cognitive frames is well-suited for analysis with this set of
criteria. The shift in behaviour points to the existence of two competing frames, of which one has
been pushed to the back, and another has taken the dominant position.
From humanitarian to security frame: Changes in the global refugee regime
The global refugee regime has had crucial junctures that show how and why it developed as it did.
This part looks at the development of it and concentrates on the development of cognitive frames
within. It is worth emphasising that even though events in Europe have been crucial to the
development of the global regime, the EU and its neighbouring countries that we analyse in this
section are distinctive units that function within the global refugee regime.
The current refugee regime is a direct descendant of the attempts to organise multilateral action in
Europe after the displacement of people created by WWI and three European refugee crises that have
followed. Each of these crises initiated multilateral action, addressed new issues and changed the
norms of the regime. The crises were initiated by significant events and changes in the international
arena, and the changes that followed were affected by the unique temporal, cultural and normative
environment. All of these affected the dominant cognitive frames of the times. To better understand
these changes in the regime the chapter proceeds to have a short overview of the developments stirred
by the four historical European refugee crises (1) post-WWI, (2) post-WWII, (3) post-Cold War
and (4) 2015 crisis and how these shaped the dominating frame of the global refugee regime. This
part will shed light on how the regime’s internal logic of global humanitarian idealism (‘our
responsibilities’) gradually dissolved and how it became dominated by national security cynicism
(‘our rights’).
This was facilitated by the general paradigm shift in the security landscape. The most important
change came in the form of broadening and deepening of the concept. It now includes a range of
physical and psychological threats to individuals and societies, beyond the traditional narrow scope
which was only concerned with the safety of states via military threats (see, Buzan 1997, Buzan,
Waever & De Wilde 1998, Paris 2001, Tadjbakhsh 2013). In this perspective, any subject can be
labelled as an existential security threat. Migrants do not pose a threat from the traditional perspective
but can be seen as a potential threat to economic, political, societal, cultural, or other human security
areas. This conceptualisation offers explanatory power on how refugees and migrants, themselves
fleeing existential insecurities, can be perceived, and thus treated as security threats with security
Birth of the global refugee regime
Before the 20th century, immigration was mostly a question of possessing resources needed for
transportation (Bundy, 2015). However, in a nation-state system, people must belong somewhere,
making relocation gradually more challenging. At the turn of the 20th century, countries became more
selective to who might enter and took more control over their borders (Bundy, 2015). This
development was accelerated by the influx of refugees following the Russian Revolution and WWI.
This initiated the 1st, of what Colin Bundy conceptualise,s “the four European refugee crises” (2015).
The unprecedented mass-movement of people inside Europe called for multilateral action to tackle
the issues of displacement that the countries were facing. In 1921 the institution of High
Commissioner for Refugees (HCR) was therefore agreed upon in the League of Nations. This
prototype for the current refugee regime was created in a normative environment of Europe that was
drawing new borders to accommodate nation-states and homogenous societies. In the absence of a
strong humanitarian framework to lean on, the work of the HCR was profoundly affected by the
politics of the day (Barnett, 2011, p. 108). The politicisation led to a narrow definition of a refugee
and to the fact that even though
refugees were strewn across Europe, Western states were unwilling to recognise their presence
.... Also, the category of refugee was defined in part as someone forced to flee because of
persecutiona politically loaded charge that they were prepared to level only at the Soviet
Union. (Barnett, 2011, p. 107)
In the absence of stable normative structures, refugees remained merely a technical issue at the mercy
of individual states. The weak mandate of HCR - highly influenced by sovereignty oriented national
politics and lack of commitment to humanitarian values by the signatories - overlooked the refugees’
needs. So, when the European countries convened for the 1938 Evian conference to discuss a response
to the Jewish people fleeing Nazi Germany who were rendered stateless under Nuremberg laws (Wall,
2015), no action was taken. People fleeing Germany were seen as a substantial burden, and in the
absence of internationally binding frameworks and strong humanitarian norms, countries one after
another voted against accepting any (Wall, 2015). The combination of the narrow definition of
refugees; a general dislike of the groups fleeing; and an unwillingness to upset Germany led to the
Evian conference’s failure to come up with solutions on how to protect the de facto refugees. Instead,
Germany’s neighbours closed their borders, leaving the refugees on their own and the global refugee
regime without a humanitarian focus.
Creation of the humanitarian frame
The Evian convention’s failure to protect people fleeing the Holocaust shows the absence of the
humanitarian frame. This, however, changed when the refugee regime was reconstructed after the
Second World War to respond to the 2nd European refugee crisis. The humanitarian ‘never-again’
spirit of the post-war years helped create a binding legal framework based on humanitarian values
(Bundy, 2015). To tackle the issue of 30 million displaced people from the war, the International
Relief Agency was formed in 1947 to resettle all displaced people. In 1950 it was replaced with the
UNHCR, which was mandated to tackle refugee protection. The 1951 convention regarding the status
of refugees finally created international rules regarding the rights of the refugees and laid out clear
responsibilities for states. The post-war environment resulted in a global refugee regime based on
humanitarian values. Regardless of the success of creating binding rules and norms around refugee
protection, the convention also foresaw and failed to address, its future problems. The preamble of
the convention acknowledges that the system of refugee protection should be based on solidarity so
that no country should have to carry ‘unduly burdens’, but no mechanism was offered to address this
looming issue (UNHCR, 2010). The convention also left the UNHCR with a geographically and
temporally limited mandate to cover only refugees created in Europe before 1951 (UNHCR, 2010).
As an institution that lacked US support and was meant to be a short-term solution, the UNHCR’s
long-term funding was not addressed, leaving it to rely on voluntary donations and vulnerable to
donor interests (Barnett, 2011, p. 164; also Hammerstad, 2011, p. 247;). The strong humanitarian
momentum of the post-war period allowed the construction of a humanitarian refugee regime, but the
momentum was short-lived as the Cold War’s great power competition intensified.
As the world divided into two blocs, the UNHCR continued its work in the Western hemisphere
gradually expanding its original mandate by a series of extension rulings in the UN (Barnett, 2011,
sections 7-8). In the 1960s and 1970s, the refugee regime successfully redistributed asylum seekers
fleeing communist regimes notably from Korea, Cuba and Vietnam. Even though the UNHCR was
attempting to be apolitical, it functioned due to Western nations’ foreign political interests in
resettling refugees from ‘their side’. Nevertheless, the time of easy burden-sharing was coming to an
end in the 1980s when the refugee population again started to grow (UNHCR 2020).
As a response to the seemingly never-ending refugee flows, states in the Western block started to
practice more restrictive asylum policies (Suhrke, 1998, p. 406). Moreover, this provided an example
for the developing world to follow and start adopting non-admission policies as well (Suhrke, 1998,
p. 406; Gottwald, 2014, p. 531). In the 1980s with the increasing number of refugees and increasingly
restrictive policies towards asylum, burden-sharing became the central problem within the refugee
regime. Alexander Betts (2011) suggests that as most refugees were situated in the South, the North
would only share the burden when there was a substantial issue linkage between burden-sharing and
the North’s perceived interests. He pointed out that the North would share the burden if it seemed
that it would, benefit from these efforts. For example, by enhancing regional security and reduce the
risk of a costly intervention the efforts would pay themselves back by increasing trade profits or by
reducing the migration flows to the North (Betts, 2011, pp. 76-77). Betts also notes that in the 1980s
tactical issue-linkage, bundling of unconnected issues for tactical gain, was not used as a strategy to
coerce cooperation (Betts, 2011, p. 77).
Even though the refugee regime was formed during a lull in global conflict in the 1950s and, therefore,
built on a humanitarian frame, the start of the Cold War quickly introduced the security frame to the
regime. The initial comfortable period of burden-sharing also came to its end towards the 1980s,
when Europe increasingly started to see asylum as a problem of the South (Betts, 2011).
The securitisation of refugees
The third Crisis took shape at the end of the Cold War. The new dynamic created new conflicts as
governments which had been artificially kept up by the USA and the Soviet Union collapsed on
themselves and created global instability. Conflicts in Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq created masses
of new refugees as did the dissolution of Yugoslavia. It seemed that in the new post-Cold War security
setting the biggest threats to peace - an absence of which would create refugees - were not interstate
military conflicts, but failing states. This development called for a widened conceptualisation of
security, such as the one put forward by the Copenhagen school introduced earlier in this article. The
widening of the concept led to identification of new threats which called for non-military responses,
effectively blurring the border of security and humanitarianism.
The 1992 Agenda for Peace by the UN Secretary-General identified preventive methods,
peacemaking and peace-keeping as tools to provide international security (UN, 1992). These included
preventing conflict by trying to stabilise regions by development aid, thus linking human (in)security
to the list of new threats to international stability (UN, 1992). The agenda compromised seven factors,
ranging from economic, food, health and environmental security to personal, community and political
security (UN, 1992). Under this definition, many actions previously seen as humanitarian were
reconceptualised as tools of international security. This also allowed the North to argue that its efforts
in development aid, democracy promotion and all measures that prevented the creation of refugees in
the first place, should be seen as burden-sharing in the refugee regime (Gottwald, 2014, p. 531). This
called for rethinking of the content of the core norms, of asylum and burden-sharing, constituting the
refugee regime.
The paradigm shift in security also changed the perception of refugees. In this thinking, refugees were
a security threat that could destabilise regions and spread conflict by intensifying ethnic-economic
competition (Salehyan & Gleditsch, 2004). However, they also became seen as potential threats to
the North’s societal and identity security. This change in perception became evident in the
unwillingness to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Yugoslavia. Instead, European states were
creating increasingly restrictive asylum policies and advocating for refugee protection in the region
of the crisis (Suhrke, 1998, pp. 406-412). As a response, the UNHCR which had to stay relevant to
its donors from the North started to pursue strategies to keep refugees away from their borders
(Hammerstad, 2011, p. 247). The Norths security concerns also influenced the emergence of asylum-
migration nexus in the early 2000s, which led to a solution (repatriation)-centered narrative in the
global refugee regime (Hammerstad, 2014, pp. 152-156). 9/11 intensified the narrative of refugees as
a security threat even further (Hammerstad, 2014, pp. 159). This development led to the muddling of
the concepts of refugees, asylum-seekers, migrants, criminals, and terrorists, in peoples’ minds, both
unintentionally and intentionally (UNHCR, 2004, paragraph 5).
With the paradigm shift in security, the border between the fields of humanitarian -and security action
blurred, reducing consensus inside the refugee regime. After the dissolution of Yugoslavia, countries
demanded their troops on the ground to be counted towards burden-sharing in the refugee regime
(Suhrke pp. 408-409), showcasing how the military had become humanitarian. Moreover, the North
increasingly concentrated on preventing crises that might create refugees and donated to keep the
refugees in the South rather than providing them with protection in the North (Hammerstad, 2011,
pp. 247). As the threat perception of the EU changed due to the political and power balance changes
of the 1990s, and intellectual developments stemming from it, the EU actively started to pursue new
security goals. In the refugee regime it meant that as the EU started to perceive asylum-seekers as a
threat to their societies, economies, and political systems, it started to utilise the refugee regime as a
control system that kept refugees in the South. Thus setting an example and strengthening the security
frame inside the refugee regime. This permanently shifted the responsibility of the asylum burden to
the South and established the security frame as a viable alternative to the humanitarian one that could
eventually drive it away out of its dominant position.
Security frame as the dominant one: The EU-Turkey Deal
Having mapped the cognitive frames affecting the global refugee regime, we can now examine their
effects on the EU on the refugee policy level. In 2005 the EU agreed on The Global Approach to
Migration and Mobility (GAMM), an overarching framework for the EU’s external migration and
asylum policy that looked like an expression of the EU’s apparent humanitarian position. The stated
idea was to create a comprehensive approach to migration, based on equal footing. However, sides
were rarely equal as the EU used its collective power and mixed different policy areas in negotiations
using tactical issue-linkage with weaker neighbouring states to reach its migration policy goals.
This process resulted in the so-called asylum-development nexus (Strik, 2019, pp. 310, 317). The EU
was able to push its foreign policy agenda of externalisation of migration control and pressuring its
neighbourhood countries into becoming the EU’s buffer zone for migrants in exchange for providing
development support and funds. By conditionalising its alignment to the humanitarian norms of
burden-sharing and showing an example of asylum provision avoidance, the EU actively contributed
to the legitimisation and strengthening of the security frame in the refugee regime
A clear sign of the security frame’s effect on the EU level was seen in the effort spent on building the
European border control agency Frontex compared to the effort put on developing humanitarian
solutions. Frontex was formed in 2005, with a yearly budget of 6 million Euro, tripling that by 2006,
reaching a budget of 118 million by 2011. When the crisis hit in 2015, it worked with a budget of 142
million (Frontex, 2019a), indicating the EU’s clear interest in fortifying its outer border to stop
irregular migration. Much effort was also put in promoting international protection to reduce the
pressure on the EU’s borders (Strik, 2019, p. 327). However, during the same period, not much was
done to further the ‘humanitarian’ pillars of GAMM (Strik, 2019, p. 321) and even less happened
regarding the promised improvement of better organising regular legal migration or increasing the
reception capacities of the EU. This became particularly evident when the fourth crisis hit in 2015.
The South lacking the capacity to protect the flows of refugees and the EU lacking legal pathways to
enter, large irregular migrant flows reached the EU and initiated a multifaceted internal crisis (e.g.
Alisic & Rianne, 2016; Geuijen et al., 2016; Murray & Longo, 2018).
Notably, the 4th European refugee crisis has distinctively new characteristics, as the issue of
migration seems to have gained an increasingly complex form. The crisis can be seen simultaneously
a humanitarian crisis based in the suffering of individuals who had abandoned their homes; a
geopolitical conflict ranging across countries and continents; a security threat for both
receiving and transit countries; a potentially heavy financial burden on already overtaxed
states; and the breakdown of collaboration in the network of EU member states. (Geuijien et
al., 2016, p. 622)
Germanys initial open arms policy, inviting a million refugees, was taken unilaterally and did not
become an EU policy. Instead, general unwillingness in the EU was building to provide asylum and
to share the burden and the ‘EU “frontline” member states began ignoring Dublin’s “first-country-of-
entry” principle and allowed the migrants to move on to their preferred countries of destination’
(Trauner, 2016, p. 319). The Northern EU countries now found themselves amid the crisis and
promoted a relocation scheme that required the other member states national governments to share
the burden. The experience from all member states pointed out the lack of stabilising policies and left
the door open for the security frame to attain a dominant position.
The EU-Turkey deal
was negotiated in circumstances where record numbers, over 800 000 migrants
in the peak year of 2015, were crossing the Eastern Mediterranean route to enter Europe and apply
for asylum, which called for more coordinated responses (Clayton et al., 2015). The deal’s core
concept was to send irregularly arriving migrants back to Turkey and then take the equal number of
processed asylum seekers into Europe (European Council, 2016, action points 1-2). The argument for
this was to reduce irregular migration, attack the business model of smugglers and traffickers by
promoting orderly migration and by that reduce deaths occurring at sea (European Council, 2016).
Furthermore, as before, also this time, the EU linked its objectives in migration and asylum policy to
other policy fields to have more bargaining leverage in negotiations (Coleman, 2009). However, the
EU-Turkey deal shows how the power asymmetry in negotiations is changing, and the bundling of
issues is not only benefitting the EU but strengthening the position of neighbouring countries as well
The more importance the EU places on deterring irregular migration, the more leverage it gives to
the negotiating partners. The deal, questionable in its human rights aspects as it relays that Turkey is
a safe third country without supervision, was justified by the ‘crisis context’ of the deal but has since
become the blueprint for EU’s migration policy. Even though the number of arrivals has plummeted
after the peak years, the response to South-North migration has remained in the state of crisis
management: controlling the flows of refugees rather than protecting them.
To underline the changes in the negotiation dynamics, a closer look at the EU-Turkey deal is useful.
In ‘Part I’ of the joint action plan, the EU agrees to share the burden by mobilising more money to
support the Turkish government and pledging support to involved NGO’s (European Commission,
2015). It also includes a promise of assisting Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria, effectively installing
a second buffer zone, to relieve pressure at Turkey’s borders. Furthermore, rather naively the EU
promised to strengthen its existing internal resettlement plans that were to become the central issue
creating the internal rift in the EU. In exchange, Turkey was to provide asylum to Syrians and host
migrants, showing how the institution of asylum had become negotiable. The negotiation position
was exceptionally good for Turkey as it recognises the 1951 refugee convention with a geographical
limitation, meaning it recognises the international responsibilities towards refugees originating from
Europe but not from Syria or elsewhere (UNHCR, 2009, p. 304). In this situation, Turkey has very
few international responsibilities towards the migrants and the de facto refugees that the EU wants
them to host. Part I of the action plan showcases how the granting of asylum became an ‘if’ not ‘how’
part of the negotiations. Part II of the action plan concentrates on border control and introduces other
foreign policy areas to the negotiations. Here, the EU promises to support the Turkish border control
capacities and increase cooperation and information exchange between Frontex and its Turkish
counterpart. This is a straight forward security deal in a historically humanitarian refugee regime. The
EU’s promises under Part II of the action plan also include disclosed financial aid to help Turkey
meet the visa-liberalisation standards between the EU and Turkey. It shows clearly how the EU has
to and is willing to make concessions in other policy areas to succeed in countering migration turned
into a perceived security threat.
Turkey has no international legal obligation to resettle refugees from the EU even if they passed
through Turkey, nor do they have binding legal obligations to treat them as refugees. This situation
enabled negotiations undermining and deteriorating the normative structures of the regime. The EU-
Turkey Deal includes legally and ethically dubious resettlement mechanism as the countries agreed
that ‘1) All new irregular migrants crossing from Turkey into Greek islands as from 20 March 2016
will be returned to Turkey … [and] 2) For every Syrian being returned to Turkey from the Greek
islands, another Syrian will be resettled from Turkey to the EU’ (European Council, 2016). The
ethical problems related to the issue are that Turkey does not acknowledge Syrians as refugees, and
hence does not need to treat them as such. By outsourcing its moral and legal obligations to a third
country that is not bound by the same standards, the EU’s practices reinforce the security frame to
the disadvantage of the humanitarian notion of the refugee regime. In the statement, the EU further
promises to activate a humanitarian admission scheme to which the EU member states contribute
voluntarily. This has led to very uneven implementation of the scheme, underlining the difficulty to
create binding union-wide migration policy or at least a humanitarian one. The deal has had mixed
results after its implementation, both from a migration control and humanitarian perspective. By June
of 2017, the resettlement deal had resulted only in 6,254 returned migrants to Turkey (European
Commission, 2017a). The deal’s strength as a deterrent is difficult to evaluate as the conflict in Syria
also simmered down after it, meaning that the plummet in crossings cannot be solely accredited to
the deal. However, reviewed from a humanitarian perspective, the deal has increased the danger of
the journey for the refugees. As the numbers of crossings went down, they also became more perilous,
if in 2015 one in 1072 crossing led to a death or a missing person, by 2018 this ratio was over five
times worse, one to 186 (UNHCR, 2019a). This development has been a direct consequence of harder
border control leading to more dangerous crossing strategies to avoid being caught a result of the
EU-Turkey deal. If we assume that states act rationally accordingly to the dominant frame, the deal
proves that humanitarian frame of refugee protection has continuously moved to the background as
the security frame with a concentration on control has become the dominant one.
Summarised, the deal ensured a significant decrease in migration to the EU. In exchange, Turkey was
able to further its own foreign policy goals, by re-energising accession talks, revitalising EU-Turkey
Customs Union upgrades and speeding up the visa liberalisation roadmap process. Besides, Turkey
also gained power and leverage in the EU-Turkey relationship as can be seen in Erdogan’s September
2019 threat to open its borders if the EU was to criticise its military actions in Syria. The EU’s
strategy, outlined in GAMM, to bundle foreign policy issues in negotiations to ensure favourable
migration policy results can be seen in the EU-Turkey deal, but for the first time, it can be seen used
against the EU. The higher the security-driven goal of deterring migration is on the EU’s foreign
policy agenda, the better bargaining position third countries have in all negotiations. As Turkey has
no responsibility to resettle migrants from the EU and the EU is relying on Turkey, it cannot improve
nor criticise human -or refugee rights actualisation (Strik, 2019, pp. 320-322). When the EU
prioritises deterring migration on its foreign policy agenda, it simultaneously undermines the
humanitarian values and normative frameworks it was built upon. Thus, the EU is facing an increasing
gap between its humanitarian values and its security-driven policies (Murray & Longo, 2018, pp.
New negotiation dynamics and possibilities for EU neighbourhood
In its role as one of the strongholds of humanitarian values (see, e.g. European External Action
Service, 2018) the EU’s example diffuses the broader normative framework that upholds the refugee
regime. It also has negative implications for the EU’s negotiation position, as neighbouring countries
become more aware of their leverage. In the EU-Turkey deal, it is possible to identify that the
strategies used in negotiations have changed from substantive issue-linkage used to explain the North-
South negotiations in the 1980s, towards tactical issue-bundling and bargaining. As the EU links its
development aid to the compliance of crisis-affected neighbouring countries, it also overlooks the
legitimate concerns of these countries, regarding terrorist threats and capacities to host masses of
refugees (Strik, 2019). Pressuring weak states to host large numbers of refugees, possibly worsens
the regional security landscape, which we can see in the negotiations with Jordan, Lebanon and
Tunisia (Anholt & Sinatti, 2019; Strik, 2019). The following example of negotiations with Libya
shows many similarities with the EU-Turkey deal, suggesting that the EU policy of migration control
externalisation has been accepted in the refugee regime. It further shows the humanitarian frame’s
dissolution as the living conditions in the detention centres abuses the refugees gravely (Human
Rights Watch, 2017). The last example of Morocco even shows signs that migrant flows were used
to coerce the EU to speed up the negotiations, supporting the idea that the neighbourhood is well
aware and willing to use its new and improved bargaining position.
The 2017 deal with Libya was made after an increase in crossings via the Central Mediterranean
Route. The deal was formalised in an action plan, and its goal was ‘to prevent migrants and refugees
from embarking on dangerous journeys to and from Libya’ (European Commission, 2017b). There
are no mentions of asylum in the document suggesting its primary concern is controlling migrant
flows rather than finding permanent humanitarian solutions. The deal included a symbolic gesture of
relocating 1,000 refugees to the EU from Libya who at the time hosted 43,000 refugees on top of over
2 million internally displaced Libyans (UNHCR, 2017). In the deal, the EU also allocated 30 million
euros to humanitarian tasks and 120 million euros to bilateral development deals (European
Commission, 2017b).
From the perspective of the refugees, the results are very similar to that of the EU-Turkey deal. With
Libya’s cooperation, the migration flows on the Central Mediterranean route dropped the following
year by 80% to 23,458 (Frontex, 2019b).And just like in the aftermath of the EU-Turkey deal, the
journeys became more perilous for the refugees. In 2017 the ratio of crossings to deaths and missing
was already a miserable one to 41. By 2018 the ratio was one dead or missing to 17 successful
crossings (UNHCR, 2019b). This points again to the EU’s drive to find security-driven solutions
instead of humanitarian ones. This is also visible in the Common Security and Defence Policy anti-
smuggling mission, EU Naval Force Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR Med) ‘Sophia’, acting off the
Libyan coast which shows how the humanitarian discourse is not backed by the actions performed on
the sea (Cusumano, 2018). Even worse, whereas Turkey is a relatively stable country with existing
migration and protection systems, Libya is still in the midst of a civil war. Even though the inhumane
situation of refugees is well known, the EU continues to value the decline of migration flows over the
upkeep of humanitarian values (Baldwin-Edwards & Lutterbeck, 2018, p. 2255). The EU’ trend
towards ‘informal and opaque migration control arrangements’ (Baldwin-Edwards & Lutterbeck,
2018, p. 2256) also continues in this case, and the EU wilfully keeps the humanitarian aspects
invisible to the public. Doing so allows Libya to benefit from the deal without being forced to account
for the (costly) humanitarian needs of the refugees.
The negotiations with Morocco show similarities to this as well. In 2017 Libya and Italy increased
their border control efforts and successfully decreased the number of crossings. In 2018, the Western
Mediterranean route became the busiest route into Europe recording 58,569 sea crossings, the traffic
doubling for a second consecutive year (UNHCR, 2019c). The tightening control in the Central route
does not alone explain increased popularity of the Western route. However, nationalities of arrivals
suggest that at least flows of West African migrants partially shifted from the Central Mediterranean
to the Western Mediterranean route (Brenner et al., 2018). This change of flows put Morocco on top
of the EU’s migration policy interests and it seemed that Morocco was aware. The think tank Mixed
Migration Center, suggests that Morocco relaxed its control of migration flows to Europe in order to
coerce more support during their migration control negotiations (Brenner et al., 2018). Perhaps
successfully so, as in August 2018, the EU gave 55 million Euro to Morocco and Tunisia to develop
border management mechanisms for the Maghreb region (European Commission, 2018). An
additional 140 million was sent in October (Abellan, 2018). This was followed by Morocco starting
to remove migrants from departure points to Europe (Brenner et al., 2018), and relocating them away
in poor conditions from the border to the South of Morocco (Teevan, 2018). After this, the West-
Mediterranean route became more perilous. In 2017 there was one death or missing per 109 crossings,
and by 2018 the number had worsened to one per 72 (UNHCR, 2019c). In 2019 the number of sea
crossings halved to 26,618, but the ratio of death or missing per crossing also worsened to one in 50
(UNHCR, 2019c), showing the same trend of more rigid border control making the crossings more
dangerous for the ones desperate enough to try. Morocco’s case suggests that the government
acknowledged and successfully used the new negotiation dynamics to their benefit. It correctly read
that the EU would be very willing to find a compromise to reach its primary foreign policy goal of
migration control.
Based on the evidence presented here, it appears that the dynamics between the EU and its
neighbouring countries, which has been driven by the continuous domination of the security frame,
has changed. In 2015 the high number of arrivals was used as the justification for the EU to respond
with extreme measures, but in the following years, it has become clear that the externalisation of
asylum has become a permanent foreign policy priority not a one-off crisis response. This suggests
that the security frame has affected the EU’s perception of refugees, from a humanitarian issue to a
security threat, increasing their evaluation of the importance of externalisation of migration control.
On the global level, this has made the right to asylum turn into a tool that helps keep refugees in the
South. The instrumentalisation and diffusion of norms has been a gradual development driven by the
strengthening of the security frame as the historical analysis shows. It has allowed tactical issue
linkage (conditionality of unrelated issue areas) and coercive strategies to be introduced to the
negotiations inside the refugee regime. Moreover, it shows a drastic difference to the negotiations in
the 1980s portraited by Alexander Betts, where neither strategies were present (2011). This shows
not only how the core norms have weakened, but also how the norms dictating the negotiations have
Countries in the South do not only host most of the global refugees, but they have now become
security service providers for the North as well - at least in the case of the EU and its neighbouring
countries. In an environment where the EU considers refugees a security threat, making the
externalisation of refugee control, a top foreign policy priority has handed neighbouring transit
countries leverage for negotiations. The domination of the security frame in the refugee regime has
weakened the norm guiding behaviour, which has enabled the commodification of refugee control.
Countries have tried to avoid their responsibilities towards refugees before, but the reasons dictating
avoidance strategies have changed, altering the dynamics with it. At the beginning of this section, we
argued that the EU bundled issues to its benefit in refugee negotiations. However, as the EU views
the externalisation of migration control increasingly as a top foreign policy item, it has turned into an
issue that can be used against it on multiple policy fronts. This change became apparent due to the
mass influx of refugees during 2015 that drove and enabled new responses, but the dynamic change
itself was not driven by the influx per se but should be considered a result of the longer development
of strengthened security frame inside the global refugee regime.
The EU’s collective power vis-à-vis neighbouring countries is still asymmetrical, but the playing field
is not as tilted as it used to be. As the EU keeps the externalisation of migration control high on its
foreign policy agenda, weaker countries are still likely to yield to its demands. However, in the new
reality, they can drive a notably harder bargain as they also have adopted tactical issue linkage and
bundling of issues before yielding to the EU’s requests. This shows a modification of negotiation
roles from the past where the South was the active negotiator requesting support with burden sharing,
to now being able to drive a hard bargain with the EU. The neighbouring countries have gained the
capability to use the EU’s high evaluation of the externalisation of migration control as a leverage to
achieve a multitude of goals. This creates a permanent looking new environment where the EU’s
neighbourhood, needs to provide asylum but receives increasing political and material benefits in
exchange. If neighbourhood countries use this power in a coercive way, or to gain soft power is a
question of broader political realities (Tsourapas, 2019).
Nevertheless, the dynamic change opens up new opportunities for neighbourhood countries vis-à-vis
the EU. As the EU is incapable of solving its internal burden-sharing issues and the number of
refugees is unlikely to reduce significantly, it seems that the EU will continue down the path of
externalisation of migration control. Henceit is likely the leverage is, sustained, as long as the security
frame pertains its dominant position.
Furthermore, pressing deals with countries with legitimate concerns about their capability to host
refugees might also have negative long-term consequences to regional stability (Stirk, 2019, p. 325).
What long-term consequences this instability factor will bring is difficult to predict, but the change
in the dynamics of negotiations alone calls for a careful evaluation of the EU’s foreign policy goals.
Naturally, the EU’s foreign policy is more complex than just migration, but it is important to note
that the security frame's domination in the previously humanitarian space of refugee protection, has
had a significant impact on it. By treating the externalisation of migration with security logic and
culture, it became a policy area where few political compromises can be made, leading into
difficulties of balancing migration negotiations with the wider agenda of the EU.
The article sets out to participate in the incipient discussion around the feasibility of cognitive frames
analysis in international relations. Within, it provides an example of how to conduct such analysis by
carefully tracking the changing frames. Furthermore, it shows how the changes affect norms,
perceptions and strategies inside the global refugee regime, which eventually created the current EU-
neighbouring country dynamics.
The article argues that cognitive frame analysis is a feasible research method in International
Relations with distinct benefits. It lends a hand for the idea of rational behaviour, suggesting that even
though at first glimpse the researcher might see an action as irrational or miscalculated, as it could be
said is the case with the EU’s migration policy, a cognitive frame analysis can help to unearth the
dictating rationale behind the actions. Even though it is not explicitly featured in this article, the
methodology's potential to shed light on the gap between words and actions became apparent. In the
global refugee regime, the baggage of humanitarian frame and security frame might explain the gap
between words and actions. Also, cognitive frames analysis could provide a path of inquiry into actors
where Western International Relations Theories lack explanatory power. By paying closer attention
to the perspective of the actor under analysis, cognitive frame analysis provides a possibly powerful
tool in breaking Western bias in the analysis of non-western actors. Due to this potential of reducing
Western bias in IR, the authors see the potential for cognitive frame analysis to be used more in
foreign policy analysis in the future.
Tracking the historical development of the humanitarian and security frame within the global refugee
regime, the article shows how the four crises highlight the prevalent cognitive frame of the
corresponding era. The four European refugee crises all exposed the dominant perceptions and norms,
which affected the strategies used in the negotiations and responses. The article shows that the
widening of the security sphere after the Cold War has deeply affected the global refugee regime's
logic. It diffused the constitutive norms leading to a drastic difference in the negotiation strategies
used todaynamely that of introducing tactical issue-linkage, issue-bundling and coercive methods
into the refugee regime. Interestingly, even though the North introduced these strategies, the strategic
advantage seems to have flipped. This became possible because the cognitive frames also affected
the perception and evaluation regarding the value of externalisation of migration control. As the EU
came to see refugees as a security threat, it focused on avoiding substantial hosting responsibilities.
However, it also had to evaluate externalisation of migration control as an inflexible top foreign
policy agenda making it more challenging to achieve its other foreign policy goals. With the increase
in the evaluation of the importance of the EU's goal, and with the weakened normative structures
driven by the dominance of the security frame guiding the negotiations, it is the neighbouring
countries that suddenly have leverage in negotiations. The EU’s collective power still means it often
gets the results it wants in the negotiations with weaker parties, but the playing ground has become
less tilted allowing neighbouring countries to use the leverage to bargain for political and economic
Writing this paper was supported by the Estonian Research Council with the personal research
funding granted to the project PUT1485 A Relational Approach to Governing Wicked Problems
Aaltola, M. (2008). Sowing the seeds of sacred: Political religion of contemporary world order ˇ
and American era. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.
Abellan, L. (2018). La UE promete una partida anual a Marruecos para contener la migración. El
Adler, E. (1997). Imagined (security) communities: Cognitive regions in International Relations.
Millennium 26(2), 24977.
Adler, E. (2013). Constructivism in International Relations: Sources, contributions and debates. In
W. Carlsnaes, T. Risse & B. A. Simmons (Eds.) Handbook of International Relations (pp. 112-
144). Sage.
Alisic, E. & Letschert, R. M. (2016). Fresh eyes on the European refugee crisis. European Journal
of Psychotraumatology 7(1). DOI: 10.3402/ejpt.v7.31847
Anholt, R. Sinatti, G. (2019). Under the guise of resilience: The EU approach to migration and
forced displacement in Jordan and Lebanon. Contemporary Security Policy 41(2), 311-335.
Baldwin-Edwards, M. & Lutterbeck, D. (2019). Coping with the Libyan migration crisis. Journal of
Ethnic and Migration Studies 45(12), 2241-2257. 10.1080/1369183X.2018.1468391
Barnett, M. (1999). Culture, strategy and foreign policy change: Israel’s road to Oslo. European
Journal of International Relations 5(1), 536.
Barnett, M. (2011). Empire of humanity: A history of humanitarianism. Cornell University Press.
Betts, A. (2011). International cooperation in the refugee regime. In Betts, A. & Loescher, G. (Eds.)
Refugees in International Relations (pp. 53-84). Oxford Press.
Betts, A. (2015). The normative terrain of the global refugee regime. Ethics & International Affairs
29(4), 363-375. 10.1017/S0892679415000350
Brenner, Y. Forin, R. & Frouws, B. (2018). The “shift” to the Western Mediterranean migration
route: Myth or reality? Mixed Migration Center.
Bundy, C. (2015). Migrants, refugees, history and precedents. Refugee Studies Centre. Forced
Migration Review, 51.
[audio podcast].
Buzan, B. (1997). Rethinking security after the Cold War. Cooperation and Conflict, 32(1), 5-28.
Buzan, B., Wæver, O. & de Wilde, J. (1998). Security: A new framework for analysis. Lynne
Rienner Pub
Clayton, J. Holland, H & Gaynor, T. (2015). Over one million sea arrivals reach Europe in 2015:
UNHCR figures show over one million refugees and migrants reach Europe by sea in 2015, with
almost 4,000 feared drowned. UNHCR.
Coleman, N. (2009). European readmission policy: third country interests and refugee rights.
Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.
Collins, R. (2014). Interaction ritual chains. Princeton University Press.
Cornut, J. (2017). The practice turn in International Relations theory. Oxford Research
Encyclopaedia, International Studies. 10.1093/acrefore/9780190846626.013.113
Cusumano, E. (2018). Migrant rescue as organized hypocrisy: EU maritime missions offshore
Libya between humanitarianism and border control. Cooperation and Conflict 54(1), 3-24.
D’Antrea, D., Marabelli, M., Newell, S., Scarbrough, H. & Swan, J. (2016). Dominant cognitive
frames and the innovative power of social networks. Organization Studies 37(3), 293-321.
European Commission (2015). EU-Turkey joint action plan. European Commission.
European Commission (2017a). European agenda on migration: Commission calls on all parties to
sustain progress and make further efforts. European Commission.
European Commission (2017b). EU action in Libya on migrants. European Commission.
European Commission (2018). EU trust fund for Africa: additional €90.5 million to strengthen
border management and protection of migrants in North Africa. European Commission.
European Council (2016). EU-Turkey statement, 18 March 2016. European Council. statement/
European External Action Service (2018). A global strategy for the European Union. European
External Action Service.
Friedrichs, J. & Kratochwil, F. (2009). On acting and knowing: How Pragmatism can
advancevInternational Relations research and methodology. International Organization 63(4), 701-
Frontex (2019a). Key facts: budget. Frontex.
Frontex (2019b). Migratory routes: Central Mediterranean route. Frontex.
Gazzotti, L. (2020). Deaths, Borders, and the Exception: Humanitarianism at the Spanish-Moroccan
Border. American Behavioral Scientist 64(4), 408-435.
Geuijen, K. Moore, M. Cederquist, A. Ronning, R. & Van Twist, M. (2016). Creating public value
in global wicked problems. Public Management Review 19(5), 621-639.
Gibney, M. J. (2007). Forced migration, engineered regionalism, and Justice between states. In
Kneebone, S. & Sanei, F.R. (Eds.) New Regionalism and Asylum Seekers, (pp. 5777). Berghahn.
Gibney, M. J. (2014). Political theory, ethics, and forced migration. In Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E.,
Loescher, G., Long, K. & Sigona, N (Eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration
Studies (pp. 49-59). Oxford University Press.
Goffman, E. (1974) Frame analysis. An essay on the organisation of experience. Harper and Row.
Gottwald, M. (2014). Burden sharing and refugee protection. In: Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E., Loescher,
G., Long, K. & Sigona, N. (Eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies
(pp. 526-540). Oxford University Press.
Hammerstad, A. (2011). UNHCR and the securitisation of forced migration. In: Betts, A. &
Loescher, G. (Eds.) Refugees in International Relations (237-260). Oxford Press.
Hammerstad, A. (2014). The rise and decline of a global security actor: UNHCR, Refugee
protection and security. Oxford University Press.
Hay, C. (2006). Political ontology. In R. Goodin & C.Tilly (Eds.) The Oxford Handbook of
Contextual Political Analysis (pp. 78-96). Oxford University Press.
Hughey, M. (2015). We’ve been framed! A focus on identity and interaction for a better vision of
radicalised social movements. Sociology of Race and Ethnicity 1(1), 137-142.
Human Rights Watch (2017). EU: Put rights above politics. Human Rights Watch.
James, W. (1909). A pluralistic universe. Hibbert lectures at Manchester College on the present
situation in philosophy. Longmans Green.
Klasche, B. & Selg, P. (2020). A pragmatist defense of rationalism: Towards a cognitive frames-
based methodology in International Relations. International Relations. 10.1177/0047117820912519
Miller, D. (2007). National responsibility and global justice. Oxford University Press.
Missing Migrants (2019). Missing migrants. Tracking deaths along migratory routes. Missing
Murray, P. & Longo, M. (2018). Europe’s wicked legitimacy crisis: the case of refugees. Journal of
European Integration, 40(4), 411-425. 10.1080/07036337.2018.1436543
Nelson, T.M., Oxley, Z.M. & Clawson, R.A. (1997). Toward a psychology of framing effects.
Political Behaviour 19(3), 221-246.
Owen, D. (2012), In loco civitatis: On the normative structure of the international refugee Regime.
In S. Fine & L. Ypi (Eds.) Migration in Political Theory: The Ethics of Movement and Membership.
Cambridge University Press.
Paris, R. (2001). Human security: Paradigm shift or hot air? International Security, 26(2), 87-102.
Salehyan, I., Gleditsch, K.S. (2006). Refugees and the spread of war. International Organization
60(2), 335-366. 10.1017/S0020818306060103
Şimşek, D. (2017). Turkey as a “safe third country? The impacts of the EU-Turkey Statement on
Syrian refugees in Turkey. Perceptions 22(4), 161-182.
Strik, T. (2019). The global approach to migration and mobility. Groningen Journal of
International Law 5(2), 310-328.
Suhrke, A. (1998). Burden-sharing during refugee emergencies: The logic of collective versus
national action. Journal of Refugee Studies 11(4), 396415.
Surel, Y. (2011). The role of cognitive and normative frames in policy-making. Journal of
European Public Policy 7(4), 495512.
Tadjbakhsh, S. (2013). In Defense of the Broad View of Human Security. In, Martin, M. & Owen,
T. (Eds.) Routledge Handbook of Human Security (43-57). Routledge publishing.
Teevan, C. (2018). Morocco, the EU, and the migration dilemma. European Council on Foreign
Trauner, F. (2016). Asylum policy: the EU’s ‘crises’ and the looming policy regime failure. Journal
of European Integration 38(3), 311-325.
Tsourapas, G. (2019). The Syrian refugee crisis and foreign policy decision-making in Jordan,
Lebanon, and Turkey. Journal of Global Security Studies 4(4), 464-481.
UN (1992). An agenda for peace: Preventive diplomacy, peacemaking and peace-keeping. United
UNDP (1994). Human Development Report 1994 New Dimensions of Human Security. Oxford
University Press.
UNHCR (2004). Proposal to establish an assistant high commissioner (protection) post in UNHCR.
UNHCR (2009). Global appeal 2008-2009: Turkey. UNHCR.
UNHCR (2010). Convention and protocol relating to the status of refugee. UNHCR.
UNHCR (2019a). Mediterranean situation: Greece. UNHCR.
UNHCR (2019b). Mediterranean situation: Italy. UNHCR.
UNHCR (2019c). Mediterranean situation: Spain. UNHCR.
UNHCR (2020). UNHCR Historical Refugee Data. UNHCR.
Van Reisen, M., Smits, K., & Wirtz, M. (2019). Lawless Libya: Unprotected refugees kept
powerless and silenced. In: Van Reisen, M., Mawere, M., Stokmans, M., & Gebre-Egziabher, K. A.
(eds), Mobile Africa: Human Trafficking and the Digital Divide (pp. 261-293). Langaa Research &
Publishing CIG.
Wall, I. (2015). Look back and learn: The Evian Conference, 1938. The New Humanitarian.
Weldes, J. (1996), Constructing national interest. European Journal of International Relations 2(3),
275-318. 10.1177/1354066196002003001
Wendt, A. (1992). Anarchy is what states make of it: The social construction of power politics.
International Organization 46(2), 391-425. 10.1017/S0020818300027764
Zielonka, J. (2008). Europe as a global actor: empire by example? International Affairs 84(3), 471
Next to the two main aspects the deal also includes a re-assessment of Turkey’s bid to join the EU, an easier access to
Schengen-zone for Turkish nationals, that for every Syrian migrant send back to Turkey one Syrian Migrant will be
resettled into the EU (with a cap of 72,000) plus an emergency relocation mechanism that immediately relocated 98,000
refugees from Greece and Italy to Turkey.
We use the arguably ambiguous terms ’North’ and ’South’ in its socio-economic and political sense that divides the
globe into a rich North and a poor South. The distinction, regardless of its shortcomings, is helpful when discussing the
refugee regime, its donor dynamics and movement of refugees on a global level and it is a well-established
generalisation used in migration studies.
The ‘EU’-Turkey Deal’ refers to the 18th of March 2016 EU-Turkey statement which implemented the 29th
November 2015 EU-Turkey action plan.
These new dynamics are also visible in other post-2015 EU-neighbour country negations as we show in the next
... The number of asylum applications per quarter is down to below 50,000, especially drastic compared to over 400,000 quarterly in 2015 (Eurostat, 2020). Yet, the "Migrant Crisis" of 2015 has been firmly framed as a security threat-for Europeans (see, Klasche and Selg, 2020;Jäntti and Klasche, 2021). The dominating view on this matter is that migrants will impact the societal stability, safety, wealth and way of life of the Europeans. ...
... The humanitarian issue has not gone away today. We still see inhumane hosting conditions in Moria, many deaths of refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean sea and the terrible conditions refugees face now in camps outside of the EU in, for example, Turkey, Lybia, and Morocco (see, e.g., Jäntti and Klasche, 2021). This has added another dimension to this crisis: a legitimacy crisis of the EU, its institutions, and democracy at large due to their inability to address the humanitarian crisis in the first place. ...
... issue by working with its neighbors-most notably Turkey but also Morocco and Lybia-to stop refugees from even approaching Europe's borders (Jäntti and Klasche, 2021). In fact, this might be Europe's biggest challenge of the twenty-first century confronting the continent with long-lasting implications for humanitarian practice, regional stability and international public opinion (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2015). ...
Full-text available
This article examines the role of ideations in the de-problematization process of the governance of “migration crises”. Ideations, for example, in the form of frames often simplify social reality and do not allow us to understand the nature of a problem policy-makers are dealing with. To show this, I use the example of the “European Migrant Crisis,” to illustrate that it is, in fact, a wicked problem. The “wicked problem” concept describes a complex and contingent problem and, in essence, a set of “un-owned” processes. It further dissolves local and global distinctions and forces to connect micro and macro processes at all times. In this article, I show that this “migration crisis” (and also many others) consists of much more than just a humanitarian or security crisis but is also constituted by geopolitical crises and crises of political institutions. A relational approach seems most pertinent to be able to grasp all these aspects and helps us to stop de-problematizing it and instead problematize it adequately. It also advocates for the circumvention of ideations as they are a main source for the de-problematization of wicked problems.
Full-text available
How does forced migration affect the politics of host states and, in particular, how does it impact states’ foreign policy decision-making? The relevant literature on refugee politics has yet to fully explore how forced migration affects host states’ behavior. One possibility is that they will employ their position in order to extract revenue from other state or nonstate actors for maintaining refugee groups within their borders. This article explores the workings of these refugee rentier states, namely states seeking to leverage their position as host states of displaced communities for material gain. It focuses on the Syrian refugee crisis, examining the foreign policy responses of three major host states—Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. While all three engaged in post-2011 refugee rent-seeking behavior, Jordan and Lebanon deployed a back-scratching strategy based on bargains, while Turkey deployed a blackmailing strategy based on threats. Drawing upon primary sources in English and Arabic, the article inductively examines the choice of strategy and argues that it depended on the size of the host state's refugee community and domestic elites’ perception of their geostrategic importance vis-à-vis the target. The article concludes with a discussion of these findings’ significance for understanding the international dimension of the Syrian refugee crisis and argues that they also pave the way for future research on the effects of forced displacement on host states’ political development.
Full-text available
The endeavour to explain and predict international affairs is getting harder since it is ever more widely accepted that heterogeneous and fluid actors are making international politics. Positivists of various types have dominated the discussion on knowledge creation in the discipline of International Relations (IR), but the increasing acceptance of the dynamic character of international politics has led to the support and use of constructivist, post-Western or feminist approaches. There has also been an uptick in methodological discussions on these critical, non-positivist approaches. This article contributes to these debates by offering the first steps towards a cognitive frames–based methodology for IR. With a pragmatist ontology as its foundation, the approach re-sets the focus of analysis to the rationality of the international actors. The article, offers an initial description, by relying on illustrative examples, of the creation, the reach, durability and the organisational structure of cognitive frames in the global arena.
Full-text available
Building “resilience” to insecurity and crisis is high on the European Union (EU) agenda. EU uptake of this buzzword is especially significant with regard to migration and forced displacement. Uncertainty, however, remains about what resilience is, how it translates into practice, and what its implications are. In this article, we analyze EU humanitarian and development policies and provide empirical insight into resilience-building in Jordan and Lebanon. We show that EU resilience thinking highlights strengthening the humanitarian-development nexus, responsibilizing crisis-affected states, and framing refugees as an economic development opportunity for refugee-hosting states. We also find that how resilience translates into practice depends on the local context and interests of the actors involved. For the EU, resilience-building is primarily a refugee containment strategy that could jeopardize the stability of refugee-hosting states. We conclude that resilience-building in Jordan and Lebanon may ultimately threaten rather than safeguard the security of Europe.
Full-text available
After the legitimisation of some militias as enforcers and coast guards, the landscape of human smuggling and trafficking in Libya has changed drastically. The trafficking networks have gone underground and profit-making has become less about moving people across the Mediterranean Sea and more about human trafficking for ransom and forced labour. Refugees are kept in warehouse, abused and commoditised, sold and extorted for ransom. The almost total control of digital technology by ‘gatekeepers’ keeps the refugees in a ‘black hole’, which plays a vital role in the repression and human trafficking of refugees in Libya.
Full-text available
In November 2014, Frontex started its Southern Mediterranean border monitoring operation Triton, followed in June 2015 by the Common Security and Defence Policy anti-smuggling mission EU Naval Force Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR Med) ‘Sophia’. Both operations’ outward communication has placed considerable emphasis on the conduct of maritime search and rescue. Still, this commitment was not matched by consistent action. Triton and EUNAVFOR Med have conducted a relatively limited number of search and rescue operations, prioritizing border control and anti-smuggling tasks. This article explains the gap between the European Union missions’ humanitarian rhetoric and an operational conduct primarily focusing on curbing irregular migration as a form of organized hypocrisy. Decoupling talk and action allowed Triton and EUNAVFOR Med to reconcile the conflicting expectations arising from European governments’ willingness to reduce migrant arrivals and the normative imperative to act against the loss of life at sea. However, the European Union missions’ organized hypocrisy had several negative externalities, hindering effective management of the humanitarian crisis offshore Libya.
Turkey has taken a number of steps including regulations granting approximately three million Syrian refugees with the guarantee of nonrefoulement, access to basic humanitarian services, and the right to access education, health services and the labour market. The Turkish government’s policy position on the Syrian refugees has gradually begun evolving from ‘hospitality’ to ‘integration’. The Statement between the EU and Turkey has raised concerns about the assumption of Turkey as a “safe third country” to return refugees to, however, one aspect of the agreement, which focuses on the EU’s financial support to improve the situation of Syrian refugees in Turkey, is considered as an important positive step towards the integration of Syrians. This paper aims to address the question of whether Turkey can be considered as a “safe third country” for Syrian refugees. Drawing on fieldwork conducted in İstanbul, İzmir and Gaziantep, this paper focuses on the experiences of Syrian refugees in Turkey to explore whether Turkey can be recognized as a “safe third country” for refugees.
This essay questions the rise of border humanitarianism in the North-Eastern Moroccan borderlands. The increasing presence of humanitarian organizations in contexts marked by border violence has raised the attention of a number of critical migration scholars. Observers, however, have failed to problematize the presence of humanitarian activities, traditionally connected to emergency contexts, in sites integrated in the “routinary” regulation of mobility. Building on 8 months of fieldwork conducted in 2016 and 2017, the article addresses this gap, taking the working of border humanitarianism as a vantage point to reflect on the relation of borders to the exception, on the role of violence in border maintenance and, ultimately, on the politics of life and death at the frontier. Drawing on the work of Salter and Vaughan Williams on exceptionalism and biopolitics at the border, the article makes two points. First, I argue that the ordinary functioning of the Spanish–Moroccan border is founded on the bestialization and devaluation of Black lives, often to the point of death. Second, I contend that the integration of the “exception” in border normalcy activates, challenges, and endlessly reproduces the need for emergency interventions. In this dystopian framework, humanitarianism becomes a tool for the ordinary maintenance of migrants’ degraded life, transformed by the border into a less-than-citizen, less-than-human form of existence.
Empire of Humanity explores humanitarianism’s remarkable growth from its humble origins in the early nineteenth century to its current prominence in global life. In contrast to most contemporary accounts of humanitarianism that concentrate on the last two decades, Michael Barnett ties the past to the present, connecting the antislavery and missionary movements of the nineteenth century to today’s peacebuilding missions, the Cold War interventions in places like Biafra and Cambodia to post-Cold War humanitarian operations in regions such as the Great Lakes of Africa and the Balkans; and the creation of the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1863 to the emergence of the major international humanitarian organizations of the twentieth century. Based on extensive archival work, close encounters with many of today’s leading international agencies, and interviews with dozens of aid workers in the field and at headquarters, Empire of Humanity provides a history that is both global and intimate. Avoiding both romanticism and cynicism, Empire of Humanity explores humanitarianism’s enduring themes, trends, and, most strikingly, ethical ambiguities. Humanitarianism hopes to change the world, but the world has left its mark on humanitarianism. Humanitarianism has undergone three distinct global ages-imperial, postcolonial, and liberal-each of which has shaped what humanitarianism can do and what it is. The world has produced not one humanitarianism, but instead varieties of humanitarianism. Furthermore, Barnett observes that the world of humanitarianism is divided between an emergency camp that wants to save lives and nothing else and an alchemist camp that wants to remove the causes of suffering. These camps offer different visions of what are the purpose and principles of humanitarianism, and, accordingly respond differently to the same global challenges and humanitarianism emergencies. Humanitarianism has developed a metropolis of global institutions of care, amounting to a global governance of humanity. This humanitarian governance, Barnett observes, is an empire of humanity: it exercises power over the very individuals it hopes to emancipate. Although many use humanitarianism as a symbol of moral progress, Barnett provocatively argues that humanitarianism has undergone its most impressive gains after moments of radical inhumanity, when the “international community” believes that it must atone for its sins and reduce the breach between what we do and who we think we are. Humanitarianism is not only about the needs of its beneficiaries; it also is about the needs of the compassionate.