Migrants who have left or fled their homes are frequently viewed in terms of sheer numbers and a potential source of insecurity. Yet, the securitisation of borders, criminalisation of migration, resort to detention as a deterrence measure, do not prevent people from starting a journey, creating greater hardship and suffering. As conflicts rage and secure channels to reach safe ground become scarcer, migrants will continue to turn to the few options they are afforded – however risky these may be. The risks people are ready to take are somehow proportional to the threats they are fleeing. This conference, coming in the wake of the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants, and days ahead of the planned meeting of the European Union Justice and Home Affairs Council, explores issues related to vulnerability and protection of migrants, as well as security concerns.
Migration is a global phenomenon. Worldwide, the number of migrants continues to grow rapidly, reaching 244 million in 2015 according to United Nations (UN) figures. In Europe, over a million migrants arrived in 2015, a trend which is only set to continue. Migration can be voluntary or involuntary, but most people act on a combination of choices and threats. These threats include widespread persecution, armed conflict, and other situations of violence, insecurity and poverty.
When is Migration a Security Issue?
Labeling any issue a security threat has significant implications in terms of the laws, norms, policies, and procedures that become justified in response. In the migration context, for example, the label has been used to justify greater surveillance, detention, deportation and more restrictive policies. Such responses in turn can impact the migrants involved, for example, by denying asylum seekers access to safe countries, driving more migrants into the arms of migrant smugglers and human traffickers, and by contributing to a growing anti-immigrant tendency among the public, within the media, and in political debate in many countries.