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Migration and Security in the Eastern Mediterranean

27 September, 2013



This paper provides an overview of the nexus of migration and security with a focus on the EU’s migration policy and its effects on migrant security and migration flows in the Eastern Mediterranean from the mid-2000s to the Arab Spring and its aftermath.

Initial recipient countries of migrants of the Eastern Mediterranean take in migrants for internal or external political reasons. Migrants are generally afforded little means by the state to integrate and are often discriminated against by society. The legal administration of migrants in the region is often delegated to international organisations, such as UNHCR and IOM, and social services (health care, education, legal assistance, nutritional assistance etc.) are provided by CSOs and migrant networks often with limited resources and vulnerable to conflict. Smugglers and migrant networks provide exit routes to Europe or other destinations for desperate, ambitious or more mobile migrants.

This paper suggests that the EU’s assistance to transit countries in strengthening their border systems should be supplemented by actively engaging transit countries on a policy, legal and financial level. Local integration should be supported in close cooperation between the EU, transit country authorities, UNHCR, IOM and CSOs, and matched by an increase in controlled immigration to the EU from transit countries according to vulnerability categories and skilled labour needs. Civil perception and categorisation of migrants as either dangerous (irregular immigrant) or vulnerable (refugee), should be complemented by an appreciation of migrants as political and economic actors, culminating in the engagement of migrants on an equal footing.

Given protracted conflicts in countries of emigration, the paper concludes that a lack of proactive EU foreign migration policy towards transit countries bordering the Mediterranean, results in an overly intensive securitisation of the EU’s external borders as a tool to repel economic migrants and refugees.