Mig. Pol. 2, 001 (2023) ·
published 27 March 2023
This paper addresses the question of how different actors attempt to control mobility during civil war, and how mobility control and processes of state-making interact in such settings. Mobility in civil wars is often considered a political act by the various actors involved: Leaving the country can be perceived as an act of opposition, as can moving between territories which are controlled by different, opposing factions. Drawing on literature on strategic displacement and migration politics and combining this with empirical insights from the ongoing wars in Libya and Syria, the paper identifies three mechanisms of mobility control in civil war settings: forcing exit, selective return as a form of expulsion, and strategic laissez-faire as the intentional absence of regulation regarding displacement and return. The analysis reveals that all three mechanisms are employed by state actor(s), rebels, and militias, and can be understood as elements of a new (post)war order that includes some citizens while excluding others depending on perceptions of political threats. We interpret the three mechanisms as ways in which actors in civil war settings attempt to manipulate a country’s demography in their own favour in a process of state-making. The paper is based on fieldwork conducted between 2018 and 2021 in Syria, Lebanon, Libya, and Tunisia.
Mig. Pol. 2, 002 (2023) ·
published 11 July 2023
Neoliberal transformations in the field of asylum in Germany have, since 2016, placed an emphasis on labour market participation as the primary way through which refugees can establish long-term residence claims. Yet, while new arrivals are increasingly expected to rapidly integrate into this market, they are often armed with differential and precarious legal statuses which overwhelmingly determine the spheres of economic activity refugees can enter. This is especially true for the ever increasing number of rejected asylum seekers who are temporarily “tolerated”, for whom the only path to residence requires that they display their value as economic subjects to the German state. Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Berlin between 2017 and 2020, I argue that, armed with little other than their cultural identities and networks, many refugees heavily relied on co-ethnic relationships to facilitate their participation in the labour market. The result is a displacement of the management of new diversity to ethnic economies, a move that disavows the marginalising consequences of the neoliberal transformations refugees are subject to. By masking a relationship between recently arrived migrants and the German economy and society as a relationship between migrants themselves, I argue that these practices work as alibis of exclusion.
Mig. Pol. 2, 003 (2023) ·
published 5 September 2023
Many of the unaccompanied young migrants who have sought asylum in Germany since 2015 do not own documentation of their birth dates or even know their exact ages. Yet asylum and youth welfare laws distinguish precisely between minors and adults, down to the day, thus making it necessary for the German state to estimate the birth dates of young migrants and compelling some of the migrants to claim to be minors. In this article, drawing on years of ethnographic fieldwork in Berlin, I examine four features of the German state’s age categorization regime that make it so powerful: the discretion of street-level bureaucrats; the weight of written records; a prioritization of precision over accuracy; and—most important—the ability of bureaucrats to switch between the previous three features at will. I analyze the strategies young migrants employ against this regime to influence the outcomes of their own age categorization as well as the challenges inherent in living as a minor or within liminal, uncertain age categories. The latter include widespread distrust and fear of being found out as well as feelings of infantilization and emasculation. I use age categorization as a context in which to reflect on the agency of migrants vis-à-vis state bureaucracies and conclude that young migrants can try to affect only the determination of their own birth dates but have little impact on the prevailing definitions of age and youth. This article thus contributes to the study of categorization processes in international migration, the possibilities for migrants’ resistance, and the politics of time.
Mig. Pol. 2, 004 (2023) ·
published 9 November 2023
Over the last decade, critical migration scholarship has been increasingly concerned with how state actors in both the Global South and Global North deploy forms of inaction and ambivalent action to govern migrants. Scholars have mobilized and developed concepts to capture such strategic non-regulation, ranging from notions of standoffishness, ignorance, indifference, ambiguity, adhocracy, and informality in political science, IR and sociology, to necropolitics, ignorance, opacity, obfuscation, non-recording and liminality in anthropology, socio-legal studies and political geography. Scholars thus seem to agree that the strategic use of non-regulation by state actors is a significant aspect of migration governance. Yet, conceptual and methodological advances remain fragmented and scattered across geographical regions and disciplines. This paper argues that much can be gained by putting the different conceptual and methodological innovations on strategic non-regulation into dialogue. First, consolidating insights from different bodies of scholarly work moves analyses of strategic non-regulation from the fringes of migration scholarship to its center and demonstrates that strategic non-regulation is a core feature of migration governance. Second, bringing these different works together enables us to synthesize the variety of analytical strategies that scholars have devised to empirically locate the elusive phenomenon of strategic non-regulation. Overcoming disciplinary and geographical divides in the study of strategic non-regulation will also be key to advance broader social science debates on the political functionality of policy failure and on the interplay between state capacity and political will - in migration governance but also beyond.