The EU, migration and crisis: a critical redescription

Hocquet, Céline (2022). The EU, migration and crisis: a critical redescription. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis develops a counter-analysis of emergence and development of the European Union (EU) immigration and asylum law system using Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL). It sheds an alternative perspective on the EU’s positioning as a global actor in these fields and the role of using a ‘crisis’ frame in 2015 for the most recent developments of this policy area.

This thesis argues that, although migration to the EU in 2015 was framed by policy actors, non-governmental actors and scholars as a ‘crisis’ due to high numbers of migrants arriving or applying for international protection, and migrants’ deaths at sea, it did not constitute a genuine crisis. Rather what we observe in 2015 is the use of a crisis frame to characterise Third World migration to Europe as a situation of humanitarian and security emergency. The crisis frame used in 2015 has enabled the EU to activate a crisis decision-making mode, which typically includes the use of exceptional and security-driven measures, the othering of causes and responsibilities, the exclusion of migrants considered as a danger or in danger, and the adoption of emergency measures bypassing normal procedures and with little consideration for human rights guarantees. Yet, analysing the EU migration and asylum policy before 2015, this thesis reveals that many of the features associated to the moment of rupture brought by a crisis frame actually existed prior to the ‘crisis’. Since the early days of the common migration and asylum policy, key tendencies appeared including the use of informal cooperation, the constant association of migration and asylum matters with criminal and security considerations, the focus on controlling and excluding unwanted migrants with little consideration for their human rights and the progressive development of externalisation policies. The analysis of policy agenda and legal developments from 2015 onwards shows the continuity and furtherance of existing patterns. Rather than any discontinuity suggested by the crisis frame, the EU asylum and migration law system after 2015 focused on furthering Third World migrants’ othering and exclusion, expanding its influence and domination over third countries to increase their role in controlling unwanted migration and intensifying the use of informal cooperation frameworks. Analysing EU migration and asylum law and policy from a crisis-driven perspective appears therefore limited as it does not enable to fully seize the underpinnings of this policy area. That is why, this thesis argues that a critical reading is needed. Using Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL), this thesis offers a redescription of the EU asylum and migration law system which reveals the EU’s racialised conception of Third World migrants justifying its focus on returns and containment measures. A TWAIL reading of EU cooperation with third countries shows that by allocating responsibility to deal with migrants and migration to others, the EU maintains its supremacy over its Third World partners. Finally, taking a TWAIL lens to analyse the EU’s approach to Third World migrants and countries replicates a form of civilising mission.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: Birmingham Law School
Funders: Other
Other Funders: College of Arts and Law, University of Birmingham
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)


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