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Extraterritorial migration control in Malaysia

Militarized, externalized, and regionalized

Choo Chin Low

English abstract: This article examines how migration control in Malaysia has been transformed in response to non-traditional security threats. Since the 2010s, the state has expanded the territorial reach of its immigration enforcement through trilateral border patrol initiatives and multilateral defense establishments. Malaysia’s extraterritorial policy is mostly implemented through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) frameworks. Common geopolitical security concerns, particularly the transnational crime and terrorism confronted by Malaysia and its bordering countries, have led to extraterritorial control measures to secure its external borders. Key elements include the growing involvement of the army, the institutionalization of border externalization, and the strengthening of the ASEAN’s regional immigration cooperation. By analyzing the ASEAN’s intergovernmental collaboration, this article demonstrates that Malaysia’s extraterritorial migration practices are militarized, externalized, and regionalized.

Spanish abstract: Este artículo examina la transformación del control migratorio en Malasia en respuesta a las amenazas de seguridad no tradicionales. Desde 2010, el estado aumentó el alcance territorial de su control migratorio a través de patrullas fronterizas trilaterales y establecimiento de defensa multilateral. La política extraterritorial de Malasia tiene como marco principal la Asociación de Naciones del Sureste Asiático (ASEAN en inglés). Las preocupaciones de seguridad geopolítica comunes, particularmente los delitos y el terrorismo transnacional, provocaron medidas de control extraterritorial para asegurar sus fronteras externas. Los elementos clave son la creciente implicación del ejército, la institucionalización de la externalización de fronteras y el fortalecimiento de la cooperación regional en inmigración de ASEAN. Este artículo demuestra que las prácticas migratorias extraterritoriales de Malasia están militarizadas, externalizadas y regionalizadas.

French abstract: L’article analyse les changements apportés aux services de con trôle de la migration en Malaisie. Depuis 2010, l’État a étendu son champ d’action et mis en place des initiatives de patrouilles frontalières trilatérales, de défense multilatérale et une police extraterritoriale déployée sous l’impulsion de l’Association des nations de l’Asie du Sud-Est (ANASE). Les problèmes de sécurité géopolitique, comme la criminalité transnationale et le terrorisme qui sévissent en Malaisie et dans les pays voisins, ont donné lieu à des mesures extraterritoriales pour sécuriser les frontières extérieures. Parmi elles, figurent l’implication de l’armée, l’externalisation institutionnalisée du contrôle aux frontières et le renforcement de la coopération de l’ANASE en matière d’immigration. Par l’analyse de cette coopération intergouvernementale, cet article démontre que la politique migratoire malaisienne est régie par la militarisation, l’externalisation et la régionalisation.

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1. Introduction

Reconceptualizing Transit State in an Era of Outsourcing, Offshoring, and Obfuscation

Antje Missbach and Melissa Phillips

There has been growing pressure on states to “solve” the phenomenon of irregular migration. Destination countries have transferred this pressure onto transit countries, which are assumed to have the political will, ability, and means to stop irregular migration. This special section looks at the ways in which transit countries respond to challenges, pressures, and compromises in matters of irregular migration policies through a number of empirical case studies. Making transit countries the main focus, this special section aims to scrutinize domestic policy discourses in the transit countries, which are influenced by regional agreements and economic incentives from abroad but are also shaped by local interests and a wide range of actors. Of special interest is to understand whether the logics of destination countries that favor deterrence and exclusion have been adopted by politicians and the public discourse within transit countries.

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Paperwork performances

Legitimating state violence in the Swedish deportation regime

Lisa Marie Borrelli and Annika Lindberg

Deportation regimes mobilise coercive state powers, but also entail extensive paperwork, the latter of which remains underexplored in deportation studies. Building on ethnographic fieldwork in border police units and a migration-related detention centre in Sweden, this article explores how bureaucratic practices of detecting, detaining and ultimately deporting people whose presence has been illegalised are enforced and legitimated through the use of paperwork. Paperwork, we argue, becomes the ‘signature of the state’ that enables state agencies to assert themselves as ‘rational’ actors, even when their own practices are ridden by dilemmas, inconsistency and sometimes arbitrariness. We show how the same documents that are meant to ensure fairness and accountability in bureaucratic processes may render state actions even more unreadable, and further serve to rationalise and legitimise intrusive, violent and discriminatory state actions. The article thus highlights the importance of considering the often-tedious paperwork as essential to the operation of coercive state powers, such as the detainment and deportation of illegalised persons.

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Transnationalization and Development

Toward an Alternative Agenda

Thomas Faist

The central puzzle discussed in this article is that, despite the new interest in migration and development, much of development studies focuses only on the transfer of resources from the North or West to the South and East. Yet transnational studies document two-way flows. In addressing this issue, the article answers three questions. First, what is new and what is old about the current 'mantra' of the migration-development nexus? Second, with regard to sustained cross-border transactions, which and what kind of transnational ties benefit development? Third, why is there a new enthusiasm about migration and development at this particular point in time? How is this new direction connected to shifting paradigms in development thinking and to changing geo-political alignments and forms of migration control after the end of the Cold War?

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Introduction

Governing migration through paperwork

Lisa Marie Borrelli and Sophie Andreetta

In order to better understand migration governance and the concrete, daily practices of civil servants tasked to enforce state laws and policies, this special issue focuses on the core artefact of bureaucratic work: documents, in their diverse manifestations, including certificates, letters, reports, case files, decisions, internal guidelines and judgements. Based on ethnographic studies in various contexts, we show how civil servants produce statehood, restrict migrants’ movements, and engage with migrants’ strategies to make themselves legible. State actors simultaneously limit access to legal statutes and benefits, question their own practices, and use their discretion in order to help themselves as well as migrant individuals. We also highlight organisational and professional differences in the way civil servants deal with migrants, relate to the state and its policies and define their obligations towards both, migrants and the state. This special issue therefore contributes to the study of the state as documentary practice and highlights the role of paperwork as serious practice of migration control.

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Constructing 'unteachability' through menacing warnings

The coupling of welfare benefits and migration control in Switzerland

Luca Pfirter

This article scrutinises case files concerning the revocation of stay permits in Switzerland due to the receipt of social assistance. Through in-depth exploration of case files and Federal Supreme Court judgements, it provides insights into the increasing coupling of migration control and welfare instruments. The article does so by investigating one specific type of paperwork: ‘menaces of warnings of the revocation order due to the dependency on social assistance’. The article argues bureaucratic practices and the paperwork they produce must be investigated for their effects on foreign nationals and for the (re)production of politics of belonging and the ‘anti-citizen’. By individualising the reason for receiving social assistance, the analysed paperwork simultaneously aims at disciplining recipients of social assistance and legitimises exclusion by constructing ‘unteachability’ through ‘unsuccessful’ self-disciplining.