Understanding the effects of the EU's migration management: Interview with Cathrine Talleraas
Migration management is a major global challenge. But how can we ensure that policies made in the EU are also in the best interests of countries outside of Europe?
Effects of Externalisation: EU Migration Management in Africa and the Middle East (EFFEXT) is a new interdisciplinary research project (2020-2024) examining the complicated issues surrounding how the EU manages migration. The project explores how the EU's external borders are managed and maintained, and the impact this has on policy-making in Africa and the Middle East.
In this short interview, project leader Cathrine Talleraas explains the motivation behind the project and what the project will achieve.
Can you say a few words about the problem that this project will address?
This project will look at how external policy initiatives impact the development of migration policy in six countries in Africa (Ghana, Senegal and Ethiopia) and the Middle East (Lebanon, Jordan and Libya). We will investigate how specific policies have been made, agreed upon, and how they are implemented. Some of these policies remain on paper only, and it is important to understand the underlying reasons why they have not been implemented. We are particularly curious to find out how regional and national political climates, and local socioeconomic contexts, influence these policy processes.
At the project's heart is the notion of the externalisation of the EU borders, what does this mean?
Well, simply speaking, the notion of ‘externalising’ borders, refers to the EU’s efforts to move immigration control beyond the territorial frontiers of the union. Migration policies of different types are implemented in neighbouring countries, with the aim of stopping potential migrants before reaching Europe. One example of such an effort is the current policies to manage boat crossings in the Mediterranean where the EU, for instance through the border control agency Frontex, collaborates with countries south of the Mediterranean to control the sea route to Europe. Other types of external migration policy include EU sponsored information campaigns in migrant origin areas, policies and agreements on readmission, donation of border control equipment and training of border control staff in partner countries.
A lot of previous research has focused on the immediate EU borders – including migrants crossing the Mediterranean – what made you want to focus on externalisation and its effects in this project?
The external aspect of European migration policy, and indeed non-EU countries’ migration policy in general, is critically understudied. While funding enables researchers to focus on European priorities and migration concerns, less funding is set a side to focus on the effects of migration policies beyond Europe’s borders. Similarly, research tends to address policy effectiveness in terms of whether specific policies has led to intended results, for instance a decrease in the volume of a specific migration flow. But little attention is pointed at other effects, such as changes in other countries’ policies, political conflict or uncertainty among migrants and potential migrants – to mention a few. We intend to fill this gap and will hopefully develop migration policy theories and new insights based on an innovative approach where we trace existing policies, and focus not just on Europe, but on partner countries in the global south.
This project relies on collaboration and research with policy-makers, how will you do this in practice? And are there any specific challenges to using this method of research?
Yes, we absolutely rely on cooperation with people who make and execute policies. We aim to move beyond the surface of the policy discourse. In order to understand what forces, viewpoints and political contexts shape migration policy negotiation and implementation, we have to consult those who are involved. We start off with a few and highly useful policy experts in our advisory board, and will also draw on the project team’s country specific and professional networks and partners. Based on this, we aim to establish a network of people with interest and expertise on migration policy in MENA and SSA. Here, both policy makers and scholars will be included and invited to participate. Rather than a one-way dialogue, we plan to present our preliminary analyses to policy makers as we go and get practitioners’ feedback before we conclude. We will, for instance, do this at two larger policy workshops in Beirut and Accra, where we will focusing on regional migration in MENA and SSA respectively. We invite interested practitioners and scholars to sign up or follow us on Twitter to receive updates from us as the project evolves.
Why is this an important area of research, and what has motivated you to initiate this project?
Major efforts are currently geared towards improving the international systems for migration management. This includes the Global Compact for Migration, the Global Compact for Refugees, and the frequently renewed regional agendas aimed at strengthening migration governance collaboration. Yet, many of these initiatives can be criticised for originating from EU concerns, and not accounting for the countries in which the policies are enacted. Critical voices also highlighted that these policy mechanisms disregard the mixed nature of migration flows, the high need for new legal migration routes, the high proportion of south-south migration and the challenges concerning policy implementation. To this end, the EFFEXT project is part of a small, but growing, body of research that focus on these issues. My hope and ambition is to bring new and high-quality knowledge to the table. By bringing the perspectives of stakeholders in Africa and the Middle East to the fore, we might be able to contribute with insights that enable more transparent and coherent migration policy collaboration.