This article explores Europe’s external migration mix, considering three policy instruments which form part of the EU’s remote control of borders: (1) visa regulations managing entry and cross-border mobility, (2) readmission agreements facilitating assisted and forced return of migrants without legal right to remain, and (3) resettlement of refugees with refugee status via formalised programmes. The article explores the degree and nature of these policies co-evolution. Based on a collation of migration policy data for 31 European countries between 1990 and 2020, we disentangle spatial, temporal, and categorical policy patterns and interactions. We find strong evidence for spatial policy dependence across European countries for all three policy areas, but particularly visa policy; evidence for some categorical dependence between selected external policies within countries, but also between external policy instruments and other migration-relevant policies; and only weak or no evidence for temporal sequencing of external policy change. The external migration policy mix appears heterogenous across different European states, but also within single European states, and vis-a-vis third country states, with whom various migration-relevant and externally oriented policies are negotiated. As a result, and perhaps surprisingly, the role of specific migration-relevant policies seems to be underestimated in strategic and overarching migration policymaking.
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