EU to consider (again) offshore asylum/migration processing centres

The Guardian, 5 March 2015

The Guardian, 5 March 2015

The Guardian reports that the European commission wants to open offices (or using existing ones) in third countries to process asylum applications. The article validly points out that similar proposals have been tabled in the past but never reached the implementation stage. The new EU commissioner for home affairs, Dimitris Avramopoulos, signals a u-turn on the matter… but for how long? Proposals like this are easier to write on paper than implement in practice and would require a significant devolvement of financial and human resources. The ‘side effects’ of such a move also involve some more in-depth thinking.

If one were to use the information in The Guardian article to make a judgement, it would seem that the EC is still a long way to go to move from the policy announcement to a serious policy development and impact assessment. The article refers interchangeably to asylum and immigration processing centres, is this what the EU policy makers are saying or is the result of a journalist with little appreciation of the difference between forced and economically-driven migration? I frankly don’t know at this point.

For now, as everyone who has tried to migrate or even just visit the EU from most of the countries listed in the article know, a visit to a EU consulate often hundreds of kilometers away from one’s home is a requirement for applying for a visa. Long queues, bribes and frustration are common experience for aspiring migrants. Some EU member states, like The Netherlands, even require people to undertake language tests before ever set foot in Europe. Incidentally, it would be fascinating to find out how many Dutch language teachers are available in sub-Saharan Africa (especially outside of capital cities). So, in many ways, offshore migrant processing centers already exit and there is plenty of evidence that indicate that are often dysfunctional if not corrupt and, more importantly, don’t really provide a response to the demand for migration of the majority of aspiring migrants – ie people will just continue to try their lack on rickety boats. Given their track records on migration, it would be cause of great concern if these offices were to be tasked with assessing also asylum applications. If the proposals are about asylum only, there are other considerations that may ultimately lead the EC to abandon the initiative. It is no secret that the aim of the policy is to decrease illegal crossings in the Mediterranean, would such initiative address this policy goal? In short: No. It is over ten years that similar proposals championing externalisation of asylum processing are on the table but they never fully reach implementation stage. The most obvious risk for forced migrants is that by opening asylum processing centres abroad EU member states will make access to asylum procedure impossible at home – ie everyone who manages to reach EU shores or airports may see his/her asylum application automatically rejected because if he/she was a ‘genuine’ refugee would have applied abroad.

This risk may be cause of concern for migrants and activists but not enough to stop the proposal from happening. What may succeed is exactly the opposite scenario. Assuming that it may be possible through a sustained effort of NGOs and campaigners to force a decent monitoring system on these asylum centres (which is not easy), the most obvious risk for EU countries is that if they open asylum processing centres and they comply to minimum standard of decency if not fairness in the way they handle asylum applications, this could ultimately lead to an increase of refugees in the EU as more people would have access to the application process once the obstacle of a very dangerous and expensive journey across the Mediterranean is removed, and this is not what the EU member states want.

Call for Proposals: Special Issue of Migration Studies

Migration Studies coverMigration Studies, published by Oxford University Press, invites proposals for a Special Issue on themes of enduring significance in the study of human migration. In 2015, the journal aims to publish a guest-edited, thematically coherent collection of approximately six articles of 7-9000 words in length, based on original, unpublished research on a topic of importance to the interdisciplinary field of migration studies. Priority will be given to comparative work as well as methodological and theoretical advances, and we explicitly welcome work that is grounded in a specific discipline but engages across disciplinary boundaries. Themes concerning the full range of migration drivers, dimensions and impacts will be considered.

Migration Studies aim to publish a special issue in 2015. This is contingent on review and revision time, and therefore we strongly prefer proposals for collections of articles that have already been drafted and reviewed in light of substantive feedback from a range of colleagues.

Deadlines: The deadline for proposals is 1 May 2014. Full articles should be ready for submission at that time or very shortly afterwards.

Review Process: All articles submitted undergo the standard Migration Studies peer review process and those accepted will be published in the journal.

How to submit: proposals should be submitted online at, under the manuscript category ‘Special Issue Proposal’.

Proposals for a Special Issue should contain:

–          A 500-word explanation of the rationale for the Special Issue

–          A list of authors, titles, abstracts and proposed word counts of the articles in the collection. Important: please indicate what stage of writing each article is in, and note that fully prepared manuscripts are strongly preferred

–          100-word biographies for each contributor, detailing discipline, area of expertise, institution, and position.

About the Journal

Migration Studies is an international refereed journal dedicated to advancing scholarly understanding of the determinants, processes and outcomes of human migration in all its manifestations. It furthers this aim by publishing original scholarship from around the world. Migration shapes human society and inspires ground-breaking research efforts across many different academic disciplines and policy areas. Migration Studies contributes to the consolidation of this field of scholarship, developing the core concepts that link different disciplinary perspectives on migration. To this end, the journal welcomes full-length articles, research notes, and reviews of books, films and other media from those working across the social sciences in all parts of the world. Priority is given to methodological, comparative and theoretical advances.