Migration Crisis or Border Crisis?

by | Apr 29, 2021 | Migration | 0 comments

Image: https://unsplash.com/@radekhomola


By Ela Zorbozan

From the 59 million Europeans that migrated to America in the late 1800s to the 22 million Chinese that migrated to South East Asia, global movement occurred well before the 21st century. So why is it only now that there is a new fear of migration and increased media attention towards illegal immigrants?

Some may say that globalisation and technological advances have made it easier for humans to be mobile; arguably, due to British colonialism and mass migration from the 1600s, the world was already globalised by the start of the 20th century.
In the past, society has relied on migration and seen it as necessary; urbanization encouraged internal migration where individuals move from rural areas into cities and slave traders deemed it acceptable to kidnap 12 million Africans and force them to migrate. However, now migration is more widely regarded as an issue, particularly when it is individuals from third world countries migrating to richer, western countries.

De Genova in 2017 said “The European Union has actively converted the Mediterranean into a mass grave”. This is regarding the 2015 migration crisis, which could alternatively be regarded more as a crisis of borders. Since 1993, an estimated 30,000 individuals have died trying to enter Europe. For many, illegal entrance was their only option due to the restrictions and obstacles put in place to do it legally. If the European Union offered more support to those trying to migrate legally there would be less deaths and also less illegal immigrants within Europe.

So not only do governments within the EU make it as hard as possible for immigrants to legally migrate to Europe, they also have in place policies that effect anyone that successfully does cross the Mediterranean. An example of these policies is the 2012 hostile environment, implemented by Theresa May.


What is the Hostile Environment Policy?

It is a set of policies that were implemented to make the UK an uncomfortable, hostile place for illegal immigrants to be. These were the key aims:

1. To deter people trying to enter the UK and discourage potential immigrants in believing that making the dangerous journey is worth it
2. To stop those who do enter from overstaying
3. To stop the immigrants access to essential services of everyday life

These aims were achieved by denying their access to the NHS, excluding them from benefits and making it illegal for them to work or for them to be able to rent a property. Although some may say that introducing this policy was necessary to reduce strain on our public services and control our growing population, many believed it to be a cruel treatment of those who are already risking everything for a better life.

The hostile environment had a detrimental effect on many across the UK, especially the 524,000 who migrated to the UK between 1948 and 1971, who were labelled the Windrush generation. Despite living and working in the UK for decades and in some cases, having no memory of the country they’re originally from, the introduction of the hostile environment policy meant that many of the Windrush generation were placed in immigration detention, deported, or refused the right to return from abroad. Lots of these people were law-abiding, hard working individuals that just couldn’t prove their right to citizenship. By implementing this policy it had turned regular people into ‘illegal immigrants’ demonstrating that the idea of someone being ‘illegal’ is socially constructed.

These policies, precautions and unnecessary deaths are all a result of stopping the free movement between borders that are fundamentally socially constructed. Borders are negotiated and fought over yet are protected as if they are natural and permanent. These borders reproduce inequality globally by giving individuals from America, Australia, Western Europe and other first world nation states the liberation to move and migrate freely; however the groups of people that are in higher need of migration, to escape war or poverty for example, are the ones that are being denied the access and being labelled as ‘illegal’.

Migration has been occurring for hundreds of years and the attempts from governments to try and stop it by tightening border security has not decreased it, but instead produced more illegal immigrants. This does suggest that we are in the midst of a ‘border crisis’ rather than the migrant crisis that is described in the media.


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