This panel aims to contribute to understandings of how migration governance is being shaped by a ‘crisis’ discourse. We take the Covid-19 pandemic as the latest ‘crisis’ shaping migration governance and we focus on South-East Europe (SEE). Focus on this region stems from its geopolitical importance, especially since the ‘migrant crisis’ of 2015-16, which transformed its positioning in relation to European migration governance. Dynamic migration patterns have made SEE countries, to a varying extent, countries of origin, transit and destination. The Western Balkan countries experienced significant change, becoming one of the most populated migration routes into the EU. They constitute simultaneously the border along the EU, and the buffer zone between Greece and Western Europe. Greece, meanwhile, has experienced its own transformation, from a transit to a (temporary) destination front-line state. Significant numbers of migrants, therefore, are currently stranded in the Western Balkans and Greece, and in the time of Covid-19 they have become further subject to logic of ‘crisis’ management.
The panel comprehensively examines the “crisis” management through policy, media and behavioural lenses, and as related to different groups of migrants (irregular, regular and returnees). By interrogating intersections between migration, health, security and economic development, the panellists consider the impact of Covid-19 on different aspects of migration governance, such as border control, domestic sociopolitical parameters that have been steering decision making toward securitization of migration policies toward further “campization” of migrants as well as the patterns of interpretation of migration issues found in the media. Beside the governmental, media and NGO role, the panel will provide insight into the intentions of Covid-19 triggered returnees in regard to permanently settling in their home country and potential solutions to mitigate emigration flows from the region.
Migration governance in the time of Covid-19: ‘crisis’ management in South-East Europe
Majella Kilkey (University of Sheffield, UK)
Rebecca Murray (University of Sheffield, UK)
Aneta Piekut (University of Sheffield, UK)
Ryan Powell (University of Sheffield, UK)
Across Europe, migration, asylum and refugee policies have increasingly become subject to the logic of ‘crisis’ management.Governmental and media discourseshave framed various events as ‘crises’, and have governed with a rationale of “managing the ‘crisis’”. In this paper, we take the Covid-19 pandemic as the latest manifestation of this process focusing on South East Europe. This is a region, which since constituting the ‘Balkan corridor’ in 2015-16, has come to occupy a particular, albeit internally differentiated, positioning in relation to European migration governance. Drawing on data accumulated in the course of two European-funded projects – MIGRATE (2016-19) and MIGREC (2019-21) - and informed by a burgeoning scholarship on the intersection between ‘crisis’ and migration governance, we interrogate what the ‘crisis’ framing of Covid-19 has entailed for migration policy across the region. We find that policy responses, to some extent, have built upon pre-existing cognitive frames and practices, highlighting the enfolding of ‘crisis’ one within another, as well as the mutually reinforcing relationship between ‘crisis’ and ‘routine’ (Jeandesboz and Pallister-Wilkins 2016). Moreover, policy responses have been largely instrumental and ad hoc, seeking to find a solution to the immediate ‘problem’. The ‘crisis’ frame, therefore, works to conceal underlying systemic problems within migration policy, and fails to embed deeper social and political change (Tagliacozzo et al. 2020).
The impact of COVID-19 on policy responses to the ‘migrant crisis’ in Greece in the first year of the pandemic (2020-2021)
Alexandra Prodromidou (International Faculty of the University of Sheffield-CITY College/South-East European Research Centre (SEERC) )
Faye Ververidou (South-East European Research Centre (SEERC))
The paper adopts a framework of multiple crises in the EU periphery, which reenact each other. The combination of a prolonged period of strict economic austerity measures, political and social turmoil dating back to 2010, had left the country severely unable to deal with the influx of irregular migrants, whose numbers peaked in 2015. The Greek handling of the ‘migrant crisis’ has been conducted within the framework of the EU policies and responses, exposing gaps in EU migration and asylum policies and the securitization tendencies both at the national and the EU policy formation level. The COVID-19 pandemic reduced significantly the influx of migrants, while it created an urgency for speeding up processes for access to housing and to health services for migrants already in Greece, a group described as a ‘health time bomb’ because of the living conditions they have been subject to. This paper argues that during the pandemic Greece’s migration governance is being conducted as a two-speed process. On the one hand restrictive measures are causing severe disruptions in an already sluggish asylum and integration system, while at the same time the urgent need to depressurize camps allows for policies formulated even before the break out of the pandemic, which expose migrants to even more vulnerability, like allocation of housing to asylum seekers and speedy eviction of recognized refugees from them. As a result, in the absence of an effective integration system, populations of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees remain vulnerable socially, economically and physically.
COVID-19 and migration in the public spheres of Greece and North Macedonia: agenda setting and (re-) framing in the context of the pandemic (2020)
Ioannis Armakolas (University of Macedonia,Thessaloniki, Greece/Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy)
Panagiotis Paschalidis (University of Western Macedonia, Greece)
Ognjan Denkovski (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands )
This paper will study the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the dominant patterns of interpretation (frames and agenda setting) of migration issues in the public sphere of Greece and North Macedonia, two countries of the ‘Balkan corridor’. Previous studies (Bosilkov and Drakaki, 2018) have demonstrated the presence of two major frames, security and humanitarianism, with the first being more dominant. According to the literature, this trend applies to many countries in Europe. One has to expect either continuity (security rather than humanitarianism, deprioritization in the agenda) or a modification with bigger emphasis on humanitarianism, solidarity and integration. This paper will provide a qualitative discourse analysis of opinion papers (op-eds and editorials) from various media sources (print and digital) in Greece and North Macedonia. It will also draw upon framing and priming theories in order to analyze the basic frames applied by the media to migration issues and also to determine the effects of their agenda setting during most part of 2020. The paper will also include an analysis of discourse on social media platforms (i.e. Facebook and Twitter). This analysis will include aggregate summaries of the views of citizens expressed in response to news content and political statements related to migration issues as shared on social media, as well as an overview of the popularity (engagement rates) of this content. These insights will be used to determine the impact of the identified media framing of migration among citizens in Greece and North Macedonia.
Encampment and marginalization of irregular migrants as a policy response to COVID-19 along the Balkan route
Natalija Perišić (University of Belgrade, Faculty of Political Science, Serbia )
Dragana Stoeckel (University of Belgrade, Faculty of Political Science, Serbia, )
Nermin Oruc (Center for Development Evaluation and Social Science Research, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina)
The Balkan migration route witnessed a transit of almost a million of irregular migrants during the migration “crisis”, reaching its peak in 2015. With the closure of the route in March 2016, the number of migrants has been decreasing but the length of their stay has prolonged. The COVID-19 crisis which has been affecting the countries along the route as of the beginning of March 2020 disabled migrants’ transit and resulted in their encampment.
Within the overall context of the impact of COVID-19 on irregular migrants in the countries along the Balkan Route, the paper is focused on Serbian and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s government measures targeted at irregular migrants from the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. The authors analyze the regulation of their life in the camps and effectuation of rights to services in the two countries. They also analyse the roles of the public and the civil sector organizations, both international and national, and their contribution to the welfare of migrants in the camps in the changed reality.
By looking into intersections of health, migration and security concerns, the authors argue that the implemented measures contributed to further marginalization of irregular migrants in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina and at the same time, made many of the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration objectives irrelevant for policy makers in those countries during pandemic upheaval. The methodological approach deployed is the review of regulations and interviews with stakeholders in the field from the public and civil sectors.
Returnees in Serbia in times of COVID-19
Danica Šantić University of Belgrade, Faculty of Geography, Serbia
Milica Todorović PhD candidate, University of Belgrade, Faculty of Geography, Serbia
Vlasta Kokotović Kanazir Geographical institute "Jovan Cvijić", SASA, Serbia
The COVID-19 pandemic has created extraordinary and unprecedented challenges to societies worldwide, having a serious economic and social impact on origin, transit and destination countries, as well as on the migrant workers and their families. Impact of the virus on economic activity, in line with restrictive measures such as lockdowns and travel bans, enacted in an attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19, have triggered large flows of returnees and repatriates. The Republic of Serbia was no exception to these occurrences as a traditionally emigration country. According to the official data, only in March 2020 more than 300.000 people returned to Serbia due to the pandemic. The research was conducted in Serbia in order to gather information on the impact of the pandemic on Serbian diaspora, the key reasons for returning home, intentions for permanently settling in the country of origin, highlighting the drivers that would influence that decision. Data was collected from a total of 336 respondents to an online survey during the period 25th September – 20th October 2020. The purpose of information gathering was to provide an opportunity for better understanding the reasons for outward migration, characteristics of life abroad, as well as the insight into potential systematic solutions to mitigate permanent emigration flows. This paper is looking into more depth not only at individual level, but also community and institutional levels, thus being able to propose an evidence-based integrated response. This response could have positive effects for demographic and economic development of the state and society as a whole.
SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Mobility Research Group
University of Belgrade, Serbia
University of Sheffield
University of Sheffield
University of Sheffield, UK
University of Sheffield, UK
CITY College, University of York Europe Campus
University of Sheffield
University of Macedonia,Thessaloniki, Greece/Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy
University of Western Macedonia, Greece
University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
University of Belgrade
University of Belgade
Vlasta Kokotović Kanazir
Geographical institute "Jovan Cvijić", SASA, Serbia