Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Getting to the Core of Crimmigration. Assessing the Role of Discretion in Managing Intra-Schengen Cross-Border Mobility

To what extent are there differences between countries in and outside the European Union and the Schengen area in the level of crimmigration, the merger between migration control and crime control, and to what extent can these differences be explained by the way in which state and non-state actors in these countries are making use of (in)formal discretion and (in)formal power structures to guide their response to cross border mobility?

2016 - 2021
Maartje van der Woude

This project is driven by growing concerns - among academics, NGO's but also practitioners and citizens - about the merger of crime control and immigration control, also known as 'crimmigration.' This merger is visible in public and political discourse, in policies and laws as well as in certain immigration or law enforcement practices. Immigrants, foreign nationals, ethnic and racial minorities, and poor people have tended to bear the brunt of this transformation. Mobility itself has been subject to criminalization as immigration violations have become subject to criminal law and criminal penalties rather than to administration law. The notion of borders is frequently discussed in the crimmigration literature. Scholars have pointed out that the merging field of crimmigration control functions as a clear gatekeeper in terms of membership and access. On the hand, this has resulted in borders seen as ‘being everywhere’ and a wide range of non-traditional social control agents becoming pulled into tasks of sorting out who belongs to a certain society and who does not  on the other hand physical borders seem to become again viewed as major tools of exclusion. 

Focusing on intra-Schengen border areas
The crimmigration debate is far from settled. Not only is it unclear what the role of discretion - the autonomy for state and non-state actors to use or not use the law - is in the process of crimmigration, academics also point to the diversity and variation within European societies about the nature, character, and meaning of migration control, especially as it intersects with traditional criminal justice forms. This project aims to contribute to a deeper understanding of the process of crimmigration, the forces and factors that drive it as well as the forces and factors that resist it. In doing so, the project focuses on the European Union and in particularly on the Schengen area and the intra-Schengen border areas: the geographical borders between two Schengen countries. Whereas the Schengen Area is supposed to be a borderless area, fuelled by growing fears and concerns about mass immigration and various forms of transnational crime such as trafficking and terrorism, the core principles of the European Project, free movement, human rights, and solidarity are increasingly being put to the test. In an attempt to re-claim their national sovereignty, several European countries have resorted to far-reaching measures to control the right to enter and remain within the national territory. Attempts and measures that have been both applauded and rejected by the people living in these countries.

Focusing on different communities
The project is composed of three different subprojects that each focus on a different 'community' playing a role in dealing with or responding to intra-Schengen cross-border mobility and the management thereof. One project focuses on the 'community' of local law enforcement officials (border guards etc.) and national policy makers that are responsible for the implementation and execution of the rules and regulations governing migration and cross-border mobilities. The second project focuses on actions taken by citizens and officials and in local border municipalities in response to European and national rules and legislations as well as their practical enforcement. Lastly, the synthesis project will focus, more so than subprojects 1 & 2, on the community of European and national legislators as well as the interactions between the different communities.

Mirroring & Mixed Methods
While being interested in border areas, zones around intra-Schengen borders, and the way in which the different communities mentioned above act within and affect the dynamics within these border areas, the project aims to always mirror the two border areas that are divided by an intra-Schengen border. By looking at, and to a certain extent comparing, two sides of the same intra-Schengen border, the impact of space and locality becomes even clearer. In studying the different border areas and different communities, the project will combine qualitative research methods (participant observation, interviewing, oral histories as well as the analysis of media, policy documents, laws and regulations) with quantitative research methods (two multi-sited surveys and the analysis of secondary data). Whereas there will be in depth ethnographic case studies of several border areas, all countries will be included the legal and policy analysis as well as in the surveys.

This combination of research methods and perspectives makes 'Getting to the Core of Crimmigration' a truly interdisciplinary research project.

The countries directly included in this project are: The Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Belgium, Austria and Norway. This brings a variety of Schengen/ Non-Schengen countries as well as EU/non-EU countries, which enables the possibility to look into the different political and legal dynamics as a result of this.

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