The Meaning of Migration in Contemporary Politics

Sonmez Efe, Sureyya (2020) The Meaning of Migration in Contemporary Politics. In: The Big Walk: it takes a decade. The Justice Arts and Migration Network. ISBN 9781838067601

The Big Walk: it takes a decade
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Migration can be defined as internal or international movement of individuals within or across a state’s territorial borders. The act of migration transcends this simple definition and becomes a part of the political debate within a state’s jurisdiction. It is the state’s laws that attribute legal, social and cultural meanings to this act which decides on the status and rights of individuals on the move. The root cause of migration, in particular, is crucial for policymakers in the context of decision-making processes on the determination of the legitimacy of this act within a state’s policies. In contemporary politics, the act of migration is legally meaningful when the entry of migrants into a state’s territorial borders accords with the state’s immigration policies, that are unique for each state despite having many commonalities. The legal statuses of migrants take shape by an assessment of the root cause of migration coupled with the legal meanings attributed to this act.

The contemporary political debates increasingly put more emphasis on the ‘criminality’ of this act where the moral meaning of migration as being one of the ‘fundamental freedoms’ fades away. The security approach seem to be entrenched in states’ immigration policies which is marked by ‘detention centres’ inside and outside of the state borders. The securitisation of migration further politicises the freedom of movement with the risk of dehumanising the act of migration. Rather than being ‘individuals’ with unique stories, migrants arguably turn into mere “statistics”, “numbers” that need to be managed within policies. Migrant detention centres represent this type of contemporary policy approach which attributes negative connotation to the act of migration. An automatic categorisation of migrants as ‘them’ creates social configurations through the process of ‘othering’ which distinguishes insiders from outsiders, newcomers from residents, citizens from non-citizens, and members from non-members.

There is an urgent need for a positive attitude to the act of migration in contemporary politics in order to eradicate mental polarisations within a society. Artivism projects like the ‘Morton Hall Big Walk’ can raise awareness on the issues with migrant detention centres and question the policymakers’ attitudes towards the act of migration. The active participants of such projects can become norm entrepreneurs and shift this negative attitude to the meaning of the act of migration to a political change based on the principle of freedom of movement. This is only possible through an open dialogue in contemporary political platforms.

Keywords:migration, politics, freedom of movement, securitisation, activism
Subjects:L Social studies > L200 Politics
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Social & Political Sciences
ID Code:42374
Deposited On:28 Oct 2020 11:33

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