Governing Transit and Irregular Migration: Formal Policies and Informal Practices

International Workshop

9 November 2021 - non-public

This workshop was convened by Prof. Maria Koinova, University of Warwick and Prof. Volker Heins, University of Duisburg-Essen. Participants seeked to delve deeper into the governance of transit and irregular migration that occurs in both formal and informal ways. With growing migration movements across the globe, and states and supranational organizations developing new digital measures to control such migration during and after the Covid-19 pandemic, revisiting concepts and modes of governance becomes an imperative. This workshop wanted to move debates on transit and irregular migration beyond mobility, securitization and criticism to Euro-centric perspectives.

The emphasis here is to capture the conglomeration of formal policies and informal practices that co-exist and form governance architectures. Scholarship is well too eager to look mainly into official policies of governments, international organizations, and more recently NGOs, but not into the informal ways of governance that come by or together with non-state actors. Since transit and irregular migration occurs in many parts of the world where state institutions are weak and corruption is rampant, the actual governance may entail open and informal toleration also of non-state actors.

This workshop seeked to capture such varieties by including conversations about transit and irregular also regarding different world regions, whether through comparative case studies or from a regional perspective. The regional perspective on transit and irregular migration governance is still under-developed, as well as the understanding of how governance works when states have different capacities and operate under different political regimes. We need to revisit not simply the concepts of “transit migration”, “transit states” and “irregular migration,” but also to look more closely into how data could be collected in novel ways, and analyzed better to capture informal and regional dynamics.

The two overarching research questions for this workshop were:  How do formal policies and informal practices form jointly the governance of transit and irregular migration? How do they do so in different world regions?

Sub-questions included:

  • How do formal policies governing transit and irregular migration become implemented in practice? 
  • How does this implementation differ when states are strong or fragile?
  • How does it differ when they are embedded in countries with different political regimes (democratic, competitive authoritarian, authoritarian)?
  • What are the informal practices that govern transit and irregular migration?
  • Who are the actors associated with such informal practices?
  • How do policy-makers and actors associated with informal practices interact?
  • Are states differently implicated with informal practices than international organizations?
  • What is the role of experts in such governance?
  • Is there a role for migrants in the governing of their transit and irregular migration?
  • How does the digitalization of such governance affects formal and informal governance practices?

Professors Koinova and Heins plan to publish papers from this workshop in a journal special issue.

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