Special Issue

Heins, Volker M., van Riemsdijk, Micheline, and Marchand, Marianne H. (2021) (eds). New Actors and Contested Architectures in Global Migration Governance , Special Issue: Third World Quarterly, 42(1).


Koinova, Maria (2021). Diaspora Entrepreneurs and Contested States. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Governance of Migration

Policy Field Research

In the last decade, the global governance of migration has become a priority concern in many national and international debates. Chosen as a new policy field for the Centre’s research in 2018, studies undertaken by our research staff and fellows highlight how migration issues intersect and overlap with various economic, political, demographic, gender-related, humanitarian, environmental, and security aspects. More than in any other policy field, (seemingly) rational arguments are mixed with or influenced by emotionally charged narratives of hope and fear.

During a period marked by an increase in European-driven ‘migration partnerships’ with origin countries, the Centre’s research took a closer look at migration-related challenges that seem to require specific forms of cooperation among different actors. In a first step, the evolving global architectures, actors, and logics of the policy field were mapped out, with particular emphasis on its polycentric character. More detailed studies examined return and transit migration, before research moved on to focus on the rising numbers of refugees and the failure of the 1951 Refugee Convention. This failure was illustrated by mass detention, deportations, instances where refugees kept languishing in protracted exile, the enslavement of refugees in countries such as Libya, and the UNHCR  becoming the number one adjudicator of refugee status worldwide. Given that migration is often an effective way of reducing global income inequalities, discretionary control over state borders was identified as another key problem. The resulting challenges need to be addressed through more open border regimes and the easing of immigration requirements where immigration is beneficial for all parties involved. Attention was also given to the growing linkages between migration control and the control of crime, including the criminalization of ethical and legal assistance to migrants in public and political discourse, in policies and laws, and in specific immigration and law enforcement practices. In their quest for answers, researchers and fellows working on global migration governance collaborated closely with the UDE’s Interdisciplinary Centre for Integration and Migration Research (InZenTIM), the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities Essen (KWI), the University of Amsterdam, and the University of Warwick.

An important contribution of the Centre’s research was the analysis of discourses surrounding border closures as part of European migration policies that, through bilateral agreements with origin and transit countries, sought to limit the number of people applying for asylum in the European Union. Research revealed the often inhuman practices related to border control and refugee camps in receiving countries. This was complemented by the critical analysis of verbal and visual narratives crafted by right-wing populist parties.

The findings of the Centre’s research raise urgent questions about the normative desirability of effective global migration governance, especially in many instances where it produces material infrastructures, such as border and security regimes, that have dehumanizing effects. More than any other policy field being studied, global migration governance thus emphasizes the need for a critical review of how and by whom public problems are defined as well as what forms of global cooperation truly benefit whom.

Key publications:

  • Fakhoury, Tamirace and Mencütek, Zeynep Şahin (2023). ‘Geopolitics of Return Migration in the International System’, Special Issue: Geopolitics, 28(3): 959–978. 
  • Heins, Volker M. (2022) (ed). ‘Global Migration: Govern-ance and (Un)governability’, Special Issue: Global Cooperation Research – A Quarterly Magazine, 2022(4), available at: https://www.gcr21.org/de/publikationen/gcr/global-cooperation-quarterly/global-cooperation-re-search-4-/-2022).
  • Heins, Volker M. (2021). Offene Grenzen für alle: Eine notwendige Utopie, Hamburg: Hoffman und Campe.
  • Koinova, Maria (2024) (ed). ‘Governing Transit and Irregular Migration: Formal Policies and Informal Practices’, Special Issue: Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, forthcoming.
  • van Riemsdijk, Micheline, Marchand, Marianne. H. and Heins, Volker. M. (2021) (eds). ‘New Actors and Contested Architectures in Global Migration Governance’, Special Issue: Third World Quarterly, 42(1).