Reports about global criminal networks taking over clandestine routes have stoked fears about irregular migration becoming a breeding ground for transnational crime, such as human trafficking, human smuggling, and drug trafficking. Research on the topic has mushroomed over the last decade, but the actual interaction between these crimes and irregular migration remains under-explored and under-theorised. A simple explanation of the so-called “crime-migration nexus” comes from mainstream academic and policy writing on what is conventionally called “transnational organised crime”. Studies have argued that omnipotent criminal conglomerates have systematically enslaved vulnerable migrants, and the relationship between migrants and criminal actors tends to be subsumed under the catch-all category of “modern slavery”. In this framework, interactions are characterised primarily by their non-consensual nature. However, critical scholars have challenged this approach on empirical, epistemological and methodological grounds, revealing the core processes and structures that lead to crime and exploitation. All critiques converge on one core point: if we are currently witnessing an overlap of transnational crime with irregular migration, this is largely due to states imposing increasingly restrictive migration policies. They create a breeding ground for transnational crime by exacerbating migrants’ vulnerability to exploitation, forcing them into crime for survival and creating the need for clandestine mobility services.
Nevertheless, the way irregular migrants interact with transnational crime and implications in terms of both migratory trajectories and crime formation remain a black box. If it is correct to claim that immigration policies and technologies produce illegality as critical scholarship does, then it is necessary to understand how migrants themselves participate in this process. Yet we still know very little about the participation of migrants in transnational crime and how this affects their journeys, experiences and expectations. Most importantly, what we lack is a systematic theorisation of the participation of migrants in transnational crime.
This workshop will be the first event to critically address the complex social and cultural dynamics underlying the encounter between transnational crime and irregular migration. It will generate unique insights into how this encounter reshapes social categories and social formations, alters the lived experience of mobility, and creates new horizons of actions and spheres of possibility amongst irregular migrants. In so doing, this event seeks to energise a body of scholarship that, despite its importance in present global population flows, has remained silent amidst the onslaught of monolithic narratives of tragedy and despair. This workshop aims to overcome fragmented, one-sided perspectives on the socio-cultural dynamics of the migratory journey, by redirecting attention to the relationships between mobility facilitators, migrants and related community dimensions. Mapping the political economy of mobility, the workshop will draw together a collective of mobility and crime by problematising simplistic generalisations and representations connected to the interaction of migration with transnational criminal phenomena. Instead of relying on state-centred narratives on human smuggling/ trafficking and other forms of transnational organised crime, this workshop seeks to develop actor-centred understandings for why, where, when and how unsanctioned border crossings appear to scrutinise widespread assumptions on clandestinity, resistance to global apartheid, solidarity and loss of (state) control.
Potential workshop sessions seek to cover the following topics:
- Moral and political economies behind migrants’ interaction with human smuggling and other forms of transnational crime.
- Comparative and historical perspectives on the facilitation of irregular migration, particularly the shifts and rifts in philosophical, ethical and moral dimensions that underline state approaches and public opinion.
- Labour aspects within the smuggling/trafficking industry: Are there any victims beyond “modern day slaves”?
- Race, class, gender, age and demographic shifts as manifested in practices of facilitating irregular migration and related research.
- Role of stakeholders in combatting/ preventing/ punishing irregular migration and related transnational crime (e.g. IOM,UNODC,Frontex,CBP,ICE).
- Global migration governance and domestic law initiatives on anti-people smuggling/trafficking measures, particularly on the ground law enforcement and prevention campaigns (e.g. risks, side-effects and consequences).
- Etiology of violence and victimization in irregular migration.
- New approaches in theory and methods in research on transnational crime and mobility, and their implications and critiques (particularly big data, new technology and digitalized research).
- Irregular migration, profitability and formal/informal sectors.
- Trans-local/trans-regional/global patterns in the interaction between irregular migration and transnational crime: Learning from comparative case studies/new migration corridors?
- Alleged and actual entanglements of irregular migration with transnational crime.
The workshop will be held on 11 July—13 July 2022 at Bielefeld University in Germany.
If you are interested in participating in this workshop, please send us an abstract (300 words) and a mini-bio (100 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org by 3 October 2021. Selected participants will be informed by mid-October 2021. The conference organisers will apply for funding to reimburse travel expenditures and accommodation for active presenters and discussants.
We very much welcome applications from junior scholars, including PhD candidates and academics from the Global South.