Registration of irregularised migrants in the EU in times of “crisis”

Research output: Book / Anthology / Report / Ph.D. thesisPh.D. thesis


Identification and registration of international migrants is one of the main
concerns and duties of border agencies around the world. They are at the core of
the set of the processes that constitute contemporary borders. The shaping,
maintenance and function of registration systems is a multi-factorial social
process that challenges and at the same time co-shapes what modern nation
borders are regarded to be in the modern era. International migration and more
specifically irregularised migration, in turn, challenges the traditional function of
a border as a firewall that either allows or blocks a person’s mobility. Thus, it is
often associated with discourses of security, order, national identity of the
receiving state, and humanitarianism. The discourse around migration and
borders is saturated with the presence of a number of categories that are widely
and unproblematically circulated without consideration of their ontological and
epistemological status which is often more complicated than it is presented.
Critical scholars from the fields of border and migration studies, surveillance
studies and Science and Technology Studies (STS) have challenged the
naturalization of those categories, as well as the invisibility of much of the
border related work that produces, maintains and circulates them.
This dissertation aims to contribute to the aforementioned body of work,
and at the same time participate in the recent debate around irregularised
migration and the border regime of the EU, as well as around the so-called
“migration crisis” originating in the spring of 2015. It does so, by critically
examining the social processes that constitute what is the identification and
registration of irregularised migrants in the external borders EU, with an
ethnographical focus on the Greek islands situated in the maritime borders
between Greece and Turkey. Furthermore, by constructing a genealogy of the
Dublin system, consisting of the Dublin Regulation and the EURODAC Regulation, the latter being the main Information Communication Technology (ICT) tool
used in the EU for the administration of asylum applications and the governance
of asylum seekers and other irregularised migrants.
Conducting ethnographic fieldwork with the actors that work on
identification and registration of irregularised migrants is a chance for a deeper
understanding of their practices, their technological and discursive tools, their
own conceptualization of their work and position in the border regime of the EU.
In addition, it allows the researcher a direct (to the possible extent) access in the
process of construction of categorization schemes and their reification in
manageable data that are crucial for the governance of the migrant populations.
Furthermore, the research method of interviews allows for the re-addressing
and further examination of controversies and “anomalies” that come up during
fieldwork. Finally, critical reading of policy papers is the base for the
construction of a genealogy of registration systems that in turn helps in the
conceptualizing of contemporary practices. These practices, I argue are not
exclusively about discovering a well hidden truth, but also about shaping it; not
only about revealing a migrant’s identity, but also and perhaps more importantly
about constructing and attributing it.
Border and migration related policies have an ambiguous relationship
with the practices of actors in the field. They dictate and determine them but the
level difference renders them two distinct realities. Policy papers and state
strategies mean nothing outside their actual implementation by field workers.
The complexity of both levels, as well as that of the relationship between them,
the organizational structure of the EU, and the different practices and policies
developed in domestic level in each Member state render universal accounts of
the “EU’s borders” an impossible task. Instead, geographically localized, and
politically and contextually situated accounts can capture instances of the
complex phenomena that is border work. And that is a purpose in which the
present thesis ascribes itself.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherIT-Universitetet i København
Number of pages239
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Cite this