Creating Security through Immigration Control: An analysis of European immigration discourse and the development towards a common EU asylum and immigration policy


The purpose of this report is to discuss the extent to which immigration has come to be perceived as a security threat by European Union (EU) policy makers. The manner in which immigration issues are presented by policy makers at the European level is assumed to have substantive implications for the choice of instruments in the area. A second purpose is therefore to discuss the extent to which the development towards a common EU asylum and immigration policy can be interpreted as security policy strategy. Increased immigration during the last few decades has coincided with increasing unemployment and economic restructuring in Western Europe. The issue of immigration became increasingly sensitive in the late 1980s after the collapse of communism in Central and Eastern Europe, when a tide of illegal immigrants was expected to inundate the West. Today, images of ships loaded with refugees off the shores of Italy, or of trucks filled with illegal immigrants crossing the English Channel, have become disturbing, but no longer rare features of European newspaper headlines. The impression is that of Europe being ‘swamped’, and unable to deal with the hordes of people standing outside its gates wanting in.Since the aim of this report is to examine the change that has taken place in European perspectives on immigration, a study of political discourse will enable us to deconstruct a number of justificatory domains, which are supported by the members of the European policy community. The main hypothesis is that security considerations are clearly reflected in the establishment and development of asylum and immigration instruments following the Amsterdam programme. Another hypothesis is that the framing of immigration as a security threat has legitimised the introduction of objectives and instruments that have their origin in security policy. This is notably to be seen in the accession agreements with the Central and Eastern European applicant countries, as well in the so-called ‘partnership-agreements’ with immigrant countries of origin and transit. Having established the broader aim of this report, I propose two main and inter linked questions as the framework for the analysis: First: To what extent has the issue of asylum and immigration come to be seen as a security threat, and thus as a security matter at the EU level? Second: To what extent is the above question reflected in the objectives and instruments of the common EU asylum and immigration policy? Can the development towards a common EU asylum and immigration policy be called a security policy strategy?