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Fresh thinking needed to tackle ‘crimmigration’

EU researchers have suggested that Europe should re-examine current punitive migration control measures and ensure the judicial rights of migrants.

In addition to dealing with the current migration crisis, many European countries now have large numbers of foreign citizens among their prison populations – in some countries reaching over 50 % – and operate extensive detention facilities for immigrants. All this has contributed to a progressive intertwining and merging of crime control and migration control practices in Europe. The EU-funded CRIMMIGRATION project was launched in 2011 in order to analyse the impact that this growing emphasis on migration control is having on criminal justice agencies such as the police, prisons and detention facilities. For example, is the focus on punishment and reintegration of offenders gradually being replaced by a focus on diversion, immobilisation and deportation? ‘Novel forms of punishment and new rationalities of social control have emerged, a phenomenon that could be termed ‘crimmigration’ control,’ explains project coordinator Katja Franko from the University of Oslo in Norway. ‘In the course of this project we discovered how important deportation has become, particularly in certain countries such as Norway, and how criminal law is increasingly being used for the purpose of border control.’ Franko believes that new legal, organisational and normative responses are required to address this recent phenomenon. ‘More awareness is needed of the punitive aspects of migration control measures – such as for example immigration detention and deportation – and the related need to provide procedural rights and legal aid to the affected populations,’ she says. ‘We also need new ways of thinking about who is the subject of rights and protection in European countries.’ Franko adds that policing agencies also need to see immigrants as equally important subjects for protection as EU citizens. ‘This is why we suggest, among other things, a need for systematic counting of migrant mortality at the EU’s external borders.’ In order to achieve its objectives, the project began by carrying out a series of ethnographic studies, interviews and analyses of legal and policy documents concerning the policing of EU borders, immigration detention facilities, prisons and deportation practices. Key research findings confirmed the project team’s original hypothesis that mass migration is having a major impact on crime control practices and overall penal cultures in Europe. Much of this valuable research has since been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals; the project’s article on the EU border control agency Frontex, for example received the British Journal of Criminology Radzinowicz Prize for 2015. In addition however, a key priority throughout the five year project has been to encourage the active engagement of citizens on this issue. ‘We thought it important to actively engage with, and communicate our research to, the general public and policymakers in light of the migration crisis in Europe,’ says Franko. ‘We therefore produced a series of opinion pieces in newspapers, made presentations to relevant government departments and organised not only scientific seminars and conferences but also events open to the general public.’ The CRIMMIGRATION project, which was officially completed in March 2016, has therefore made an important contribution to better understanding how police and criminal justice institutions currently deal with the highly topical issue of migrants and migration. For further information please visit: project coordinator website

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Norway

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