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date: 20 April 2018

Global and Regional Cooperation on Migration

Summary and Keywords

The problem of international migration is that global cooperation is somewhat rare. If international cooperation is to develop, then it will depend on states; but effective cooperation would also impose real constraints on states. Moreover, as states and their borders give meaning to international migration, it follows that the development, consolidation, and transformation of the state system is a key factor determining the possibilities for the global and regional governance of migration to develop. Existing forms of regional integration and their migration provisions as well as regional consultation processes (RCPs) can serve as a mechanism for intraregional communication, the sharing of knowledge, and for the dissemination of policy ideas and practices. The EU has already been discussed as the world’s most highly developed form of regional integration. It is the only international organization with the power and capacity to make and implement laws through its own institutional system that must be implemented by member states. The EU moreover has a highly developed system of internal free movement for nationals of its own states and has developed a border-free travel area for participating states. These developments constitute the hallmark of a highly developed intra-EU migration framework linked to the creation of the “single market.”

Keywords: international migration, global and regional cooperation, global and regional governance, regional integration, bottom-up approaches, international cooperation, free movement, border-free travel

Introduction

This essay analyses global and regional cooperation on international migration or, more accurately, seeks to account for the patchwork of measures encompassing various but not all forms of migration, and that include a range of states aligned both regionally and internationally. This patchwork could be seen as an attempt at international level to make sense of the complex human material that comprises international population movement and as providing constructive potential for further development. Or, alternatively, it could be seen as a mish mash of measures and instruments that, where they do exist, tend to further the interests of the major immigrant-receiving states, neglect the interests of migrants, and fail to address in a serious manner the important dilemmas raised by international migration in its various forms.

The time frame for this essay is largely the period since the end of the Cold War since when there has been a sharp increase in global migration flows with dramatic changes to the broader geopolitical frame that underpin new international migration dynamics. This post–Cold War period since 1989 is characterized by the end of bipolarity, the development of regionalism, and the removal of the Cold War as a security anchor. These constitute the subtext for the analysis that follows.

The essay is organized into five sections. The first section discusses ideas, concepts, and practices that are central to debates about the global and regional governance of migration. It shows how analysis of international migration necessarily involves making connections between the national, the regional, and the global and thus requires that analytical distinctions be made between them. It also draws into view a range of associated issues such as trade, aid, development, peace, and security that have strong links to international migration. This is followed by a section that explores what can be called “top down” or state-driven approaches to global or international governance of migration. A section then analyses “bottom–up” approaches to the global governance of migration. The essay then shifts its analytical focus to explore various manifestations of regional governance and their migration provisions. It follows this with analysis of the European Union (EU) and asks whether lessons can be learnt from the European experience of regionalized migration governance.

The argument is that, while international migration is classically “internalized” by states as a domestic issue, there is clear international resonance of population movements that cross state borders and some international instruments and organizations that address them. As Aleinikoff (1992:2) puts it, “There is both more and less international law than might be supposed. For example, there is an extensive international legal framework related to refugee and asylum-seekers, trafficking and smuggling but far less for economic and family migration and nationality law.” There remain, however, complex, competing and, at times, contradictory interests that make comprehensive international agreement seem like a distant prospect. This leaves a partial and differentiated framework: partial in the sense that it tends to cover groups of states and differentiated in the sense that it covers particular types of migration. That said, this partial and differentiated framework may also create some opportunities at regional and international level for the development and transfer of ideas, practices, and, in some instances, more binding institutional settings about and for migration management.

Making Connections: States, Regions and Global Governance

The basic problem can be simply stated: there does not seem to be very much global cooperation on migration. If international cooperation is to develop then it will depend on states; but effective cooperation would also impose real constrains on states. This reliance on states and state-driven action would not be too much of a problem if the prevailing national logics of border control and security were seen as the best and most efficient way of dealing with international migration. If, however, these national logics are seen as insufficient in the face of complex, global flows with their roots in substantial international inequalities then the absence of effective forms of global cooperation on international migration is indeed a problem.

International migration is fluid, complex, and involves diverse, changing motives for movement enabled or constrained by a range of public and private actors. Moreover, the migration category within which individuals are located may change over time, so for example, a person may enter to study, stay on to work, and then wish to be joined by family members. If a global migration framework were to be comprehensive then it could include labor migration (higher and lower skilled, temporary and permanent, plus the many permutations in between), asylum seekers, refugees, displaced people, family migrants, illegal immigration, people smuggling, and human trafficking. It would need to include migrant-sending, destination, and transit countries and presumably reflect their varying – and far from compatible – interests. Indeed, perceptions of interests may differ by policy type (Freeman 2006). It would also need to include consideration of linkages to other issues, such as trade, aid, development, peace, and security. Alongside the formal interventions of state and international authorities, there are private actors operating either legally (e.g., travel agents) or illegally (e.g., smugglers), who may focus on new and innovative ways for their clients to usurp state controls.

International migration is, as Heisler (1992) notes, simultaneously an international and societal issue and must be understood across those levels. It also resides along what Rosenau (1997:4) calls the “domestic–foreign frontier” where:

The international system is less commanding, but still powerful. States are changing, but they are not disappearing. State sovereignty has been eroded, but it is still vigorously asserted. Governments are weaker, but they can still throw their weight around. At certain times publics are more demanding, but at other times they are more pliable. Borders still keep out intruders, but at other times they are more porous.

While it is unlikely that states can “control” international migration in the strong sense of that word, the more relevant and interesting question may well be the extent of their regulatory capacity. Sassen (1996:59) refers to the “old splendor” of immigration controls, implying that they are out-of-date, ineffective, and largely symbolic. Does this then mean that states have “lost control”? If they have then this would be a serious development because it could imply that they have, in an important sense, ceased to be states because controlling territorial access is a core “use” of sovereignty (Krasner 1999). States do, of course, come in many different shapes and forms, but the interests in regulating migration of the major receiving states in North America, Europe, and Australasia continue to play a key role in influencing the shape, form, and limits of regional and global migration governance. Put succinctly, the issue that major immigrant-receiving states face – and that they impose on migrants and sending states through their policies – is how high to build the walls to exclude “unwanted” migrants and how wide to open the doors to let in those migrants that they see as “wanted” (an analogy made by Zolberg 1989).

The functioning of states as pillars of the international migration system requires consideration of the links between migration politics within states and migration politics between states, i.e. to connect the national, regional, and global. Politics within states center on the meaning, definition, and contestation of territorial and organizational borders and boundaries (Geddes 2006). Furthermore, it has been argued that variations in policy type (labor migration, asylum, family migration) make an important difference to forms of migration politics within states because of the different distribution of costs and benefits across policy types (Freeman 2006). Consequently, international migration becomes visible at state level through its interaction with borders and boundaries. International migration resonates as an issue between states because of the clear interdependencies it both represents and induces. As an international issue, migration is strongly driven by global inequalities, conflict, and ecological factors, and attendant imbalances in distributions of power and resources between states. While the issues clearly resonate at global level, the meaning of the global remains unclear and patterns of global governance remain partial. A very real, pressing, and important dilemma is that the distribution of costs and benefits and winners and losers varies within and between states. In a situation where there are competing and conflicting interest it may well be difficult to integrate “talk,” “decision,” and ”action” in domestic international governance (Brunsson 2003). At international level, the emphasis still remains squarely on the “talk” phase of the policy process with some efforts made to move beyond this and to think about how/whether more effective decision making structures could be established at regional and global level. This then leaves the rather important issue of “action” or implementation in systems of international governance. Before moving on to explore more specific forms of cooperation, it is necessary to consider underlying concepts of globalization, global governance, and regional governance.

Globalization in its various incarnations as an institution, a process, a discursive practice, or as an imaginary (Sassen 2007:3) also looms large over any discussion of international migration (see also Harris 1995; Sassen 1996; Papastergiadis 2000; Urry 2000; 2007; Castles 2003b; Moses 2007). The Global Commission on International Migration (GCIM 2005) intoned that “the world has been transformed by the process of globalization” (p. 1) and that “International migration has risen to the top of the global policy agenda” (p. vii). The GCIM then uses this insight to argue, among other things, for better coordination between states and strengthened institutions at regional and international level because of “an understanding that the economic, social and cultural benefits of international migration must be more effectively realized, and that the negative consequences of cross-border movement could be better addressed” (p. vii).

In all the excitement about globalization, the challenges that it poses, and the accompanying quest for the “new” and the “transformatory,” there is the risk of neglecting elements of continuity and persistence. Drezner (2007:3) cautions that “‘globalization’ has been responsible for a lot of bad international relations theory” and argues that states matter and that the US and European powers still retain formidable capacity to shape the rules of the international system rather than simply being shaped by them. Mann (2000) also warns against the excesses of some work on globalization and its rush to throw established tenets out of the window and leave us only with “globaloney.”

There does tend to be within much of the academic literature on international migration a normatively liberal, progressive, and largely pro-international predisposition informed by the views that (1) there are substantial costs imposed by the national logics that inform current systems of immigration control and (2) international solutions would be more efficient and/or progressive.

The belief that “another world is possible” encompasses advocates of open borders who ask us to imagine the world in radically different ways where international migration as an artifact of states and their borders ceases to exist. A new global openness to international migration has been seen as globalization’s “last frontier” (Moses 2007) for a world not fully reconciled to the “logic” of globalization. Open borders advocates such as Harris (1995) and Moses (2007) identify the essential iniquity of systems of borders and immigration controls that distinguish between people on the basis of birthplace to fundamentally structure life chances while imposing massive constraints on the ability of those from poorer parts of the world to move to richer countries and for the economic benefits of free movement to be realized (see also Pécoud and de Guchteneire 2005). If this logic were to be followed then it would imply efforts to secure global free movement and a wholesale paradigm shift. “Open borders” would mean the end of international migration because, if state borders ceased to exist, then there would no longer be such a thing as international migration; there would be global free movement (and perhaps then new ways to classify and categorize mobile populations?).

While not adopting the “no borders” frame, others point to the vast costs (economic, social, cultural, political, and human) of control-oriented policies and argue that the basic assumptions can be turned on their head and a much more liberal regime of free movement established with stronger international organizations that would bring benefits to sending and receiving states and increase global net wealth (Bhagwati 1998; Ghosh 2000; Johnson 2007). The issue then is not how to sweep away borders, but to build more effective and just international institutions to regulate international migration in all its diversity.

At global level, there is no lack of proposals for the creation of everything from informal global migration regimes built from “bottom–up” global governance to more formal international organizations. These include proposals for a New International Regime for the Orderly Movements of People (Ghosh 2000); General Agreement on Movements of People (Straubhaar 2000); General Agreement on Migration and Refugee Policy (Harris 1995); Global Agreement on Movement of People (Veenkamp et al. 2003); World Migration Organization (advocated by both Bhagwati 1998 and Helton 2003); and General Agreement on Migration, Mobility and Security (Koslowski 2004).

Miller (2000) argues that, if there is a nascent international regime, then it is centered on the Euro-Atlantic area and has been squarely centered on security concerns that intensified post–9/11, but were also present before then. Koslowski (2004:4) argues that the US should adopt a more orderly and screened migration to help border authorities focus their attention on those travelers who pose the greatest threat. Johnson (2007) argues that the continual ratcheting-up of the control/security framework in the US actually makes it more difficult to target those who may pose the greatest threat while greatly increasing the costs and inconveniencing large numbers of those who want to travel for entirely legitimate reasons.

It is the strand of work that seeks a new global or international framework rather than the removal of state borders with which this essay engages more extensively, not least because the state system does not seem about to wither away any time soon, which means that the more intriguing analytical issue may well center on interplay between state, regional, and international levels and the possibility for new forms of international action to occur in an issue area where one might suppose national constraints to be real and powerful. Moreover, these constraints may not operate only in major immigrant-receiving states. Writing in the context of regional integration in the Caribbean, but with clear relevance for other parts of the world, Payne (2008:284) notes that:

The countries of the Commonwealth Caribbean are no doubt different in many ways from those of East and West Africa, Central and South America and the different sub-regions of Asia; but they do have in common one very important characteristic – namely an attachment to the concept of the independent nation state that sits increasingly uneasily with the capacity of that state to meet the demands placed upon it.

This highlights the dilemma that states face when deciding whether or not to cede competencies in areas that, to some extent, help to define them as states (such as the right to enter state territory) but where there are concerns about both their capacity to act and the consequences of action in an issue area where interdependencies are so clear.

A global response can be taken to mean patterns of politics that move beyond linkages between separate societies to the reorganization of political responses to migration at an international or global level with a significant transnational dimension. This could be called the global governance of migration and would mark a radical departure from the current state-of-play where “national logics” tend to prevail (Castles 2003b). Global governance is an elusive concept, but has been understood as “the sum of many ways [by which] individuals and institutions, public and private, manage their common affairs. It is a continuing process through which conflicting or diverse interests may be accommodated and cooperative action taken” (United Nations Commission on Global Governance 1995). Global governance necessarily involves multiple actors drawn from the public and private sectors organized across a variety of levels of governance. It is thus multi-actor, multilevel, and multidimensional and, as such, can also be amorphous and lack specificity.

The “regional” can also be understood as involving multiple actors, levels, and dimensions but, pace Hurrell (1997:38), is seen as “anything less than global.” More specifically, regional cooperation tends to be based on geographical proximity that generates some sense of shared fate and that underpins patterns of cooperation and/or integration on a range of issues that might include migration. The most developed form of regional integration is the EU. Is the EU an exception borne of particular circumstances and unlikely to be repeated? Perhaps it is a template for emergent patterns of regional governance? It could also be an example of how initial steps toward cooperation and integration induce broader dynamics that impel further development. We explore these issues more closely later in the essay.

If global governance were to exist in the area of international migration then perhaps it is best seen in the array of international migration organizations (IMOs). These IMOs differ in the scope of their mandate and their capacity to act. In addition, there are international organizations that do not deal specifically with migration, but have migration-related competencies. There is, for example, no dedicated UN migration agency, but responsibility for migration can be found in the International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). There are also other international organizations with some migration remit, such as the negotiation role played by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and its General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS) and within operational agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO). The World Bank has also developed more interest in migration, particularly regarding the development impact of migrant remittances and “brain drain” (World Bank 2005). Finally, there are a range of issue-specific IMOs, which include the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and service providers such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD). IOM is the largest intergovernmental organization with migration responsibility. It is a service provider for national governments set up in 1951 to help with refugee resettlement. It is now present in around 100 countries and is responsible for organizing transfers of migrants and refugees, helping with migrant admission processes and voluntary return programmers, and providing data, information, research, and resources (Newland 2005).

There is diversity too within these IMOs with IOM in more of a service role while UNHCR has developed over time a powerful mandate as the UN body charged with ensuring respect for international standards related to the protection of the rights of the stateless and displaced. UNHCR was created by the 1951 Geneva Convention on the rights of stateless people. It was initially given a 3-year mandate to deal with the disruptive consequences in Europe of World War II. Its mandate has since been extended and geographically expanded. Its main concerns are protection, the search for durable solutions, and population displacement. Barnett and Finnemore (2004:73) note that the UNHCR has capitalized on world events and used its authority to expand the groups of people it assists and the kinds of assistance it provides. UNHCR possesses both moral authority and expertise. Barnett and Finnemore (2004:105–18) show that the UNHCR has helped to expand the category of protection, but they also argue that, from the early 1980s, a “repatriation culture” began to develop within UNHCR that challenged the fundamental principle of non-refoulement with a move from exilic bias to one in favor of repatriation. They argue that this was not simply a response to state pressures or increased numbers of asylum seekers, but also indicative of the development of a “repatriation culture” in UNHCR. Barnett and Finnemore (2004) use UNHCR as an example of an international organization able to shape its own mandate and acquire some autonomy based, in this case, on expertise and moral authority.

There is a range of IMOs that deals with migration as either a core or more peripheral aspect of their responsibility. This also requires that we think about the nature and character of these IMOS qua international regimes. In formal terms, international regimes can be defined as principles, norms, rules, and decision making procedures around which actors’ expectations converge in a given issue area to enhance the provision of public goods, and override collective action problems (Krasner 1983:1). While there is a rich and abundant literature exploring regime formation and development in areas of international politics such as security and trade, there has been less application to the analysis of international migration (for an exception, see Meyers 2002). The issue-structural model developed by Keohane and Nye (1977) offers a particularly useful explanation for the relative absence of migration. It is founded on the premise that stronger states will dominate the weaker ones and play a key role in determining the rules of the game. This may help explain both the shape and content of much international cooperation on migration, particularly on labor migration, where international cooperation remains weak. Within the framework of GATS, Mode 4 does provide for mobility of service providers who are natural persons with the aim being that governments facilitate access to those seeking to live and work in another country. In effect this is a facility for higher skilled migration.

State-Driven International Cooperation

As states and their borders give meaning to international migration, it follows that the development, consolidation, and transformation of the state system is a key factor determining the possibilities for the global and regional governance of migration to develop. We can then think about the context that shapes the behavior of states and drives the demand for global and regional cooperation. The “demand” side of the market has unquestionably been impelled by the terrorist attacks on places such as New York, Washington, London, Madrid, and Bali in the 2000s and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But this determines neither the shape, the form, nor the content of action. The US has shown little appetite for international cooperation on migration (at least during the 2000–2008 Bush presidencies). US cooperation with Canada and the EU on issues such as flight passenger information and biometric identifiers do provide examples of the security-driven rationale for such action, but US action was driven by a domestic “homeland security” logic post–9/11 (Koslowski 2004).

More generally, the “demand side” of the market for international cooperation has been driven by post–Cold War reordering, attendant insecurities, and their intensification following terrorist attacks, but there is a supply side to this marketplace too, driven by the role and activities of agencies and actors involved in the migration field and, in particular, the framing of migration as a security concern (Wæver et al. 1993). Indeed, it has been shown that concerns about border security and population control predate terror attacks in Europe and the end of the Cold War in Europe, Australasia, and North America (Nevins 2002; Castles 2003a; Walker 2004). The identification of a supply side also implies that we need to pay some attention to the actors that populate this field, the interests they seek to represent, the arguments they make, and how interplay between a varied cast of state actors, NGOs, regional actors, INGOs, and international organizations plays out at regional and global level. Here we see interplay between security, economics, development, and human rights “frames” that all provide alternative ways of perceiving and organizing the issues associated with international migration (Goffman 1974). In a sense, the variety of actors operating at national, regional, and international level seek to impose their meaning on the issues, whether it be a rights, development, economic, or security based understanding of international migration. The ways in which the issues are defined and understood will clearly then have important effects on the possible responses.

The world’s leading migration country, the US, has exhibited little interest in collective, international solutions to migration issues, preferring instead bilateral ties with (principally) Mexico and Canada and weaker forms of dialogue such as the Puebla Process regional dialogue including Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama. Puebla began in 1996 to consolidate existing dialogues on migration with its own secretariat and support from IOM. A very high priority has been given to borders and security, reflecting US and Canadian interests rather than liberalization of admissions policies. Within the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the US has opposed free movement rights that could include unskilled labor because of fears about large-scale migration from Mexico. Since 9/11 there has been a strong US focus on “homeland security” and attempts to “export” tougher requirements for entry and admission, visas, and biometric identification as part of the “war on terror.” Moreover, it is difficult to identify the incentives that would lead major migrant destination countries such as the US to seek international cooperation on policies that could affect their capacity to regulate admission to their state territory. Meyers (2002) points out that this is because free movement of workers is not a public good as labor recruiting countries do not require an international system to provide for their labor needs. A further indication of this is that the UN Declaration on the Rights of Migrant Workers, which could be seen as rights-extending, had been signed by mid-2008 by only 37 states, all of which were sending rather than receiving states. The world’s major immigration destination countries fear that rights-expanding international measures may inhibit regulatory capacity at domestic level.

If we extend this intergovernmental approach to other areas of migration, we can see that the international refugee system does establish a powerful rights-protecting framework and an IMO to police and implement it, in the form of the UNHCR. Yet, the larger asylum destination countries have been able to stem asylum-seeking flows through “solutions” that follow national or regional logics and that diminish the ability for asylum seekers to secure territorial access. This was the case, for example, with the Australian “Pacific Solution” and in Europe’s attempt to “deflect” asylum seekers (Noll 2000; 2003; Byrne et al. 2002; Morrison 2002; Maley 2003; Rajaram 2003). This also tends to suggest that international cooperation reflects the interests of destination countries.

Newland (2005:14–16) explores various top-down options for change. She considers the creation of a World Migration Organization within the UN, but asks what it would do, and also doubts that the major migrant-receiving countries would be prepared to sign up to this. She then considers whether or not one of the existing agencies such as IOM or UNHCR could be turned into a lead agency, but argues that the portfolio would be wider than that of either of these two agencies as they exist. If the IOM were to be brought into the UN system it would require considerable financial and organizational resources and would need to develop a much stronger protection role. Perhaps then a leadership model could be created based on a team within the office of the UN Secretary-General, but efforts may be dissipated because of the Secretary-General’s broad remit. Could a negotiation model be developed based on a WTO model with negotiation rounds leading to multilateral agreements? But this would be likely to be long, difficult, and “riddled with compromises […] painful to those in whose minds migrants’ rights are uppermost” (p. 16). Inevitably, Newland points out, it seems that we are left with variants of a top-down, elite-dominated process with little prospect of success. For example, Newland (2005:1) notes that the Programme of Action formulated by the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) included a chapter on international migration. It was endorsed by 160 governments “and then more or less ignored in practice […] [because it was] seen as an intrusion on national sovereignty.”

Bottom–Up Approaches

Can bottom–up approaches be reflective of a broader range of interests that might include sending states and migrants from less economically developed parts of the world? By “bottom–up” is meant building on existing patterns of interaction between states, nongovernmental organizations, INGOs, and IMOs. This is still an elite-focused approach, but has a more specific interest in the ways in which functional logics can develop in particular issue areas as ideas, knowledge, and practices are shared with the effect that more effective international organizations can develop. Many of the actors in this top–down process are state actors (officials, politicians, NGOs) but there is a richer array and diversity of actors including INGOs and IOs. Slaughter (2004:16) calls these the “policy networks” from which a “New World Order” can be built. Another way of thinking about them is as networks of intensive transgovermental action that cannot be understood through simple employment of either intergovernmental or supranational perspectives. In fact, both these elements are present (Wallace 2004).

If we follow this logic, then global governance is built from the bottom–up by information exchange, best practices, and nonbinding codes of conduct, or what could be called “softer” modes of international governance. Martin (2005) identifies key international legal instruments for advocacy at national level as a way of inducing states to participate in international agreements. She then identifies practical steps: information, language training, and the monitoring of agencies and employers, particularly labor recruitment processes. As a way of building cooperation on migration, Martin (p. 3) argues that international cooperation should focus on legal migration channels; migrants’ rights; refugee protection; trafficking and smuggling; and return, readmission, and reintegration.

In similar vein, Newland (2005) argues that the bottom-up alternative to top–down global governance of migration is more promising as it can promote intensive interaction among government officials with similar responsibilities. In line with this vision are patterns of interaction such as the Berne Initiative launched in 2001 by the Swiss government as a state-owned consultation through which has developed an International Agenda for Migration Management and that has brought together source and destination countries in a loose network of policy makers and implementers. This has also helped generate “common understandings” and “effective practices” in migration management, which “does not push states any further than they are willing to go, not requiring any specific commitments from them” (p. 13). Newland also sees the EU as offering “an example of government networks calling forth, over time, supranational institutions with legislative, judicial and executive responsibilities” (p. 5). Newland then argues for a global mobility regime in which states are only one of a number of actors, which clearly encapsulates a normative vision of international governance whereby a “functional approach” is seen as the most appropriate method so that policy takes shape gradually “in response to felt needs and converging objectives” (p. 6).

A bottom–up global regime may only be partial to begin with, but may have an inherent dynamism which means that, in the functionalist vernacular, form will follow function so that patterns of cooperation generate spillover effects that lead to the consolidation of more effective forms of global migration governance. The problem could be that, while global migration governance may be consistent with liberal principles, it is also likely to promote forms of technocratic governance where expertise becomes the mobilizing principle of this new international order (Barnett and Finnemore 2004). This may be justifiable if the new international order is (or can at least reasonably claim to be) more just, effective, and/or efficient than national policies. It is also worth bearing in mind that national responses to migration issues are hardly democratic. By definition they exclude migrants from participation in decision making. That said, while IMOs can mobilize moral capital and “speak” for the “international community” (e.g., UNHCR) or wield technical expertise to facilitate attainment of migration policy objectives (e.g., the European Commission or IOM), there may be an international democratic deficit. This may not be a problem if these are largely technical issues, but immigration and border controls do go to important questions of state identity and sovereignty and are difficult to pass off as largely technical concerns. Hansen (2006) postulates this as a trade-off between open debate and progressive outcomes where more restricted venues for cooperation, information sharing, exchange of ideas, and decision making may generate more progressive outcomes.

This does raise questions about the legitimacy of such action and its relationship to more conventional forms of legitimation that still tend to be delivered through national political systems. Perhaps the key point made by this bottom–up approach is to challenge narrow state-centrism and intergovernmentalism, to argue that another world is possible and that there are extant forms of political action beyond the state and within and through IMOs, NGOs, and INGOs that can propel a vision of a more just, efficient, and effective international order, which would significantly constrain state capacity.

The Regional Governance of Migration

In this section we explore existing forms of regional integration and their migration provisions and look at regional consultation processes (RCPs) as a mechanism for intraregional communication, the sharing of knowledge, and for the dissemination of policy ideas and practices.

Regional integration can be distinguished from the global in the sense that it is discrete and usually bound by the territorial proximity of participating states. It is, by definition, less than global. It is also more likely to be broad ranging, with migration considered as an issue alongside a wide array of other issues. The effective articulation of migration as a regional concern may well depend on the extent to which linkages can be made between migration and other issues. For example, European regional integration was founded in the 1950s on notions of free movement for workers while enhanced integration since the 1990s has been linked to post–Cold War security concerns as well as the continuing impetus behind European economic integration.

Aside from the European exception, however, it has been difficult at regional level to create regionalized modes of governance that include international migration. Again, we see a differentiated and partial patchwork. Why is this the case? If we explore the EU as an exception rather than as some kind of beacon or example to be followed, then we may be better able to understand why economic and political integration in the area of migration far exceed that in any other region.

A key feature of European integration has been the institutionalization of a free movement framework for nationals of the member states (known since the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty in 1993 as EU citizens). Meyers (2002) analyses how and why states agree multilateral, regional agreements on labor migration. He finds them more likely to succeed if embedded within broader regional arrangements among states with some similarity in levels of economic development. This helps explain the relative success of cooperation and integration in Europe and the difficulty of establishing similar arrangements in other parts of the world. When successful economic integration with provision for labor migration has occurred, it has tended to be embedded within broader unilateral frameworks covering states at similar levels of economic development and often with already-existing close ties. This has been the case for the EU, the Benelux union, the Nordic community and the Close Economic Relations Trade Agreement (CERTA) between Australia and New Zealand. In other parts of the world there are ambitious programs such as the agreements in Africa through the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) that to some extent mirror European arrangements, but have not yet been implemented. ECOWAS was set up in 1975 to promote regional cooperation in west Africa with the intention that citizens of member states become “community” citizens and that free movement be established, but this has been difficult to attain in practice as the main countries of destination, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast, have been reluctant to implement free movement measures (Meyers 2002).

The Americas are an intense region of migration, but without overarching regional structures of governance and with a marked distinction between source and destination countries. In North America, there are very limited free movement arrangements related to the movement of skilled labor, such as that between the US and Canada, but with restrictions regarding Mexican migration in the framework of NAFTA. There has been cooperation through NAFTA on border security and measures on social security “totalization” that allows some transferability of social security entitlements (O’Neil et al. 2005). Mexico is a key source country for migration to the US and a country of transit for migrants from Central America. As O’Neil et al. (2005:9) put it, “Since the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, the security imperative has trumped all other priorities with respect to cross-border movement of people.” This has led the US to strengthen its bilateral cooperation with Canada, again with a strong security focus. The 9/11 attacks did little to ease the “rocky relationship” between the US and Mexico (O’Neil et al. 2005:15).

International migration relations are strong between North and South America. It has been estimated that 1 in 20 households in Latin America benefit from remittances (O’Neil et al., citing an article in the International Herald Tribune, May 11, 2004) and that remittances far outstrip FDI and development aid (Inter-American Development Bank 2004). The largest part of these comes from the US. The impact is uneven because migrants tend to come from particular parts of countries, so remittance effects are concentrated in those parts, which are quite often the poorer parts of origin countries.

In South America and the Caribbean there are instances of regional integration that may or may not seek liberalization of people movement and the management of migration issues as part of a broader agenda, thus linking migration to other issues. The Central American Free Trade Agreement stalled in the 1980s, indicating that attempts to achieve cooperation within multilateral frameworks are commonly attempted, but less commonly realized. Within the Caribbean (CARICOM) there was categorical rejection of the free movement of labor (Payne 2008:158–9). An annex to the CARICOM Treaty of 1973 stated that “nothing in this Treaty shall be construed as requiring, or imposing any obligation on a Member State to grant freedom of movement to persons into its territory whether or not such persons are nationals of other Member States” (cited in Payne 2008:158). The basis for this was concern that more economically developed countries would become magnets for migration from less economically developed countries. In the July 2001 Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas Establishing the Caribbean Community there was provision for the creation of a single market, but not full free movement of persons.

The Andean Community comprising Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru established for itself the objective of creating a common market with free movement for goods, services, capital, and people. Movement on intra-community migration has been slow, although visa-free travel between participating states was introduced from January 1, 2005 and provides for visa-free movement for tourists, for movement by workers holding a valid job, and access for those workers to state institutions and social security systems, including social security “totalization” that facilitates transferability of social entitlements. Within the Common Market of the South (Mercosur) there has been a commitment made in 2002 – but as yet unrealized – by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, plus its associates Bolivia and Chile, to a “Residence Agreement Concerning Nationals of Member and Associate States,” which commits signatories to allow the citizens of other signatories to live and work on their territory.

Asia is home to around 60 percent of the world’s population and has experienced migration on an “unprecedented scale, diversity and significance” (Hugo 2005:1). The UN (2002) estimates that around 50 million of the world’s 175 million international migrants were born in Asia, with a growing feminization of migration (cited in Hugo 2005:3). Hugo (2005:22) also notes that there may be as many undocumented migrants as there are those holding a regular status. In Asia, the largest flow is of temporary labor migrants or overseas contract workers, particularly to the Middle East. The biggest flow is of those into dirty, difficult, and dangerous (3D) jobs, with smaller flows into skilled, professional work. Asian states also use emigration as a strategy; for example, by 2003 the Philippines had “exported” around 650,000 nurses, 82 percent of whom were women (Hugo 2005:8). Asia has also experienced massive forced migration caused by conflict and environmental disasters. Asia has produced more refuges than any other world region with current high flows from Afghanistan into Pakistan and Iran. There is little in the way of a regional response to migration as migrant-destination states prefer temporary migration programs and policies that restrict permanent settlement because of established ideas about national identity that generate an exclusionary impulse (Castles 2003a:6). The case of Japan is interesting, because demographic and labor market pressures have drawn in migrant workers, often in 3D jobs, but Japan has resisted legal immigration, preferring instead the “return” of the descendants of Japanese migrants who went to Latin America, “trainees” brought in from Southeast Asia and large scale irregular migration (Hugo 2005).

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), with 21 member states, became involved in migration in 1996 when it set up the APEC Business Mobility Group focused on the higher skilled and which created the APEC Business Travel Card. Here we see a focus on higher skilled migration consistent with earlier analyses of impediments to more broad reaching forms of IMO. Within APEC, there has also been the development of security measures such as the Advanced Passenger Information system that allows for the checking of travelers prior to their journeys. Thus far, APEC work on migration has not touched upon admissions policies, settlement, family migration, integration, migrants’ rights, or asylum.

In his discussion of the limited development of regional cooperation on migration in south and southwest Asia, Khadria discusses the important issue of trade in services based on GATS Mode 1 liberalization that allows consumption of services by foreign students, which have become key elements of higher education policy in immigrant receiving countries. He also explores the impact of GATS Mode 4 liberalization referring to service providers for temporary stays. Khadria (1999) also notes the growing role of knowledge industries and movement out of migrants with ICT skills and movement in of ICT services subcontracted to countries such as India.

The incorporation of free movement and migration provisions within regional organizations appears more often to be an aspiration than a reality. There are, however, mechanisms for consultation and cooperation within and between regions. These RCPs first emerged through the Intergovernmental Consultations on Asylum, Refugees and Migration in Europe, North America and Australia (1984) with subsequent developments in central and oriental Asia, southern and western Africa, the Americas and the Caribbean (including the Puebla Process referred to earlier) (for detailed overview see Thouez and Channac 2006). Thouez and Channac set out to explore why and how RCPs have shaped international migration policy. They see RCPs as a process that contains an inherent dynamic, thus the “transfer of knowledge, information and approach takes place progressively, by forging regional structures […] and conveying these as a prerequisite for future transfer” (p. 380). More than this, they contend that RCPs contribute to “convergence in perceptions and expectations […] through informal socialization networks […] leading towards the harmonization of policies and practices.” RCPs thus apparently contain a fairly dramatic potential with the capacity to reshape international migration policy and would be emblematic of the bottom–up potential referred to earlier in this essay. More cautionary notes may be that there is still divergence between sending and receiving states, that technocratic venues cannot eliminate problems of politics and legitimacy, and that it would be interesting to learn more about the content of consultative processes and to know which ideas are transferred between regions. Moreover, RCPs demonstrate the existence of international “talk” but say less about the creation of effective decision making and very little about implementation. That said, if we follow the functional logic then small steps can have important future consequences. Moreover, the partial and differentiated global and regional picture may create opportunities for bottom–up developments.

The European Exception?

The EU has already been discussed as the world’s most highly developed form of regional integration. The EU is unique in the sense that it is the only international organization with the power and capacity to make and implement laws through its own institutional system that have “direct effect,” i.e., must be implemented by member states (Caporaso 1996; Hix 2005). The EU has a highly developed system of internal free movement for nationals of its own states, who since the Maastricht Treaty of 1993 have acquired the status of EU citizens (Guild 1998). It also developed through the “Schengen” system, a border-free travel area for participating states (i.e., all 27 current member states, except the UK and Ireland, which are not members of the Schengen system). This development of free movement provision for EU citizens with border-free travel provision is the hallmark of a highly developed intra-EU migration framework linked to the creation of the “single market,” i.e., an area without internal frontiers within which goods, services, capital, and people move freely (Maas 2005).

It has proven a more difficult task for EU member states to develop a common approach to migration by people who are not nationals of a member state, or what could be called extra-EU migration. However, it does now make sense to refer to a common EU migration and asylum policy developed through the EU institutional system and applying through the principle of direct effect to all member states. The end of the Cold War was a key impetus for development as it prompted perception of a series of new security challenges, of which “uncontrolled migration” from central and eastern Europe was one. This led to more formalized cooperation (not policy integration) on immigration and asylum through what was known as the “intergovernmental pillar” of the Maastricht Treaty (1992). This cooperation was not cast in legal granite, but in legal sandstone as it was soon eroded as pressure grew for incorporation of migration and asylum within the main framework of the EU’s legal and political framework. This occurred most significantly through the Amsterdam treaty (1997), which defined the EU as an “area of freedom, security and justice” and created a new Chapter of the EU Treaty dealing with free movement, immigration, and asylum. In effect, this drew intra- and extra-EU migration together and located them within the Community method of decision making.

Including extra-EU migration within the Treaty was one thing, but actually getting the member states to agree to binding laws in this area was another thing entirely. However, what has been seen between 1999 (when the Amsterdam treaty came into effect) and the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century is a series of measures that could be said to relate to those forms of migration defined as “unwanted” by state policies, i.e., asylum-seeking migration and what the EU calls its “fight against illegal immigration” (Geddes 2008). This has been accompanied by measures to deal with the “root causes” of migration and has prompted an external dimension to EU migration and asylum policy through cooperation with nonmember states (Lavenex and Uçarer 2002).

In the intervening years since the Maastricht Treaty marked Europe’s response to the huge geopolitical shake-up caused by the end of the Cold War, there has been significant development of an EU migration framework. This has seen consolidation of an intra-EU framework closely linked to economic integration and an extra-EU framework that has been associated with security concerns. The big gap is admissions policy, but here too we see some movement. Proposals for common EU policies on aspects of admissions policy have been made by the European Commission (the EU’s executive body responsible for the management and implementation of policy) to the member states and the European Parliament (which share law-making competence) for measures on higher skilled migration and “circular migration” as benefiting EU economies and allowing migration to contribute to economic development (Commission of the European Communities 2004; 2005). In 2007, the Commission proposed common European rules in the area of legal migration, more specifically criteria and conditions governing the entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of highly qualified employment. Under a fast-track admission procedure, non-EU nationals would be issued with a residence permit (an “EU Blue Card”), which would grant them a range of socioeconomic rights, mobility within the EU after a set waiting period, and more favorable conditions governing family reunification (Commission of the European Communities 2007).

The EU now provides a new “venue” for states pursue their domestic objectives, which center on economic integration and the pursuit of EU action on security concerns such as regulating “unwanted immigration” (Freeman 1998; Guiraudon 2001). This cannot be understood in narrow intergovernmental terms. European integration changes the meaning and practice of sovereignty in Europe, but has not rendered states as redundant or irrelevant. Newland (2005) saw the EU as an example of bottom–up global governance founded on intensive interactions by national and EU officials, IMOs, INGOs, and think tanks in the new EU migration policy field. Intensive interaction in transgovernmental networks is a hallmark of EU action and a key element of the policy shaping, making, and implementing process in an EU with developing patterns of policy integration in the areas of migration and asylum.

A key issue, however, may be that the EU experience is unique as it was borne from the experience of major conflicts, reconciliation between France and Germany, significant economic convergence, and some sense of shared political identity linked to the past, present, and future of the “European project” as a broader, even federal, aspiration. No other region in the world exhibits these features so it may be the case that the EU is sui generis. That said, other regions have mimicked some aspects of EU action and the EU itself is keen to seek regional integration and promote the development of regional interlocutors with which it can discuss trade, aid, development, security, and migration.

Conclusions

This essay has surveyed the shape, scope, and extent of global and regional cooperation on international migration. It distinguished between global and regional cooperation as a way of demarcating a distinction between globally and more territorially focused patterns of governance. It was argued that “national logics” of immigration control in major receiving states have inhibited the growth and development of international institutions with capacity to intervene in the development, formulation, and implementation of policy in ways that might reflect the interests of sending states. This is not to say that there are not significant global and regional developments or that IMOs are powerless; but it is to argue that the partial and highly differentiated global and regional framework that has developed tends to reflect the interests of the major immigrant-receiving states, to have acquired a strong security focus, and tends not to reflect the interests of sending countries or migrants from less economically developed parts of the world. This essay has also demonstrated that we do not lack for arguments for the institutionalization of a more effective response at international level, but that where interests are not shared or where it is not possible to reach agreement in multilateral frameworks within which migration is nested, then it may be difficult to secure effective international institutions. That said, there are those who point to concrete and practical bottom–up steps that may lead to the consolidation of international interactions around migration that may build new forms of cooperation and challenge national logics of policy making. If they are, then it is also necessary to consider the character of these IMOs qua organizations if we are to argue that the internationalization of responses to migration can be more just, efficient, and legitimate. There are many who argue that it can – and powerful evidence to support their claims – but it has thus far been a slow and grueling route to secure progress.

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