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2 - The Post-war European State and (Irregular) Migration

A Historical Perspective

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 November 2023

Christina Boswell
University of Edinburgh
Emile Chabal
University of Edinburgh
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This chapter offers a historical overview of the governance of irregular migration as a key element in the construction of the post-war European state. It explores four moments, each of which represents an evolution of state capacities in relation to the control of (irregular) migration. The first moment is the immediate post-war period, in which large-scale population movement and displacement led to the emergence of a set of legal frameworks that were designed to regulate these social realities at a collective level. The second moment corresponds to the end of the European colonial empires in the 1950s and 1960s, when contests over citizenship, residency and movement rights reshaped the political framework of 'irregularity'. The third moment corresponds to the 'closure' of West European borders in the mid-1970s, after which both regular and irregular migration emerged as a social problem. Finally, the fourth moment runs from the 1990s to the present-day. This period has been characterised by a radicalisation of the politics of immigration, as well as processes of Europeanisation that have sought to monitor individual migrants.

States of Ignorance
Governing Irregular Migrants in Western Europe
, pp. 59 - 90
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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