As the contemporary concepts of migration and security become interrelated, studies aiming to analyse why this is the case were published by reputed experts. One such example is Maciej Stepka’s Identifying Security Logics in the EU Policy Discourse, which provides a background and an academic analysis of the EU’s borders and the crossing of migrants from adjacent states. With the construct of ‘migrants as a security threat’ from public narratives, the book mentions that scholars have focused on the securitisation of migration and thus emphasise variables such as technology, security policies and its enactment on migrants, as well as issues of human trafficking. Due to the lack of focus and the variety of topics discussed within the book, an analysis of the security logics proves to be complicated. It is in this puzzle that the publication contains the complex nature and respective definitions of concepts such as migration, migration crisis and security within the context of the EU, while aiming to explain different perspectives on them. The complexity provided a foundation for the book’s objective: to exhibit this complexity through the EU’s presentation of the crisis. The explanations, which were derived from qualitative methods of analyses, argue for the entailment of the EU’s securitisation acts not being speech-framing but policy-framing from different actors involved.
The book begins by explaining the constructive nature of the Copenhagen School’s concept of securitisation. This school of thought focuses on powerful actors defining a security issue for the acceptance of other actors. Discussed within the book are the concept’s weaknesses such as the grounds and nature of exceptions in securitisation, non-elaboration of desecuritisation and the lack of clarity about the concept of audience as the recipient of the securitisation narrative. These criticisms lead to a more post-structural examination and nature of securitisation through other formed schools of thought.
From there, the author created an alternative reading of the concept focused on policy framing, which required the analysis to focus on how actors involved in policymaking properly contextualised a situation that requires securitisation. This approach created a more interactive and inclusive consideration in the process, alleviating the criticisms and weaknesses of the Copenhagen School but with a delimiting condition to prevent a slippery slope. The stated condition is that it shall involve several relevant institutions in the analysis to balance the openness and cohesion of security logics. The posturing of the static and structured nature of traditional security is challenged by securitisation being a continuous process of conceptualisation as well as enactment from different but relevant actors with their own contexts and languages.
Once the method of analysis was settled, the contextualisation of security and migration within EU was introduced by stating the deep embedment of the two concepts within its institutions. For instance, the EU is restrictive and doubtful of accepting migrants outside its borders, which is then further complicated by the evolving institutions with no fixed audience. This started in the creation of the Schengen Area in 1985 supported by treaties that ushered in the EU and its securitisation policy as we know it today. Furthermore, this presented the borders of the EU as the space of security contentions. Currently, the institution that is in the forefront of securitising its territory and border is the Frontex which embodies an exceptionalist security logic in its operations. Frontex is responsible for irregular migrants’ detention and deportation which are framed as a matter of securitising its territories from possible threats and insecurities. The institution is informed of perceived illegal and external activities by migrants, thus rationalising their actions and utilisation of risk management, surveillance and control technologies.
It is important to note, however, that the EU utilises words of policies and operational actions to provide a humanitarian angle in the treatment and actions on migrants crossing the border. This practice made the concept of refugees and migrants become vague and unclear. By the ascendence of concepts such as refugee crisis and tragedies, the EU maintains to align the logic in terms of human security. This is evident in terms of describing factors for the ‘crisis’ such as the presence of instability, poverty, as well as organised crime and terrorism outside the continent as a way for the EU to be concerned with protecting the vulnerable groups. On the contrary, the EU does not aim to proactively solve such problems and would rather keep it away from their territory. Upon perceived insecurities such as terrorism and radicalisation, the EU plans to ‘fortify’ itself from risks.
Due to the aforementioned ‘crisis’, Frontex’s default move has been to focus on its hotspots, return operations, relocation and resettlement, along with intelligence cooperation, surveillance and control. This form of management also involved external actors in controlling the flow of migrants. Aside from risk management, the assurance of resilience is also upheld by policy actors in the EU, who aim to provide long-term and comprehensive approaches in the securitisation of migration. Examples of these include the aligned reform of the Common European Asylum System with its securitisation priorities, development aid to external countries via European Union Trust Funds, as well as capacity building responses by the Council of European Union. Nevertheless, exceptional security logic persists in the presence of various operations such as EUNAVFOR MED and other joint border operations despite framing them with words pertaining to a humanitarian disposition.
Overall this book serves to synthesise the various perspectives and logics rendered by different studies regarding the EU’s securitisation of migration. As such, this work is suitable for both beginning scholars who are familiar with the jargon of the discipline and seasoned academicians in the field of international migration and refugee studies. The method of constructivism aided in extensively explaining the ideas and framings of the policy actors, capturing the complex picture of the interrelation between migration and securitisation in the EU. This work is a cautious testament that in international relations, ideas and their outcomes matter. The word ‘cautious’ should not be accepted lightly as some ideas and framings never translate into real outcomes or are never as extensively converted into actions, unlike others. It may be that the focus on exceptionalist security logic, a byproduct of the traditional schools of thought in the field, can no longer stand with the variety of institutions involved and make a significant impact on migration. However, human security framings about migration and security remains infringed as a thought, not extensively converted into action unlike the exceptionalist logic. Ironically, it seems that the book, which aimed to show different constructs, still exhibited realism and emerges as triumphant in the EU’s international migration issue.
Contestations, however, are still in place. A debatable point of improvement needed by the book is whether or not it should provide a normative framework or thought on the current phenomenon. Even so, upon analysis, every reader is imparted with the responsibility to think of the rationality or propriety of securitisation in migration. Specifically, policy actors are invited to be analytical and to reflect on such frameworks and their effect on the influx of both migrants and refugees into the EU. Regardless of the reader’s inclinations on the political spectrum, an interpretation to an objective fact in existence has its own pros and cons. When faced with an EU-constructed fortress, how should we approach the delicate balancing of being humanitarian to the distressed and pragmatic in securing our borders at the same time? What words or framing do we ought to use and what are our reasons for utilising them? Are these framings to be converted on varying degrees of action or not? Fortunately, such open questions are what make this book intellectually engaging. The EU’s fortress remains under construction, and this book is a call to render a security logic of our own whoever and wherever we are.
The author would like to recognize the valuable comments of Dr. Francis C. Domingo of the Department of International Studies- De La Salle University as Course Professor for EUR521M (Research Methods) in which this book review was first submitted as a requirement. Furthermore, the author also recognizes Mr. Julius Luis S. Jacinto, LPT of the Training Resources Group for his valuable assistance on copyediting and proofreading of the manuscript upon the recommendation of this respected journal’s Deputy Editor-in-Chief.