Externalisation Through Privatisation: The Role of Non-state Actors in Border Enforcement and Asylum Exclusion

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from: 10:00
to: 11:15

By bringing together scholars working across different multidisciplinary fields, this seminar offers a unique perspective on the privatisation of migration control.


The multiple measures States employ to restrict the arrival of unwanted migrants and evade their protection obligations include complex relationships between public and private actors. Against a background characterised by the spread of privatisation logics and proliferation of public-private partnerships, this seminar seeks to advance our understanding of how, when, and why states privatise migration control, how we might conceptualise the role of private actors, the nature of their relationship with the state, and the degree of autonomy that they have in the enforcement of border controls.

This event will explore the privatisation of migration control through four different perspectives:

  1. The effects of hidden coercion and imperfect delegation: Unpacking carrier sanctions
  2. Inside governance: The role of private companies in shaping responses to migration in Europe
  3. Actors and lobbyism in EU markets for border control
  4. Privatisation and secrecy in Australia’s offshore processing facilities.



Migration Policy Centre

(B)OrderS: The Centre for the Legal Study of Borders and Migration

The Jean Monnet Comparative Network on Refugee Externalisation Policies: CONREP


Chair: Tamara Tubakovic, Teaching Fellow in Public Policy and European Studies, University of Warwick


The Effects of Hidden Coercion and Imperfect Delegation: Unpacking Carrier Sanctions by Professor Violeta Moreno-Lax, Founding Director, (B)OrderS Centre, Queen Mary University of London


Carrier sanctions constitute one of the earliest and legally most sophisticated examples of externalisation through privatisation. They are a central tool in the reconfiguration of the relationship between States and individuals, enacted explicitly to counter unauthorised immigration before it occurs. Commercial carriers are required to check travel documentation and ‚Äėinvited‚Äô (under pain of sanctions) to reject boarding if persons on the move lack adequate visas / passports, whatever the underlying causes and without making any distinction on international protection or other grounds. As this paper will show, this is due to an elaborate process of ‚Äėimperfect delegation‚Äô that privatises border control through mechanisms of ‚Äėhidden coercion‚Äô, which impede travel through lawful and safe means, disregarding the legal safeguards that would normally apply when government authorities intervene. Carrier sanctions thus become key vehicles of border violence, driving flows underground, irregularizing movement, and leaving protection seekers and migrants no alternative but to rely on smuggling services (or fall prey to traffickers) to reach safety and claim their rights.


Inside Governance: The Role of Private Companies in Shaping Responses to Migration in Europe by Federica Infantino, Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow, Migration Policy Centre (EUI)


Although emblematic of states’ sovereignty, migration and border control is increasingly shared with nonstate actors most notably private for-profit organizations. Such a topic has deservingly received scholars’ attention. Several studies have focused on the business of bordering Europe before the actual arrival on the territory, the provision of technologies to police borders and strengthen the surveillance of foreigners, the direct implications of private companies in running immigration detention centres in the US and the UK and the outsourcing of visa application processes to transnational corporations across the globe. A series of questions have been raised, such as why do states shift their sovereignty outwards, what are the effects on the ground and the consequences of that choice.

This paper aims at contributing to that vast body of literature by focusing on an overlooked aspect namely the role of private companies in shaping policy responses across national contexts. Based on empirical research on different domains of migration governance, from visa policies to detention, removal and asylum, this paper analyses the ways in which private companies diffuse policy decisions and policy practices. It builds on sociological approaches to the study of policy diffusion, interpretive governance and adopts a transnational comparative perspective. It shows the processes whereby private actors proactively diffuse their presence, find the problems to be solved, share understandings and practices with state actors. In doing so, this paper aims at bringing insights on the informal processes that shape responses to migration in Europe most notably the role of private companies in influencing continuities and change.


Actors and Lobbyism in EU Markets for Border Control by Dr Martin Lemberg-Pedersen, Honorary Associate Professor, University of Warwick & Amnesty International Denmark


This paper addresses the privatization of border externalization policies by identifying political economic processes through which several border control dynamics have been facilitated and accelerated. In particular, the presentation will engage with the under-examined area of the actors and networks most active when it comes to corporate lobbyism seeking to influence the development of EU policies. The presentation will engage with three examples: i) Formal and informal lobbyism networks and their interaction with EU bodies; ii) EU research funds used to accelerate private research and development of border control technologies; and iii) Frontex contracts for detention and expulsion under the EU-Turkey border collaboration.


Privatisation and Secrecy in Australia’s Offshore Processing Facilities by Dr Amy Nethery, Senior Lecturer in Politics and Policy, Deakin University


Australia’s immigration detention facilities, onshore and offshore, are operated by private companies. The arrangement with private operators, worth millions of dollars annually, has continued despite the detention facilities no longer being operational. In this presentation, Nethery provides an overview of these contracts, how they are won, who wins them, and what they are worth. She then provides some insight into how these private companies create a layer of opacity over operations within detention, both covering-up and causing harm to detainees, while enabling the Australian government to escape accountability.