Is it possible and desirable to think of migration as a security issue in contemporary Europe? What are the political and conceptual problems associated with this? International migration is more and more eagerly connected to the process of globalisation (rapid global integration) and development of transnationality. It's important to underline that international migration is something transitional by definition, hence not solely modified by 'new' global issues. Those, however, gain much more importance – this is mostly caused by swift changes in economy, politics, technology and culture.
Until recently, migration growth ratio was perceived as being slower than one of population growth. Latest reports changed this image. Last report of UN Population Division brings the number of migrating people to 175 million (according to definition whereas migrant is a person living outside his country for over 12 months. This number has then doubled since 1975. Over 60 per cent migrants live in developed countries – making migrant one out of ten citizens. In less development countries this ratio is 'slight' different – one out of seventy.
Worth mentioning is that although North-North and South-South directions of migration flow account the largest number of people, the growth ratio is highest with South-North1. On this grounds scholars defy 'migration crisis' phenomenon. This started the world-wide discussion about the risks and dangers 'migration crisis' involve. The centre point of this discourse lies within Europe. The notion to define migration as a direct danger to national security or as a natural advent of contemporary international relations (accounting certain amount of risk) is still open.
Therefore it is important to choose when the situation is still under control and problem lies mostly within creating on analytical framework. We still have some time to minimise the risk of global crisis. Buzan's2 analytical framework brought up the idea of securitisation – shifting the problem of migration from 'normal politics' arena to one of national security. It comes to this whenever regime decides to handle certain problems as a clear and present danger to one of vital parts of state's security (statehood, economy or national identity).
Shift itself is usually needed to support governmental decisions that brake existing laws and procedures that normally would restrain it. This is done in two ways: firstly, publicising it by placing it in security agenda as national security issue and completing it by seeking public support for new means and ways of handling it. Secondly, by making it a 'state's secret', moving it from public discourse to arena of state security (clandestine issues). The best illustration of the latter is the situation in contemporary Russia.
Official discourse concerning migration in Russia is highly securitisied. It centres on the portrayal of illegal immigrant labour (non-tax paying labour by either illegal migrants or legal migrants without a work permit) an existential threat to Russian national economy. According to this discourse a threat is posed by three specific features of illegal migrant labour, which are firstly – tax evasion, secondly – capital flight from Russia; and, thirdly – an increase in official unemployment figures.
It's also worth mentioning that migrants have been divided in two main groups: desirables and undesirables. Both public and official discourses tend to securitise groups of migrants by depicting them as 'undesirables', and portraying them as a certain threat not only to the Russian national economy, but also in some cases as being responsible for a large part of the criminal situation in Russia. Mostly pointed out are Chinese immigrants (large numbers crossing Manjurian border, taking over regional labour market), travellers from Africa and Roma people ('Zygane', Gypsies).
Latter are portrayed as criminals threatening Russia's internal security (I should underline that it is not something unknown in the 'West': in early October 2002m for instance, the US Justice Department issued a directive to register all male visitors to the United States from selected Muslim countries, including taking photographs and fingerprints). 24th September ITAR-TASS news bulletin covered this subject in such a way: Most of drug-trafficking related crimes are committed by ethnically homogenous criminal communities.
The number of such groups operating in Russia's 80 (sic! ) regions is estimated at 4000. Most of this groups consist of Tajik, Azeri and Ukrainian citizens and also of Gypsies. It shows how unequally Russian government lays the accent on different former Soviet Union nations (ability to speak Russian being most distinctive feature). Former KGB General, the head of the Russian Federal Migration Service (FMS) Chernenko summed it up quite vividly:
We do not just have some undefined territory, whose population must be increased for the solution of this or the other technical problem. We do have a country after all – Russia. And we are its multinational people – a melting-pot, but nevertheless united. We have a uniquely interwoven and diverse, but nevertheless common culture. This is civilisation. However, have we not come to a critical point concerning migration, where the amount [of migrants] is exceeding a dangerous quantity in some regions?…
[Misbalances] occur when the relation of migrants and locals is leading, or already has led one way of life to prevail over another, other mentalities over another, even affecting the common language. 3 Whilst the popular affiliation of specific ethnic groups with crime is not exclusively Russian phenomenon, the promulgation of such perceptions in official discourse appears to be a by-product of the wider securitisation of migration.
To cite a comparative example, the German Interior Ministry explicitly cautions against the potential danger of misrepresenting the correlation of migration and crime: False, tendentious and discriminatory statements according to which foreigners are generally more prone to criminal activities than Germans must be counteracted by a differentiated collection of data and analysis of the underlying number of crimes committed by foreigners. [It is important] to avoid making flat statements on this issue'.