Whisper down, up and between the lanes: Exclusionary policies and their limits of control in times of irregularized migration

AuthorLisa M. Borrelli
Date01 December 2018
Published date01 December 2018
Whisper down, up and between the lanes:
Exclusionary policies and their limits of control
in times of irregularized migration
Lisa M. Borrelli
Department of Social Sciences, Bern
University, Bern, Switzerland
Lisa M. Borrelli, Department of Social
Sciences, Bern University, Fabrikstrasse
8, Bern 3012, Switzerland.
Email: lisa.borrelli@soz.unibe.ch
Funding information
Swiss National Science Foundation, Grant/
Award Number: 153225172228
Geographical limitation, ostracism and deportation are defined as
state practices that try to handle the unwanted arrival and stay of
irregularized migrants in Europe. However, the enforcement of
ever-more restrictive policies in order to regain control over a
mobile population is limited by several factors, which at times
restrict the state. These limits not only derive from the agency of
individuals excluded by the state, but also because of the inherent
attributes of the state itself. The inhibiting mechanisms studied,
including discretionary practices, often neglect the crucial role
played by communication in understanding the contestation of pol-
icy implementation. This work discusses how the phenomenon of
whispering down, up and between the laneschallenges policies
and legal outcomes. It tries to explain why state practices often
appear to be illegible, not only to the outsider but also to the
bureaucrat, with the help of ethnographic research in European
migration enforcement agencies.
Geographical limitation, ostracism, exclusion and deportation are all defined as state practices that are addressed at
unwanted migrant populations in Europe (Vogel 2000; Broeders and Engbersen 2007; De Genova and Peutz 2010),
especially groups stigmatized as irregular. With no legal right to stay and little to no chance of obtaining legal status,
irregularized migrants nevertheless maintain a certain range of agency (Engbersen and Broeders 2009), which the
state tries to limit and control in order to maintain national sovereignty in times of struggle.
However, not all efforts to regulate and control irregular migratory moves have been successful (Andersson
2016). Instead, the struggles over a coherent policy implementation point towards the states structural inconsis-
tencies and inherent limitations (Cheliotis 2006; Düvell 2016). Consequently, it is necessary to better understand the
limits states face in successfully implementing policies and legal guidelines, as well as their root causes.
Following the concept of multi-level governance, assuming that a system of continuous negotiation(Hooghe
and Marks 2003, p. 234) can be found along all structures of authority, international, national or local (Guiraudon and
DOI: 10.1111/padm.12528
Public Administration. 2018;96:803816. wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/padm © 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd 803

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