Migration Governance and Asylum Crises (MAGYC), Work Package "Comparing Crises"

Dr. Christiane Fröhlich
2018 - 2022
EC, Horizon 2020 (coordinator: Hugo Observatory – University of Liège (ULg))

Sciences Po (ScPo), France

University of Milan (UMIL), Italy

Norwegian Refugee Council, Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), Norway

Lund University (ULUND), Sweden

Sabancı University (Sabancı), Turkey

CNRS: Institut Français du Proche Orient (IFPO) in Amman and Beirut, Lebanon - Jordan



Research Questions

The Migration Governance and Asylum Crises (MAGYC) project, coordinated by the Hugo Observatory at the University of Liège (Belgium) explores how European migration policies are influenced by political crises triggered by migration. At a time when such policies are heavily contested across European member-states, and when asylum seems more threatened than ever, this project is critically important to improve our understanding of how migration policies are formulated and shaped by a context of crisis.

The project gathers 13 partners from diverse European countries, as well as from Lebanon and Turkey. The GIGA leads the Work Package “Comparing Crises”.

Contribution to International Research

MAGYC seeks to appraise policy responses in the light of the ‘refugee crisis’ and assess their efficiency for the long-term governance of migration. This overall objective shall be fulfilled through the pursuit of different specific objectives, contributing to the closing of research gaps and exploring possible avenues for the development of innovative migration governance strategies:

  • First, the project will reflect on policy gaps in migration governance, using innovative policy analysis methods. It will seek to go beyond the mere evaluation of policy effectiveness in migration governance and analyse jointly the emergence and implementation of regulatory instruments. Such instruments shall include not just national public policies, but also bottom-up local initiatives and regional and international frameworks such as EU Partnerships and the Global Compacts.
  • Second, the project will correlate this analysis with migration dynamics (flow of asylum seekers, number of returnees, etc) in order to develop indicators of migration governance. This will allow us to assess the effectiveness of the different policy instruments developed in reaction to the crisis.
  • This shall allow the project to understand the articulation between migration dynamics and policy responses. Which thresholds in migration dynamics induce a policy response? What and who defines a crisis? What are the feedback loops that exist between migration knowledge, migration policy-making, and policy effectiveness assessments? To what extent are policy responses based on migration evidence rather than migration perception? These are some of the questions which the project will seek to answer.
  • The project will offer a dynamic analysis of policy-making, focusing on knowledge-policy discrepancies, cognitive gaps in policy making and points of contention. In this regard, the project shall look beyond policy evaluation to examine the interactions between knowledge and policy-making. Doing so, it shall question the notion of “evidence-based” regulation: what is the influence of facts, as opposed to public perceptions and representations, in the determination of policy responses? The project will thus offer a dynamic model of policy analysis, where knowledge and behaviour are critically conceptualised in terms of cooperation to identify thresholds for policy reaction.

Finally, the project will propose possible avenues for the development of innovative migration governance strategies. The lack of articulation between knowledge and policy-making in EU history illustrates a gap that requires further exploration and explanation. Experts, scientists and civil society agree on several main issues and analyses on migration control and border management. However, European and national policies together with common representations and perceptions revealed through public opinion polls at the local and EU level seem to be inspired by an enduring misconception of migration realities and a strongly distorted evaluation of policy efficiency. Our hypothesis is that one can observe a strong trend of path dependency. In other words, once a country or region has started down a track, the costs of reversal are very high. There will be other choice points, but the entrenchments of certain institutional arrangements obstruct an easy reversal of the initial choice (Levi 1997). The project shall question these initial choices and offer new perspectives that break away from path dependency.

Research Design and Methods

The project will resort to both quantitative and qualitative methods in the field of social sciences, ranging from economics to political science and international relations, sociology and geography. The project aims not only at providing an innovative theoretical framework to understand the crisis in a critical perspective, but also produce new data on the crisis and its management in support of an insightful assessment of governance mechanisms for asylum and migration towards Europe and in preparation of new venues of more efficient, forward looking and sustainable governance of mobility.

This GIGA-coordinated Work Package conducts comparative, multi-level analysis of the dynamics of South–South migration flows in key sending regions of migration to the EU. It maps how level of state stability interacts with migration flows as well as with related governance approaches in key migrant-sending regions. This is done by analysing, from a historical perspective, the national responses and proposals emerging in the aftermath of a perceived “migration crisis.” Bottom-up responses formulated by local authorities, non-governmental organisations, and migrants themselves are similarly examined. The ultimate goal here is to build a sound empirical base for effective European migration governance endeavours in the regions under study.