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Abiri, 2000 🔗

The securitisation of migration: towards an understanding of migration policy changes in the 1990s: the case of Sweden

Year: 2000

Type of text: Doktorsavhandling 

Published by:  University of Gothenburg 

Language: English

Author: Elisabeth Abiri

Pages: 13

Available at: ISBN: 9187380471, Abstract tillgÀngligt pÄ

Short description of text

The thesis consists of five articles investigating the questions of  how and why cross-border migration has been increasingly discussed as a security issue in Sweden during the 1990s, and discusses the implications of these developments on the immigration policy. It focuses on two cases of policy interventions as in the case of 1993 when the Swedish government introduced the visa obligations for people fleeing war and ethnic cleansing from Bosnia, and the case of 1999 with the Swedish reaction to Kosovo refugees was informed by security thinking through treating the refugee migration to Sweden as a threat to the society (p.5).

Most important results

The thesis argues that the changing praxis on asylum policy and “generosity” has been already in the ideology of  the biggest parties M and S during the 1980, and by the arrival of Kosovo refugees in the 1990s, which coincided with the rise of the far-right parties in Sweden, those parties have envisaged their ideology in the praxis of asylum policy (p. 76-77).

The thesis argues that the different actors in shaping the official discourse including politicians, researchers and mass media revitalize sets of connections to claim different reasons for linking cross-border migration with security and thereby creating the question of the securitization of migration as a fundamental political question. The main tendencies in these discourses range from ‘reclaiming security by focusing on the lives of human beings rather than the states by using refugees as an example of violated security, to redirecting security establishment towards other fields by redefining its new tasks and challenges’ (p.2)

‘Swedish official migration discourse links migration and security in relation to four different areas: conventional security thinking and questions of sovereignty, individual immigrants as a threat to national security, organisational incapacities, and the issue of the rise of right-wing extremism generated by immigration. Immigration is thus perceived for the state as a fundamental political question that produces reactions that are a threat to national security’ (p. 3).Also, the domestic context of the financing of migration is often used by governments to legitimize tightening refugee policies.

The author also argues that scholars entering the field of security research can risk reproducing discourse on migration and security.Contrastingly, the thesis argues ‘the emergence of anti-migration party after 1991 elections did not lead to a direct tightening of the refugee policy. The 1992-93 reformations on the Swedish refugee policy the introductions of visa obligations became a signal of a renewed effort to tighten this policy’ (p.4). 

Furthermore, and by comparing the processes of policy making in Sweden to Malawi, the text argues that in both cases migration has been used as a ‘symbol question over which different interests of state elites and the public are brought together’ (p.5). It argues further that the gradual securitisation of migration in Sweden can be linked to the weakening of the welfare state and an ‘increasing feeling of uncertainty among politicians and society brought on by the end of the cold war’ (ibid.) This uncertainty is argued to feed the feeling of being in control and to have control over the borders between ‘us’ and ‘them’.

In addition, the thesis argues that the securitisation of cross-border migration is increasingly, defined, challenged and redefined by globalisation and the economic and ecological climates; factors which are not within the capacity of the individual single state to control, but at the same time the nation-state logic is still the valid global norm.

Theoretical perspective/framework

Critical Political Economy, cross-border migration, discourses, human rights, control, security, globalisation and modernity. 


Discourse analysis, interpretive repertoire  (Cox, Potter, Wetherell). 

Policy analysis

Policy suggestions

The securitisation of state’s official discourses on migration and the narrowing down of the right of asylum while highlighting security concerns over cross-border migration, ‘will sooner or later affect society’s respect of human rights on a more general level’ (p.5), and help to legitimate extreme ideologies of those seeking to rationalise their propaganda against immigration and asylum. ‘Therefore, the connection between migration and security should never be presented as an unquestionable given, and the social practices and political motivations behind every attempt to ‘securise’ migration must therefore be looked into in every specific case’ (p. 5-6 ).

Summarized by: Hammam Skaik