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Martin Geiger and Antoine Pécoud

While not new, the interest of international organisations (IOs) in migration has increased substantially since the 1990s. This chapter discusses (1) the reasons behind this growing interest, (2) the political positions and policy orientations defended by IOs and (3) their relationship to the securitisation of migration. IOs’ interest in migration is the product of several converging trends: the discovery of migration as a tool in development efforts; the broad interest in socio-economic issues that marked the post-Cold War era (like population issues, racism, and so on); and the (real or perceived) migration crisis that emerged in the 1990s, and that transformed migration into a ‘problem’ of high political importance, thereby legitimizing IOs’ ambition to contribute to find ‘solutions’. At first sight, IOs defend a set of balanced and comprehensive positions on migration policy: unlike many governments, they emphasise the positive impact of migration (on development or demography) and regularly call for more migration, while also stressing the need to protect vulnerable migrants from human rights abuse; they also take into account the interests of sending regions and the need to improve global living conditions. As with other fields of IOs’ interventions, this is formulated in a technocratic manner, exemplified by the frequent use to catchwords such as ‘migration management’. While these policy recommendations seem, at first sight, to be much less security-oriented than the political rhetoric and the policy measures that characterise receiving states, this chapter argues that IOs’ do play a role in the securitisation of migration: they indeed aim at ordering migration and at establishing normative guidelines regarding how people should cross borders; this leads to neat distinctions, for example between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ migration, and to apparently consensual and widely-accepted frameworks through which migration is apprehended, not only by governments but also by civil society groups, for example. In sum, while IOs defend softer positions than other actors, they nevertheless also contribute to the general perception that migration is a social phenomenon that must be steered, controlled – or ‘managed’.

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Antoine Martin