Research Handbook on International Law and Migration
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Research Handbook on International Law and Migration

Edited by Vincent Chetail and Céline Bauloz

Migration is a complex and multifaceted issue, and the current legal framework suffers from considerable ambiguity and lack of cohesive focus. This Handbook offers a comprehensive take on the intersection of law and migration studies and provides strategies for better understanding the potential of international legal norms in regulating migration. Authoritative analyses by the most renowned and knowledgeable experts in the field focus on important migration issues and challenge the current normative framework with new ways of thinking about the topic.
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Chapter 5: The removal of irregular migrants in Europe and America

Stephen H. Legomsky


Throughout the world, the subject of irregular migration is at the epicentre of the public discourse on immigration. In Europe, it competes for dominance with such other volatile issues as asylum and legal family-based immigration, while in the United States (US) irregular immigration has virtually monopolized the larger immigration debate. Irregular migration reflects a convergence of local, national, and world forces. Some are the familiar push factors - economic need, armed conflict, deprivation of fundamental human rights, natural catastrophe, and family separation. Others are pull factors - economic opportunity, personal freedom and security, and other attractions in the receiving countries. The combination spurs migration; growing national restrictions on legal immigration and the enhanced popularity of smuggling networks help explain the increased resort to irregular immigration. Eurostat reports that in 2009 almost 600,000 irregular migrants were ordered removed from the European Union (EU). The vast majority come from the Southern Mediterranean region by sea or from elsewhere across the Turkish-Greek border. In 2010, an estimated 90 per cent of the irregular migrants to the EU had entered through Greece. In the first quarter of 2011, however, the flow suddenly shifted, with Italy (mainly through Lampedusa) accounting for approximately two-thirds of those who entered the EU illegally. Some fear that the impending addition of Bulgaria and Romania to the Schengen regime will offer a further pathway for irregular migrants. At the time of writing, the massive refugee flows spawned by the revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East have taken centre stage.

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