From Deviant States to Deviant Citizens: Global Hierarchies of Citizenship

An illegal immigrant is, in Elspeth Guild’s terms (2009: 15), ‘someone in respect of whose presence of the territory the state has passed a law making mere existence a criminal offence’. While the prerogative to decide the right of entry into the country is one of the essential traits of any sovereign state, it is applied selectivity. What this means on the individual level is that the accident of being born in the global South becomes a legal handicap for the citizens of these countries, particularly the disadvantaged ones (Dauvergne 2008: 17; Aliverti 2012). This handicap stems from the assumption that there are different categories of states: those whose citizens’ mobility is desirable (and is in fact something to be attracted, as tourists, students, and professionals), and those states who are literally black-listed.

The ‘illegality’ of migration is not simply an effect of transgressing immigration law, but denotes a more pervasive and insidious connection between migration, crime, and insecurity. As Dauvergne (2008: 16) puts it, ‘The predominance of the term “illegal” also underscores a shift in perception regarding the moral worthiness of these migrants’. Despite heavy criticism, the concept of ‘illegality’ has in recent years had a profound impact on the nature of the political and legal thinking about migration. Punishing the ‘deviant immigrant’ (Melossi 2003) sends potent symbolic political signals even if, as Aliverti (2012) argues in the UK context, few immigration-related offences are prosecuted. The progressive securitization of migration (Huysmans 2006) has legitimated a complex process of exclusionary practices, in which the ‘various forms of security provide an organizing principle around which territorial and social inclusion and exclusion are drawn’ (Guild 2009: 190). On a global level, this approach has created a finely meshed gradation of states according to the security risk presented by their migration, or what might be termed their ‘deviance’. Looking at the European Union, this gradation has, according to Guild (2009: 188-189), produced the following ‘typology of European inclusion and exclusion’: [1]

  • 9. Third-country nationals whose country of nationality is on the EU visa blacklist and with which there is no visa facilitation agreement (eg China); there is a presumption that these persons pose a security risk and must obtain a visa.
  • 10. Third-country nationals whose country of nationality is on the EU visa black-list and whose country has been specified in the EU visa rules as a country of specific security concern by at least one Member State.

Such hierarchies of national exclusion are based on a pre-established racialized, and colonial, ranking. It is this global hierarchy that determines the levels of protection and rights nationally, including the various degrees of protection that individuals may have against expulsion. While there may be national differences, most countries follow the norms of affluence, cultural and political affinity, security, and, what is vital for the purpose of this chapter, the norm of cooperation with crime and immigration control objectives of the Northern state. Failure to cooperate is directly felt by the citizens of the ‘deviant state’. Citizens of ‘black-listed’ countries (points 8, 9, and 10 above) are collectively described as a potential security risk of some kind (illegal migration, criminality, political violence, depending on the state to which he or she belongs). Such risk can be neutralized, however, by visa facilitation if these countries offer the European Union a security reassurance in the form of a readmission agreement, offering to accept their citizens when they are expelled (Guild 2009: 190).

We are here witnessing a constitution of two qualitatively different positions of statehood: the deviant state (which may be cooperative or non-cooperative) and the Northern penal state, which is defined by its objectives and capacity to export its ‘crimmigration control’ agenda. This tendency to evaluate a state’s capacity to govern crime according to its ability to respond to issues on the international crime control agenda is neither new nor unusual. Think of the US-sponsored war on drugs, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and the US State Department’s rankings of countries according to their money laundering and anti-trafficking efforts (Andreas and Nadelmann 2006). What is of particular importance, however, is that in the case of migration control, the deviance of the state has direct consequences for the individual citizens of the ‘deviant state’. For example, in its yearly Risk Analysis Frontex creates ‘Top Ten nationalities’ rankings, which are the lists of countries whose citizens have the highest probability of illegal stay, refusal of entry, applications for asylum, using false documents, etc.[2] Other examples can be found in the domestic patterns of control, in which deviance of the state ‘rubs off ’, triggering suspicion of the Northern state, and is thus producing deviant identities of its citizens. Untrustworthy states produce untrustworthy identities. This is most obviously happening through the increased focus on ID documents and identification (Policing & Society 2011). ‘Ascertaining the correct identity of the individual, and in particular the foreigner, is increasingly accepted as a security issue’ (Guild 2009: 121) and is resulting in extensive practices ofsearching for documents aimed at connecting the national identity to the subject (Weber 2011). While identification has, since its inception, been a vital preoccupation of the modern state (Cole 2001), it is receiving intensified focus under the contemporary conditions of globalization and mass mobility.

The rise of the ubiquitous ID—the biometric ID card and passport, the ‘enhanced’ driving licence, DNA databases, fingerprinting and iris scans, and the related databases—are thus ‘identification efforts aimed at making citizens more “legible” within the “embrace” of the state’ (Lyon 2009: 22). However, while these measures may be ubiquitous in the West, creating what some fear to be a climate of general surveillance and raising privacy concerns, they have markedly different effects on the citizens of the global North and the global South (Aas 2011a). When it comes to the latter, their lack of ‘legibility’ and of a trustworthy identity is treated as a criminal matter with progressively intrusive measures (Aliverti 2012). For example, the Norwegian government has recently lowered the threshold of evidence for imprisonment in cases of false identity, doubts about identity, or perceived lack of cooperation with the authorities in establishing identity. Moreover, due to the changed EU legislation (Directive 2008/118/EC on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals), the maximum length of imprisonment[3] in these cases has now been extended to 18 months (Bo, forthcoming). Individuals can thus be imprisoned for not providing documents, or for providing inadequate ones, and the duration of imprisonment may be longer if the individual’s state of origin is not cooperative, which means that it may in fact be longest for individuals originating from war-torn countries without functioning state bureaucracies. In these cases the deviance of an individual, his or her perceived security risk, stems from the ‘deviance’ of the state and its inability to comply with the identification demands of the more powerful states. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the United States was able to export its security agenda and, due to its geopolitical supremacy, imposed biometric passports on the rest of the world despite at times fervent protests of European countries with higher data protection standards. It should be also noted that it is no coincidence that biometrics is establishing itself as the preferred answer to the challenges of identification. Such technology enables the Northern state to identify foreign citizens without having to rely on foreign documents; the state can create its own regime of knowledge, whereby the foreign body, rather than the foreign state or the foreign citizen, becomes the main source of truth (Aas 2006, 2011a).

What we are witnessing in the examples above is a more general pattern of, on the one hand, Northern legal production and creation of standards of conduct and governance, and on the other hand, Southern compliance and the import of standards in exchange for trading and mobility benefits, development funds, promises of potential EU membership, etc. It is important to keep in mind that this is not a one-way process. As Comaroff and Comaroff (2006) astutely observe, when the West is trying to impose its legal order on the chaotic nature of the postcolony, a form of resistance and a resource of the disadvantaged is ‘counterfeiting modernity’ (producing fakes, false credentials, and illusions). Counterfeit documents are one of several deviant industries which have developed due to the Northern states’ intensified regulatory efforts. They are, however, part of a broader spectrum of illicit activities, which Gilman et al term ‘deviant globalization’, whose essence ‘is “regulatory arbitrage”—that is, taking advantage of the differences in rules and enforcement practices across jurisdictions in order to make a profit’ (2011: 16). Illicit migratory industries, such as human trafficking and smuggling and other forms of illicit facilitation, are thus a source of income as well as a form of ‘survival entrepreneurship’ and innovation for those without access to legitimate market opportunities.

For citizens of the global South, deviant immigration, like other forms of deviant globalization, ‘is both a powerful engine of wealth creation and a symbol of their exclusion and abjection’ (Gilman etal 2011: 4). The fortified borders and strict mobility regimes are thus an immense source ofvulnerability and create conditions of precariousness of life. However, the very logic of prohibition also empowers the adaptive strategies of deviant entrepreneurs for whom ‘every prohibition is a business opportunity’, thus creating illicit economies, which can potentially offer a ticket out of poverty for individuals, families, and entire communities. For this reason, the participants themselves may not see these activities through the lens of crime and victimization, and may eschew the categories of the criminal and the victim. Moreover, as several observers have pointed out, ‘deviant supply is driven by deviant demand’ (Gilman et al 2011: 16). What Calavita (2005) aptly calls the ‘economics of alterite ’ has been very beneficial to the economies of particularly Southern European countries, but has also reinforced the migrants’ otherness, increasing their fragility as well as deepening their legal and social exclusion. The deviant migration that the elaborate transnational order of actors and regulations is trying to suppress is thus in many ways a product of its own making, driven by global inequality, and the economic opportunities opened by prohibitions and the demand for illicit services.

  • [1] The citizen of the state in Europe. 2. The citizen of the European Union who is not the national of the state wherehe or she is living (expulsion and exclusion possible only on the grounds ofpublic policy, public security, and public health). 3. The citizen of the European Union who is temporarily excluded (time-limited restrictions for some nationals of the 2004-2007 EU enlargement). 4. Swiss, Norwegian, and Icelandic nationals. 5. Turkish workers in the European Union. 6. Third-country nationals with a long-term residence (who enjoy protectionagainst expulsion equivalent to that of the migrant citizens of the EuropeanUnion). 7. Third-country national whose country of nationality is on the EU’s visawhite-list (eg US nationals). 8. Third-country nationals whose country of nationality is on the EU’s visablack-list but with which the European Union has a visa facilitation agreement (eg Russia).
  • [2] Source: .
  • [3] The proposition uses the term ‘imprisonment’; however, this may in practice mean a closeddetention centre or a traditional prison. In Italy, these institutions are aptly named ‘Identification andExpulsion Centres’ (‘I Centri di Identificazione ed Espulsione’).
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