Outsourcing migration control

– externalizing EU borders to Africa. A research project within the research program migration and integration.

Project leader: Joakim Berndtsson External link.

Period: 2020-2022

Seat of learning: University of Gothenburg

Project title: Outsourcing migration control: Externalizing EU borders to Africa


What is the project about?

The management of migrants and refugees is one of the key challenges facing the EU today. Since the ‘refugee crisis’ of 2015-16, the EU has been redesigning its policy frameworks to better regulate migrants before they reach Europe itself.

This ‘externalization’ policy has involved extensive outsourcing of migration management powers and resources to non-European actors: including international organizations, foreign governments, substate actors, private companies and NGOs. However, we still know very little about whether and how these external actors are implementing EU migration management policies, or of whether and how actors are held accountable for their actions. As a result, we lack the ability to critically assess the impacts of externalization policy, on migration patterns and processes, and on the actors and institutions that are being tasked with migration management roles.

This project will fill this gap through sustained and inter-disciplinary research on the EU externalization policy in Africa. Using a mixed-method approach, we will study how programs in the European Trust Fund for Africa has been implemented and determine who has the power and responsibility to shape its outcomes in Africa. To do this we have put together a team of Swedish and international scholars that hold unique knowledge of outsourcing processes, the management of migration through private actors as well as migration politics in Europe and Africa.

Research questions

  1. What control and compliance mechanisms are in place to ensure that external actors (state, non-state; national, regional, international) implement EU migration management policies in Africa? To what extent do the migration management processes and practices of EU agents in Africa conform to Europe’s externalization policy objectives and plans?
  1. What oversight and monitoring mechanisms are in place to ensure the transparency and accountability of outsourcing arrangements? To what extent and in which ways is the outsourcing of migration control subject to control by European and African parliaments and courts, at the international, supranational or national level?

In the project, we will employ a combination of mostly qualitative methods for data collection and analysis. In the first step, we will map projects and programmes in the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF). In addition to official documents, data will also be collected through interviews. In the second step, we will conduct four in-depth case studies of EUTF programmes or projects.

Project participants

  • University of Gothenburg
  • University of Amsterdam




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