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Whose (in)security counts in crisis? Selection categories in Germany’s humanitarian admission programmes before and after 2015

Abstract

This article investigates refugee categorisations in humanitarian admission programmes. Official selection categories and the way they are enacted at the frontline have significant implications for refugees’ unequal (im)mobility and (in)security as they determine who can safely and legally travel to Europe. Based on original ethnographic data, the analysis examines how different political actors mobilise humanitarian and security ‘orders of worth’ to justify how selection categories prioritise some refugees’ security and mobility over others’ in times of perceived crisis. Contrasting Germany’s admission programmes from Lebanon (2013–2015) to those from Turkey (2016–) demonstrates a shift from an overall humanitarian, to a combination of humanitarian and state security orders of worth. The focus on categorisation and justification practices advances a grounded understanding of how inequalities in refugees’ (in)security and (im)mobility emerge and shift in the course of changing crisis definitions.

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Notes

  1. Various authors (e.g. Gilbert 2015) have challenged the notion of an EU or European Refugee Crisis. While I generally subscribe to the careful use of the term crisis, I deploy it in this article to understand the dominant construction and meaning of crisis (who or what was considered to be in crisis?) around the time Germany initiated its humanitarian admission programmes.

  2. Boltanski and Thévenot (1999, 2000) deploy the term ‘(ordinary) actors’ to refer to concrete individuals who, in moments of contestations, have to justify their propositions or actions. In the context of this article I use the term to refer to institutions and organisations implicated in the field of refugee admission policies as well as to the individuals they employ. Although Boltanski’s and Thévenot’s notion of actors emphasise situated and multivocal justifications over all-encompassing institutional logics, a more fine-grained differentiation between institutions and the people they are made up off lies beyond the scope of this article.

  3. The three consecutive HAPs focussed primarily on Syrians from Lebanon. However, cases from other neighbouring states of Syria, e.g. rejected Schengen visa applicants from Jordan, as well as referrals from Egypt and Libya were also considered for admission, (cf. Engler 2015).

  4. Boltanski and Thévenot (1999: 368) propose six different orders of worth, namely: Inspired, Domestic, Civic, Opinion, Market, Industrial.

  5. The German Federal Ministry of the Interior was renamed into ‘Federal Ministry of the Interior, for Construction and Community’. For reasons of better readability I only speak of ‘Ministry of the Interior’ throughout the text.

  6. Prior to fieldwork a comprehensive ethical protocol was developed and approved by the research institute’s ethical board.

  7. Interview with high-level bureaucrat of the division ‘Right of Residence, Humanitarian Admission’ of the German Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community, 17 October 2017, Berlin.

  8. Interview with former Minister of the Interior of a federal province in West Germany, 17 January 2018.

  9. Interview with high-level bureaucrat of the division for ‘Right of Residence, Humanitarian Admission’ of the German Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community, 17 October 2017, Berlin.

  10. Interview with a migration policy advisor of Caritas Germany, 6 December 2017, Freiburg; Interview with migration policy advisor of Diakonie Germany, 14 November 2017, Berlin.

  11. Interview with assistant protection officer, UNHCR Germany, 27 February 2018, Berlin; Interview with high-level bureaucrat of the division ‘Right of Residence, Humanitarian Admission’ of the German Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community, 17 October 2017, Berlin; Interview with senior resettlement officers, UNHCR Lebanon, 24 April 2018, Beirut.

  12. Interview with high-level bureaucrat of the division for ‘Right of Residence, Humanitarian Admission’ of the German Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community, 17 October 2017, Berlin; Interview with former high-level bureaucrat of the division for ‘Right of Residence, Humanitarian Admission’ of the German Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community, 16 January 2017, Berlin.

  13. Interview with a political advisor to the Lebanese Minister of Displaced people, 20 April 2018, Beirut.

  14. Interview with high-level bureaucrat of the division ‘Right of Residence, Humanitarian Admission’ of the German Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community, 17 October 2017, Berlin; Interview with high-level bureaucrats of the division ‘Resettlement, Humanitarian Admission, Relocation’ of the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, 30 November 2017, Nuremberg; Interview with high-level bureaucrat from the division ‘Foreigner and Asylum Law’ of the Ministry of the Interior of Bavaria, 5 December 2017; Interview with high-level bureaucrats of the division of ‘Humanitarian Assistance’ of the Ministry of the Family, Integration and Refugees of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, 6 March 2018.

  15. Interview with former high-level bureaucrat of the division for ‘Right of Residence, Humanitarian Admission’ of the German Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community, 16 January 2017, Berlin; Interview with senior resettlement officers, UNHCR Lebanon, 24 April 2018, Beirut.

  16. Interview with high-level bureaucrat and frontline bureaucrat employed at the German Embassy in Beirut during the time of the first HAP from Lebanon, German Federal Foreign Office, 22 November 2017.

  17. Interview with high-level bureaucrat of the division for ‘Resettlement and Humanitarian Admission’ of the German Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community, 17 October 2017, Berlin.

  18. Interview with former high-level bureaucrat of the division for ‘Right of Residence, Humanitarian Admission’ of the German Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community, 16 January 2017, Berlin; Interview with high-level bureaucrats of the division ‘Resettlement, Humanitarian Admission, Relocation’ of the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, 30 November 2017, Nuremberg.

  19. Interview with Assistant Protection Officer, UNHCR Germany, 27 February 2018, Berlin.

  20. Head of division ‘Right of Residence, Humanitarian Admission’ of the German Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community, at the public discussion ‘Safe and legal pathways within the framework of the European asylum policy’ organised by the International Rescue Committee Germany, 27 February 2018, Berlin.

  21. The policy for the HAP Turkey has been renewed a couple of times since the programme was initiated. The selection criteria remained the same; except for religion, which does not feature in the definition of ‘integration capacity’ in the latest policy of 13 January 2020.

  22. Head of division ‘Right of Residence, Humanitarian Admission’ of the German Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community, at the public discussion ‘Safe and legal pathways within the framework of the European asylum policy’ organised by International Rescue Committee Germany, 27 February 2018, Berlin.

  23. Interview with migration policy advisor of International Rescue Committee, 16 May 2018, Brussels.

  24. Interview with high-level bureaucrat of the division for ‘Resettlement and Humanitarian Admission’ of the German Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community, 17 October 2017, Interview with high-level bureaucrats of the division ‘Resettlement, Humanitarian Admission, Relocation’ of the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, 30 November 2017, Nuremberg.

  25. Observations at German resettlement expert meeting, 27–28 September 2018, Berlin.

  26. Observations at Annual Tripartite Consultation on Resettlement Working Group on Resettlement February 2018, Berlin; Interview with high-level bureaucrat of the division for ‘Resettlement and Humanitarian Admission’ of the German Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community, 17 October 2017, Berlin.

  27. Interview with high-level bureaucrat of the division for ‘Resettlement and Humanitarian Admission’ of the German Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community, 17 October 2017, Berlin; Interview with policy officer at the EU Commission’s Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs, 18 May 2018, Brussels; Interview with policy officers of Migration Policy Team, Delegation of the European Union to Turkey, 7 November 2018, Ankara.

  28. Interview with Advisor to the Minister on International and Humanitarian Affairs, Lebanese Minister of State for Displaced Affairs, 30 April 201, Beirut.

  29. UNHCR representative at a public discussion ‘Safe and legal pathways within the framework of the European asylum policy’ organised by the International Rescue Committee Germany, 27 February 2018, Berlin.

  30. Interview with migration policy advisor of Caritas Germany, 6 December 2017, Freiburg; Interview with migration policy advisor of Diakonie Germany, 14 November 2017, Berlin. Interview with migration policy advisor of Red Cross Germany, 5 October 2018, Berlin.

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Funding

Funding was provided by Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (Grant No. 406-16-219).

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Welfens, N. Whose (in)security counts in crisis? Selection categories in Germany’s humanitarian admission programmes before and after 2015. Int Polit 59, 505–524 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41311-021-00311-6

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Keywords

  • Humanitarian admission
  • Humanitarianism
  • Security
  • Migration governance
  • Categorisations
  • Practices