Migration research primarily studies who migrates and the processes after their arrival. Less attention is paid to the processes between departure and arrival and the infrastructures used during migratory journeys (see Crawley et al., 2018). This is further reinforced by the fact that most migration is wanted and regular, and that there is little social and political interest in the actual physical dimension of regular migration processes. Comparatively few studies are seeking to answer the question of howpeople migrate. The main exception is the research of unwanted and irregular migration with a focus on migrants and refugees traveling by boat and those actors facilitating unlawful practices, denoted as human smugglers or traffickers. In short, migration infrastructure is probably the least well defined, researched and published theme, whilst it is also heavily biased.

This is all the more surprising if we consider the conditions which individuals face who aspire to migrate. On the one hand, there are the natural features, such as distance, and in particular natural obstacles such as rivers, mountains, deserts, and the sea. On the other hand, there are political obstacles, notably borders and the many bureaucratic requirements and organisations which delineate the modern nation-state.

Neither of these are easily navigated, but require specific resources, as, for instance, a bus or legal advisor, as well as specific expertise like how to navigate a boat or how to apply for a visa. The expertise and many of the resources required to migrate are often provided by more-or-less professional service providers, ranging from recruitment and travel agencies, digital platforms and airlines, to human smugglers. Other resources are readily available, and must only be utilised, such as roads, ports and hotels.

Thus, this chapter does not primarily consider why people migrate or who migrates, but rather addresses the questions of: How do people migrate? Who and what facilitates (encourages, advises, and enables) individuals to realise their migration aspirations? Which material and immaterial resources do they use? What do facilitators do? and how do migrants interact with and experience migration infrastructures? Hence, broadly speaking, it addresses some specific meso-level factors linking macro-level determinants with micro-level processes.

This chapter seeks to give a broad overview on the academic field of migration infrastructures. Section 4.1 conceptualises ‘migration infrastructures’ as a research subject, analysing its emergence and its relation to other strands of literature. Section 4.2 explores the state of knowledge on migration infrastructures, including research on actors, material, and digital migration infrastructures. Subsequently, Section 4.3 identifies research gaps in the migration infrastructures literature, whilst Sect. 4.4 sums up the key points in a conclusion.

1 Theorisation and Conceptualisation

Most if not all international travellers and migrants will have obtained some information about migration from one source or another, many will have sought some kind of professional advice on migration, employment or visa applications and will have used digital resources such as websites, many will have used a travel company and some means of transportation of one kind or another, they will have passed roads, paths, rivers or seas, bus stations, train stations, ports or airports or even beaches as well as hotels or safe houses. These intermediary actors, structures, and geographies between the country of departure (country or origin, country of transit or country of current residence) and the country of destination and between the drivers of migration and the individual migrants are the subject of this chapter.

The roots of academic interest in migration infrastructures lie in the mobility turn in social sciences identified by Sheller and Urry (2006). They argue that until the early 2000s, social sciences including migration studies have not payed enough attention to the “importance of the systematic movements of people” (ibid.). Hannam et al. (2006, p. 3) emphasise that “mobilities cannot be described without attention to the necessary spatial, infrastructural and institutional moorings that configure and enable”.

In the following, Xiang and Lindquist (2014) developed the concept of migration infrastructures based on their long-term studies on labour migration in China and Indonesia. They suggest five dimensions of migration infrastructures: the commercial (recruitment intermediaries), the regulatory (state apparatus and procedures for documentation, licensing, training, and other purposes), the technological (communication and transport), the humanitarian (NGOs and international organisations) and the social (migrant networks). A related concept refers to migration industries, which is broader in that it encompasses all factors facilitating as well as restricting migration (Hernández-León, 2013; Gammeltoft–Hansen & Nyberg Sørensen, 2013; Schapendonk, 2018; Cranston et al., 2018). The key denominator for the actors and activities to be included under this concept is that they act for commercial purposes. Another set of literature conceptualises the enablers of migration as facilitators, notably in EU policy documents (e.g. EU Commission, n.d.). However, this concept is politically loaded and only refers to irregular or illegal activities, notably human or migrant smuggling (e.g. Triandafyllidou & Maroukis, 2012). Another related concept is Walters’ (2015) viapolitics, a concept that looks at the political aspects of infrastructures of mobility. He focuses on “the infrastructures, authorities and norms of transportation”, the “vehicles, roads and routes” and thus the “materiality of transportation”. “Vehicles matter”, he insists, because they “mediate the public understanding of migration and border crossing [and] become objects and settings of political action” (ibid.).

Partly in contrast and partly in addition to these approaches, we suggest conceptualising migration infrastructures, first, as only those infrastructures which facilitate migration and thus not those which prevent migration. Here, the concept differs from migration industries. However, we acknowledge that migration infrastructures may also occasionally impede migration (Xiang & Lindquist, 2014). Second, we suggest to only consider physical, organised, or institutionalised features as migration infrastructures, but not mere interpersonal processes, as for instance, migration networks. In so far, our definition differs from Lindquist and Xiang’s. Thus, we include in the concept (a) regular and irregular actors and structure; (b) state, quasi-state and non-state actors; (c) commercial and non-commercial actors and structures; and (d) material, architectural, technical and digital infrastructures. Our approach is inspired by the anthropology of the nexus between spatiality and materiality as well as the interaction of human beings with materiality (Gibson, 1977; Schiffer, 1999). Finally, the concept covers (e) practices of and experiences with these infrastructures, including issues such as exploitation or crime.

This implies that migration infrastructures are multidimensional as they consist of nature and technology, structure and agency, and knowledge. These are the natural and architectural features utilised for traveling; the material resources and knowledge required to navigate these; and the organised structures (administrations, businesses, NGOs) that hold such resources and provide information or services with regards to migration and the individuals (individual actors) who populate nature, structures, and organisations. This results in a complex and dynamic interplay between all five dimensions. An important delineation is to be made between migration infrastructures and other meso-level structures, notably migration networks. This delineation shall facilitate to collate and analyse all research that can help understand the facilitating actors and structures of migration.

Migration infrastructures emerge due to physical barriers, in response to supply and demand structures as well as in response to state mobility and migration regulations and restrictions. They are thus an important element of the opportunity/constrains structure that shapes peoples’ capability to migrate. Insofar, migration infrastructures can contribute to explaining why people migrate and who migrates and who doesn’t. Thereby, the concept links migration drivers to actual migration flows.

2 State of Knowledge

Research on migration infrastructures is comparably new. So far, the literature is rather inconsistent and the phenomenon not yet adequately conceptualised and explored. Lindquist et al. (2012) suggest that the study of the organisation of migration is a “black box”, Hernández-León (2013), too, argues that there is a “gaping theoretical hole” with regards to the study of profit-driven actors in migration infrastructures and Cranston et al. in 2017 maintain that the study of migration infrastructures remains a research gap. This overview on the state of knowledge is divided in three parts (1) actors in migration infrastructures, including private actors, governmental actors, and civil society actors; (2) material migration infrastructures, including the infrastructures in transit migration hubs and means of transportation; and (3) digital migration infrastructures.

2.1 Actors in Migration Infrastructures

This section is concerned with three types of service providers or actors: commercial actors including the sub-category of irregular actors, governmental actors, and civil society actors.

Notably, brokers play a crucial role in migration, as for instance, in low and high skilled labour or marriage migration. Van den Broek et al. (2016) note that “there is either a complete neglect or a very fragmented acknowledgement of how migration intermediaries influence migrants’ access to labour markets”. McKeown (2012) shows that with the establishment of laws which increasingly demonised migration intermediaries on the one hand, and the celebration in public discourses of self-motivated migrants on the other hand, brokers in labour migration were more and more characterised as those violating migrants’ freedom. McKeown acknowledges that the majority of brokers utilises a mix of personal ties, assistance, coercion and exploitation but criticises the lack of attention on working conditions, laws and public attitudes which are equally responsible for migrant suffering. Xiang and Lindquist’s (2014) research on low-skilled work migration in China and Indonesia suggests that the impact of migration service providers is mixed. On the one hand, travel became faster and cheaper, on the other hand, intermediaries, because they do this for making a profit add costs making migration more expensive and thus impeding mobility. Hence, migration service providers are simultaneously gate-openers and gate-keepers. In their article from 2014, Xiang and Lindquist problematise the distinction between altruistic social networks and profit-oriented brokers, arguing that in fact, in broker-migrant relationships, profit, trust and empathy run hand in hand. Untrustworthy actors can in practice often not sustain. In another case though, Nyberg Sørensen (2013) found that in Honduras for professional actors it is not necessary to satisfy customers as long as the wish to migrate remains high.

Some authors look at the mediation of high skilled migration. Cranston (2018) explores the functioning of service providers which support the migration of intra-company transferees, she analyses how the so-called Global Mobility Industry not only fulfils the need of international companies but in turn also produces this need through different strategies. Similarly, McCollum and Findlay (2018) analyse the work of labour migration intermediaries recruiting cheap workforce for the UK. They argue that intermediaries need to satisfy employers and migrants likewise and remain relevant and reliable actors that employers will continuously decide to rely on.

In her article on lifestyle migration, Cranston (2016) examines how service providers prepare British ‘expatriates’ for their lives in Singapore and illustrates how migrants’ experience of cultural differences and encounters abroad is heavily influenced by these services. Koh and Wissink (2018) explore the functioning of intermediary services for the super-rich, such as the acquisition and management of real estate property. The authors argue that the transnational lifestyle of this financial elite is actually dependent on an invisible skilled labour force of intermediaries based around the globe. This research serves as a reminder that migration infrastructures aid rather different purposed depending on the social class of the client.

Another strand of the literature on private actors is concerned with migrant selection processes. Deshingkar et al. (2018) look at the mediation of Bangladeshi construction workers to the Gulf and analyse how “perfect migrants” namely “pliant and obedient workforce” are reproduced by migration brokers and how migrants are made precarious through this practice. Findlay et al. (2013) explore migration intermediaries’ selection of migrants from Latvia to the UK. They describe how perceptions of migrant workers influence the recruitment of workers and how they define “bodily goodness”. They argue that the recruitment agencies’ selection processes generate an ideal type of migrant in both sending and destination countries which can be regarded as a part of the commodification of the migrant body.

Molland (2012) explores the migration of sex workers from Laos to Thailand and differentiates between professional brokers and brokerage taking place within personal networks. He shows that non-consensual recruitment often takes place within intimate relationships. Instead of reducing exploitation, official regulations rather force migrants to rely on personal contacts which are more likely to be abusive. Awumbila et al. (2018) explore the different kinds of brokers involved in the selection and placement of female domestic workers from Ghana. They find that brokers play multiple and often contradictory roles that shift between subjugation and empowerment, some helping women to negotiate better contracts, some reproducing patriarchal values and female subordination. In line with this, Wee et al. (2018) suggest, that security or precarity are not static outcomes of the migration process of domestic migrant workers in Singapore. Instead, a migrant’s experience of precarity depends on the actions of employment agents who actively produce, shore up or mitigate situations of precarity for workers.

Another body of literature is concerned with students’ mobility. For instance, Thieme’s work (2017) on educational intermediaries for students in Nepal finds that intermediaries are both social and profit oriented – a feature that can also be found in other fields ─ and develop specific strategies to make themselves irreplaceable in order to stay on the market. Tuxen and Robertson (2018), by exploring the education brokerage market in Mumbai, found that it contributes to reproducing existing social differences of the urban Indian society. The authors argue that brokers’ potentially biased recommendations based on class-specific assumptions about the students have a significant influence their study destinations and trajectories. Shanshan (2018) looks at the state-mediated brokerage system in China which facilitates education migration for those students who struggle to be accepted at Chinese elite universities. Collins (2012) explores students’ mobility from South Korea to New Zealand and shows how educational intermediaries successfully bridge the divide between the education industry and the social lives of students and their families making themselves indispensable for both groups.

With regards to marriage migration, Chee et al. (2012) study the mediation between Chinese Malaysian men and Vietnamese women. While commercial matchmaking is often perceived as a relatively easy business, the authors show that it requires a considerable amount of social capital to enter the market. Yeoh et al. (2017) show the strategies of marriage intermediaries matching Vietnamese female clients with Singaporean male clients which include a highly gendered system of “quality control” and affective strategies of persuasion to mitigate the commercial side of matchmaking. Tyldum and Tveit (2008) examine marriage migration of Thai and Russian women and Western men. The found that internet-based matching mostly is reserved for the educated or resourceful women. However, some agencies also offer access to computers, assistance in typing and writing or translating profile contents.

Various authors criticise the often one-sided characterisation of intermediaries as smugglers and as exploitative and immoral (van Liempt, 2007; Alpes, 2017). Many, as for example, Campana and Varese (2016), advocate for a clear distinction between human smuggling and trafficking taking into account migrants’ agency in smuggling. Seeking to break up the somewhat populist narrative on brokerage and smuggling, Alpes (2017) gives a detailed analysis of a counter-intuitive and rather positive perception of such intermediaries in Cameroon. A lack of success of the migration process is rather seen as bad luck and does not necessarily prevent families from trying to migrate again with the help of the very same intermediary. Achilli (2018a), by taking a closer look at Syrian refugees and smugglers on the Balkan route, finds that the relationship between the two is simply exploitative but rather rich in solidarity and reciprocity as well as grounded in local notions of morality.

Some authors explore the impact of legal regulations on the smuggling industry. Triandafyllidou and Maroukis (2012) analyse migrant smuggling from Asia and Africa to Europe. They argue that border controls and migration policies cannot stop irregular migration because the motivation to migrate prevails and the number of players involved in migration facilitation is high. They illustrate how the intensification of border controls rather increases fees paid to the smuggling network until a new route is found than reducing the number of migrants and refugees travelling to Europe. Kyle and Koslowski (2011) analyse underlying reasons for smuggling and find that it partly exists because there is a demand for smuggled labour in the receiving countries while it is nourished by problems such as social inequality, state corruption and discrimination in the sending context.

Some publications are dedicated to the structures of smuggling networks and their functioning. Campana (2018) argues that smuggling activities are rather segmented and the organisation takes place on the local level rather than on the transnational. Achilli (2018b) explores human smuggling networks in the Mediterranean and at the US-Mexican border and finds that the industry is highly adaptive and flexible. According to him, stricter regulations have led to an adaption of smugglers’ modus operandi, they have rather raised the demand and increased the risk for migrants.

On the other end of the scale there are statutory actors facilitating migration. Harvey et al. (2018) and Groutsis et al. (2015) claim that although governments have increasingly commercialised their migration services and created a rise of intermediary services, there is still relatively little academic literature on this practice. Several studies reveal that governmental actors and private migration service providers are sometimes closely interconnected. Shrestha (2018) explores the functioning of officially licensed labour migration agencies in Nepal arguing that they can be interpreted as part of the narrative of a developing state. She argues that official agencies serve as a constant reminder of the state’s effort to enable migration for its citizens, compensating the lack of livelihood opportunities in their home country. Rodriguez (2010), too, underlines how the Philippine state is actively marketing its citizens to companies and labour-receiving governments around the world for low-wage temporary jobs. The author argues that Philippine citizens have become reduced to mere commodities while the state seeks to veil this exploitative practice by characterising migrants as national heroes. Rosales (2013) explores the brokerage system in Guatemala where human trafficking and smuggling are facilitated through corrupt state institutions. This results in private benefits for public officials as well as migrants. On the downside, it strengthens criminal networks and leads to an enhanced social acceptance of corruption.

Some studies focus on the role of governmental visa consulates and the partly informal activities in their environment. Notably, Zampagni (2016) shows how the visa process at the Italian consulate in Senegal functions, taking into account the environment around the institution with its regular, semi-regular and irregular actors. She argues that the complexity of visa processes and the lack of resources have led to the outsourcing of tasks to official intermediaries and as well as the development of large informal zones around the few embassies and consulates in sub-Saharan Africa. Similarly, based on ethnographic research in visa application centres in Morocco, Infantino (2017) analyses the political effects of private actors involved in visa processes and identifies the outsourcing of these processes as highly problematic. She concludes that outsourcing visa services is not merely a neutral means to address the state’s poor handling of the visa application process but a strategy to re-establish control by decentralising responsibility and putting policy recipients at distance. In her subsequent work she argues that on street-level EU’s bureaucrats aim stemming potential lawful migration, not only irregular migration as suggested by other scholars (Infantino 2019). Alpes and Spire (2014) too investigate the power of street-level bureaucrats at French consulates in Cameroon and Tunisia, they argue that like other officials these have a certain margin of discretion when deciding on visa applications. However, their widely held belief that they are acting to defend the national interests of their countries attaches their actions an inherently political dimension. Alpes (2013) challenges the perception of brokers focusing on financial profits and state actors representing notions of law and transparency. Revealing the tight connections between travel permits and money, she argues that the supposed boundaries between state and market actors are sometimes blurred. While the consulate as an official actor is able to take visa fees often without even providing actual visa, brokers are called exploitative if they take money even though their promise to facilitate migration is often more reliable.

Finally, several studies analyse how civil society, notably NGOs, activists and volunteers facilitate migration, as for instance, during the so-called migration crisis 2015 in Europe when they provided shelter, clothes, medical treatment or legal support. Kiddey (2019) and Mitchell and Sparke (2018) explore alternative refugee shelters in Greece provided by volunteers and activists which seek to create safe spaces for refugees. Della Porta’s edited collection shows different forms of solidarity mobilisations for refugees in Turkey (Çelik, 2018), Greece (Oikonomakis, 2018), Italy (Zamponi, 2018) and along the Balkan route (Milan & Pirro, 2018). Most of the initiatives aim at facilitating refugees’ journey to Europe and supporting their passage through the respective country. Many movements are simultaneously engaged in humanitarian work offering concrete help for refugees and political actions of protest. Chtouris and Miller (2017) conclude that while European institutions reacted slowly and had relatively little impact on refugees’ protection, the actions and resources of volunteers and activists turned out to be extremely efficient.

Some publications are specifically concerned with search and rescue (SAR) missions of civil society organisations on the Mediterranean. Stierl (2018) analyses the functioning of the WatchTheMed Alarm Phone, a hotline for refugees in emergency situations on the Mediterranean developed and run by activists. Cusumano gives an overview over different non-governmental SAR organisations (2017). In another article (2019), he analyses their different strategies and shows how younger organisations adopted most but not all of the rescue policies developed by their predecessors due to the lack of financial means or differing moral values. Similarly, Cuttita (2018) examines how different NGOs decide to show political commitment or stay politically neutral when rescuing people from drowning. He problematises that in any case, SAR missions contribute to a depoliticisation because they provide operational support for governments and a humanitarian legitimation to their exclusionary policies. Carrera et al. (2018) explore the consequences of EU anti-smuggling policies on humanitarian actors. They find that such policies lead to the criminalisation of the “mobility society”, i.e. civil society actors who assist irregular immigrants and asylum seekers. Finally, Cusumano and Pattison (2018) argue that non-governmental SAR missions in the Mediterranean have notable limitations and need to be replaced by solid humanitarian operations that are directed by governments.

2.2 Material Migration Infrastructures

Research on the means of transportation in mostly regular migration processes is so far rather limited. Burrell (2011) explores the use of low-cost flights and notes that they “opened up travel, and most significantly migration opportunities” to provincial locations across Europe. Since the 2004 expansion of the EU, newly built airports have transformed many regionally focused towns and cities into international points of arrival and departure. Burrell argues that Ryanair and other low-lost carriers have accompanied and maybe even fuelled the migratory movements, for instance, from Poland to the UK. Similarly, Bojczuk (2006) analyses the impact of low-budget flights on the coach travel market between Poland and the UK. He shows how the EU enlargement to Poland in 2004 was accompanied by the liberalisation of the airline market which transformed air travel into more affordable service attracting Polish labour migrants. He argues that although the market for coaches also expanded, the intense competition with low-budget airlines put smaller coach operators at risk forcing them to expand their operations to smaller towns in Poland and the UK. Hirsh (2017) explores the aviation industry in Southeast Asia and shows that low-cost carriers are used by tourists, retirees, migrant workers and students alike. He describes how infrastructures of low-tech transportation significantly shape patterns of mobility in Asia, including those of work migration. In his book on the role of airports on mobility in Asia (Hirsh, 2016), he explores those infrastructures serving less-privileged populations who are constrained due to their income or nationality. Hirsh argues that in the past, the aviation industry was designated to cater for the wealthy but that meanwhile a less visible and more accessible kind of aviation infrastructure has emerged including shopping mall kiosks where flight tickets can be bought with cash or cheap shuttle busses transferring labour migrants from their homes to the airport. Finally, Teunissen (2018) explores how migrants use long-distance coaches for travels within the EU. He shows how irregular migrants manage to cross borders sometimes without the necessary documents taking advantage of distracted Flixbus drivers or the lack of passport controls due to delays.

With regards to irregular migration, much has been written about transit migration in general, though less literature focuses specifically on migration infrastructures in what has been identified as transit migration hubs. In his study on transit migration in Turkey, Düvell (2018) describes the transit hubs in Izmir and Istanbul as “buzzing neighbourhoods full of regular and irregular businesses and service providers offering regular and irregular services”. On the one hand, there are shops, cafes and numerous accommodation opportunities including small hotels where people not only hang out or stay but also obtain information or get in touch with smugglers. On the other hand, there are local or international non-governmental organisations, public bodies and local administrations providing food and non-food items, counselling, health care, legal advice, language classes or interpreting services. Wissink et al. (2013) show that smugglers and “connectors”, i.e. middlemen between smugglers and migrants, are providing services in the hub whereas there are only a few non-governmental organisations including religious and humanitarian organisations providing meals, clothing, furniture as well as legal aid. Crawley et al. (2018) argue that a variety of services is offered to migrants and refugees in transit hubs such as commercial services provided by private actors including hostels, budget hotels, banks, telecommunication providers, (internet) cafes, barbers, shops selling inflatable dinghies, outboard engines, life-vests or waterproof document bags. Humanitarian actors like local mosques, non-governmental organisations and volunteers provide shelter, meals, clothes, non-food items and services such as legal and psychological counselling or medical treatments.

2.3 Digital Migration Infrastructures

A new and growing strand of explorations is concerned with the use of digital technologies by migrants and refugees during their journey and their influence on migration. Alencar et al. (2018) speak of mobile phones as “lifelines” during flight while Gillespie et al. (2018) argue that smartphones can be “as important as water and food” for refugees. However, digital technologies also play a crucial role for the mediation of regular migration including marriage migration (see Zabyelina, 2009; Tyldum and Tveit, 2008), work migration (see Low, 2020; Janta & Ladkin, 2013) and student mobility (see Zinn & Johannsson, 2015; Papagiannidis, 2013). The following chapter will explore the Digital Migration Infrastructures in more detail.

3 Research Gaps

The above sketch as shown that, so far, research on the field of migration infrastructures is fragmented and rather imbalanced in that some issues have received considerable scholarly attention whereas others are widely overlooked. We promote overcoming these imbalances and filling the knowledge gaps in order to gain a holistic understanding of migration processes.

First, in terms of geographic focus areas, research on migration infrastructures in Asia is comparably more advanced than research in other regions. Besides this, several studies address migration industries, meaning the commercial aspects of migration facilitation. However, this research does not specifically take into account non-commercial types of migration facilitation.

Second, overt attention is paid to irregular migration and its infrastructures. Literature is often morally loaded or even biased, sometimes blurring the distinctions between the two categories of trafficking and smuggling. Compared to this, there is much less research on regular agents such as work recruitment agencies, student mobility consultants or marriage agents which is surprising when taking into account how many regular migrants use their services.

Third, the infrastructures of specific migration processes, such as refugee admission including humanitarian resettlement or voluntary return programmes remain to be investigated more in-depth. Refugee admission or returns are forms of state facilitation of (return) migration, often realised through international organisations, notably IOM and UNHCR. However, there are also other forms of humanitarian admissions like private sponsorships and scholarship programmes (Welfens et al. 2019). While admission programmes are often well documented, little is known about the processes, i.e. the infrastructure of refugee admission.

Fourth, while digital migration studies are an emerging field of interest, unequal access to resources and the so-called digital divide as determined by class, gender, age, and country of origin remain under-researched areas. While relatively many studies are focusing on the use of digital technologies by refugees travelling from the Middle East to Europe, less literature is concerned with other world regions such as Africa or Latin America.

Fifth, the regulation of migration infrastructures and actors and its implementation and enforcement seems to be almost entirely absent from the research agenda, so far. The main focus of research lies on regulations on human smuggling, human trafficking, the responsibilities of carriers whereas other areas are overlooked.

Finally, there is little research on the interface of migration and tourism or migration and travel logistics. Notably, means of transportation, such as carriers, air(ports) or bus and train stations are so far widely neglected in migration research yet they play a role in terms of mobility patterns of people migrating to the European Union or elsewhere. Besides this, there is a lack of an analysis of migrants’ use of infrastructures that were initially set up to serve mainly tourists, such as travel agencies, airlines and hotels. A key obstacle is the predominantly containerised thinking in the different fields related to mobility. Transport economics, tourism studies, logistics or legal studies concerned with mobility regulations are disciplines that could complement research on migration infrastructures.

4 Summary and Conclusion

Although migration infrastructures are key for migrants’ capability to move, research is still surprisingly fragmented. This chapter has sought to give an introduction to the concept of migration infrastructures and the state-of-the-art of research on this theme. It refers to a couple of domains in which infrastructures have been researched, such as travel, regular and irregular, transit migration, labour migration, marriage migration, transit migration hubs, or the airport economy. From the literature a range of features emerge which could guide future research. These are, for example, the service dimension, exploitative practices, ethical issues, class dimension, filtering function, connectedness of diverse actors, public-private interplay, and the compliant vs deviant character. Issues such as the linkages between macro−/meso−/micro-level processes, like, for example, the extent to which actors at the infrastructure level generate migration, are open questions.

To conclude, we argue that migration studies should acknowledge migration infrastructures as a new field of research mediating between macro-level determinants and micro-level processes. We argue that the concept is pertinent in order to acknowledge the mediating role of a vast range of regular and irregular, commercial and non-commercial, state and non-state actors and structures as well as digital spaces and travel logistics which often only render migration possible in the first place. Without infrastructures, individuals would only have limited access to information, meaning migratory journeys would in fact hardly be possible for many. Further studies of the migration infrastructures, notably in the European context, is therefore crucial for gaining a more complete understanding of migration processes.