Borders provide for differentiated access to rights – first and foremost to mobility rights – subject to the citizenship and/or socio-economic statuses of individuals. The bordering process (i.e. the creation of a border) inevitably involves an othering process, i.e. the construction of “the other” (Tazzioli, 2015).

European asylum legislation is based on a first fundamental categorisation between economic migrants, mainly driven by the search for better living conditions, and forced migrants, who are deemed legitimately eligible for asylum (Scheel and Squire, 2014).

Since the 1990s, given the increase in asylum applications, the majority of EU Member States have provided for accelerated asylum procedures according to the applicant’s country of origin in line with the EU rules. The concept of ‘safe third country’ has not only made it difficult to obtain recognition for certain nationalities, but has also made access to procedures problematic (Cuttitta, 2007).

The reinforced external border controls and the tightening of legal arrival routes to the EU have resulted in increasingly dangerous and costly journeys for migrants (Ansems de Vries, Carrera, Guild, 2016), many of whom, although coming from countries that are considered safe, suffer “unimaginable horrors” during their journey to the EU, particularly in Libya (see Amnesty).

For this and various other reasons, the dichotomy identified by the current law between economic migrants and forced migrants is highly problematic.

In Italy, the sorting of migrants according to their different characteristics (provenance, age) takes place from the very first arrival. In particular, for those arriving by sea, identification is carried out at hotspots.

The status of “irregular migrant” has become widespread in legislation since the 1990s (Cvajner, Echeverria, Sciortino, 2018); so it is also becoming increasingly difficult for migrants to receive any form of protection (Galis, Tzokas, Tympas, 2016).

Since the 1990s, the number of residence permits issued in the EU has fallen, with a view to  accelerate a reduction of asylum and protection for migrants. The situation of irregularities is, therefore, not static but rather varies in time, including in relation to the individual migrant. With the tightening of the visa application system and the increasing number of asylum denials, many migrants moved from the status of asylum seekers to the category of irregular (and therefore deportable) migrants.


Ansems de Vries, L., Carrera, S., & Guild, E. (2016). Documenting the migration crisis in the Mediterranean: Spaces of transit, migration management and migrant agency. CEPS Paper in Liberty and Security in Europe, (94).

Cuttitta, P. (2007). Segnali di confine. Il controllo dell’immigrazione nel mondo-frontiera. Milano:Mimesis.

Cvajner, M., Echeverria, G., & Sciortino, G. (2018). Cos’è un regime migratorio? in Collana: Quaderni Del Dipartimento Di Sociologia e Ricerca Sociale (Online), pp. 1–18.

Galis, V., Tzokas, S., & Tympas, A. (2016). Bodies folded in migrant crypts: Dis/ability and the material culture of border-crossing. Societies, 6(2), 10, https://www.mdpi.com/2075-4698/6/2/10/htm.

Scheel, S., & Squire, V. (2014). Forced migrants as illegal migrants. The Oxford Handbook of refugee and forced migration studies, pp. 188-99.

Tazzioli, M. (2015). Which Europe? Migrants’ uneven geographies and counter-mapping at the limits of representation. movements. Journal for Critical Migration and Border Regime Studies, 1(2), https://movements-journal.org/issues/02.kaempfe/04.tazzioli–europe-migrants-geographies-counter-mapping-representation.html.