The policies addressing migration cannot be fully understood without also including institutional discourse on the issue as of the analysis. Indeed, there exists a close relationship between discussions on migration and migrants on the one hand, and the deterioration of the regulatory framework at the various territorial scales on the other (De Genoa, Mezzadra, Pickles, 2015).

Illegality and consequent criminalisation of migrants seem to be one of the most popular interpretative approaches in the governance of migratory movements (Scheel, Squire, 2014). More and more people are being expelled from the asylum system (graph). Such expulsion in Italy and Europe has been accompanied, at a discursive level, by the idea that there is a genuine “invasion” of migrants, and that the reception system for asylum seekers is a privilege that removes public services otherwise intended for the indigenous population (Tazzioli, 2016c). The criminalisation of mobility is apparent when considering that opportunities for the detention of irregular migrants have increased, and a growing number of funds have been allocated to return centres. This process has been accompanied by a similar criminalisation of solidarity and of the NGOs present in the Mediterranean, accused by some political parties of acting in collusion with human traffickers. More and more we observe a phasing out of “humanitarian language”; typically present in the political discourse in supporting accords with third countries aimed at preventing the death of migrants during dangerous journeys, yet more sparingly so today.

This mutated climate has led to strong tensions between the two essential features of EU asylum norms: respect for human rights, and security and flow control policies. The shrinking of universal rights shows an increasing discrepancy between the rights of citizens of a State and the rights of those who are not. A fundamental feature of the neo-liberal State is that rights are strictly connected to citizenship (Beneduce, 2015); thus, the lack of citizenship rights can lead to individuals being identified as criminals, who, by disrespecting the law, become undeserving even of first aid.


Beneduce, R. (2015). The moral economy of lying: Subjectcraft, narrative capital, and uncertainty in the politics of asylum. Medical Anthropology, 34(6), pp. 551-571.

De Genova, N., Mezzadra, S., & Pickles, J. (2015). New keywords: Migration and borders. Cultural studies, 29(1), pp. 55-87.

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

Tazzioli, M (2016). Greece’s camps, Europe’s hotspots, October 2016, Oxford Bordercriminology: https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/centre-criminology/centreborder-criminologies/blog/2016/10/greece%E2%80%99s-camps