The lack of legal ways to travel to Europe obliges migrants escaping from poverty, conflicts, persecution and environmental disasters to embark on extremely long, dangerous and costly journeys in order to reach Europe through “irregular” ways. Once in Europe, they can apply for international protection but they cannot choose where to do it. According to European Union law, it is the country through which they enter in the European Union that is responsible for registering them, processing their asylum claims and providing assistance during the asylum process. This has never really worked in practice as migrants have historically tried to find ways to continue their journeys towards central and northern Europe.
Migrant movements became ever more evident during the so-called “refugee crisis” in 2015, when hundreds of thousands of migrants travelled across Europe, refusing to stay in the first country of entry. Since then, European Union’s institutions and member states have increased their efforts to control and limit the mobility of migrants. So-called “hotspot” facilities were set up in border points in the Greek Aegean islands and in southern Italy in order to stop all newly arrived migrants, register them and collect their fingerprints. Relocation schemes gave the possibility to restricted groups of migrants to be transferred away from the first country of arrival to another member state. Finally, some member states reintroduced border controls within the Schengen area in order to prevent migrants from travelling within Europe.
The H2020 project CONDISOBS explored these attempts to govern migrant mobility with a view to understanding their effectiveness and their effects on people and local communities. CONDISOBS was led by Lorenzo Vianelli and implemented between January 2020 and January 2022. The research project received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement no. 838722.
Do hotspots, relocation and border controls successfully limit the autonomous mobility of migrants within Europe? This is the main research question that informed the H2020 project CONDISOBS. Through an extensive, multi-sited qualitative study, CONDISOBS investigated the effectiveness of the attempts made by European Union’s institutions and by member states to control and discourage migrant mobility. It examined the implementation of the hotspot approach in Greece and in Italy with a view to understanding whether it succeeds in containing migrants in these countries and, if so, with what effects. CONDISOBS also analysed different types of relocation measures with a view to shedding light on the practical difficulties affecting these schemes and on the trajectories of relocated migrants. Finally, CONDISOBS explored the conditions in which “secondary movements” – that is unauthorised movements made by migrants to leave the first country of arrival – occur, despite increasingly sophisticated and violent border controls.
CONDISOBS is a qualitative, multi-sited study. It draws on 35 in-depth semi-structured interviews with a range of different actors, including governmental officials, representatives of international organisations, members of non-governmental organisations and grassroots associations, lawyers, social workers and activists. Interviews were conducted between October 2020 and June 2021 and focused on Greece, Italy and Luxembourg.
Through a wide range of academic and non-academic outputs, CONDISOBS seeks to inform current debates on the European Union’s asylum and migration politics. From a scientific standpoint, it contributes to academic scholarship on asylum, migration and borders in the European context through unique, first-hand qualitative data on hotspots, relocation and secondary movements. At policy level, CONDISOBS contributes to debates on the Common European Asylum System and on the European Union’s border policies through three policy papers that provide fresh insights and policy recommendations based on solid empirical evidence. CONDISOBS also makes a contribution at the broader societal level through dissemination activities like talks in public events and articles in websites and magazines.