This is the final installment of the themed series on Border Criminologies network members. The series aims to present our members’ ongoing research, recent publications, new course modules they might be developing, grants and awards, partnerships and collaborations, and questions they have been considering or struggling with.

Post by Maria João Guia, Researcher, University of Coimbra Institute for Legal Research (UCILeR), and Associate Researcher, Center of Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Coimbra.

Reflecting on immigration and crime for more than a decade has drawn me to a variety of disciplines such as criminology, sociology, law, sociology of law, anthropology, psychology, and psychiatric and medical science, among others. Working on my PhD in Law and Sociology, (jointly offered by the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Economics together with the Centre for Social Studies at the University of Coimbra), I was able to explore questions and problems that no discipline alone could possibly answer. Hence, I continued developing the idea that immigration, crime, crimmigration, and the management of irregular immigration are all interconnected. This, in turn, created a need to produce knowledge and stimulate discussions and debates around these issues, as well as to engage with the wider public. It’s been a challenging intellectual endeavour, which I’ll try to summarise below in a few topics.

1. A passion for this research topic: Being in the field, experiencing all the different contours of criminal investigation, has reinforced my ongoing passion for academia, which isn’t exclusively limited to reading, reflecting upon and writing down ideas, but rather has practical repercussions too. In this, I was deeply influenced by Maria Ioannis Baganha, a great woman and an academic based at the Faculty of Economics, University of Coimbra, with whom I shared the same inspirational call to spread knowledge worldwide. She was devoted to expanding the field of immigration studies and was someone that the academy recently lost. I was very lucky to have found her and I’m very grateful for everything I’ve learned from her.

2. The crimmigration paradigm: During my PhD, I came to the concept of crimmigration, coined by Juliet Stumpf in her article from 2006 (‘The Crimmigration Crisis: Immigrants, Crime and Sovereign Power’). At a panel we organised for the Law and Society Association meeting in San Francisco in 2011, we, together with other brilliant scholars, debated the concept of crimmigration and its reality in the US and in the rest of the world, and questioned its effects over societies and particularly over immigrants and upon their rights.

This panel and the ensuing debates, provided the first seed of what was to become later the Crimmigration Control International Net of Studies (CINETS Network), set up by the same group of academics. In 2012 we organized the first international CINETS Conference at the University of Coimbra. Together with Maartje van der Woude and Joanne van der Leun we co-edited a book, Social Control and Justice: Crimmigration in the Age of Fear, published by Eleven Publishing in 2012. Not long after, the online portal that would host our interests and plans was set up. Our initiatives ranged from international exchanges mainly between Leiden and Coimbra Universities: the workshop ‘Law and Criminal Sciences’ in February 2014; co-organizing the second CINETS Conference, ‘The Borders of Crimmigration’ in October 2014  and the third conference, ‘Crimmigration in the Shadow of Sovereignty’ (which you can still attend as it’s taking place at the University of Maryland, in Park College, Maryland, on 6-8 October 2016). We also attend international conferences (European Society of Criminology, American Society of Criminology, Metropolis, Law and Society Association, etc) or even participate in the organization of some (e.g., SciencePo Toulouse in 9th-10th September, so, you may still attend), as well as organise special issues, books, and debates on, for instance, the dangers of crimmigration.

Crimmigration or the criminalisation of migration and irregularity are reflected in many countries’ social, political and legal agendas. It’s important to note, as per the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights from March 2014, that there are only three countries in the EU that don’t criminalise migrants for irregular entry (Spain, Portugal, and Malta). Only three member states don’t criminalise migrants for irregular stay (Portugal, France, and Malta), whilst in contrast all the others do with the imposition of fines or imprisonment and/or fines. This is a real change from decades before, since the Council Framework Decision 2002/946/JHA intended the prevention of the facilitation of illegal immigration, eventually penalizing the facilitation of irregular entry and/or stay, as most EU members have done but not targeting immigrants directly, (as neither did the Returns Directive (2008/115) even though it foresaw regulating procedures). Penalising migrants (themselves) require us to rethink about what we are willing to occur in the EU. Do we want the fight against the exploitation of migrants or the migrants’ criminalisation themselves? The Mediterranean crisis has further underscored this question (for more on this you can see an article that I co-authored with May-Len Skilbrei, “How the current “migration crisis” challenges European Criminologists” ).

The concept and process of crimmigration connects several topics of analysis together; that is, the rights of migrants in irregularity, the detention of migrants, the transposition of European directives, the rights of victims of crimes, the criminalisation of migration, the securitisation of borders, the Mediterranean crisis, and human trafficking.

3. Human trafficking: Focusing on the ‘law in action’ in the context of human trafficking crime, I’ve followed the changes, improvements, and difficulties in international, European, and national laws, aiming to make clear the lines that mark differences between other crimes such as the exploitation of prostitution and aiding illegal immigration, among others. One may never forget that the act of criminalising or de-criminalising is a political choice, depending often on the transposition of European directives, such as Directive 2011/36 (in the Portuguese case of human trafficking) or signed treaties like the Istanbul Convention on ‘Action against violence against women and domestic violence’ (which brought forth the criminalization, in the Portuguese Penal Code, Law Nº 83/2015, of Forced Marriages, Female Genital Mutilation and the crime of stalking, on 5 August 2015).

Based on my experience as trainer of trainers on human trafficking by FRONTEX, being an deputy member of the Human Trafficking EU Commission, from 2008 to 2011, and a national expert on the project ‘Protecting victims’ rights in the EU: The theory and practice of diversity of treatment during the criminal trial’ (coordinated by the Centre for European Constitutional Law, the Themistokles and Dimitris Tsatsos Foundation, together with the Institute for Advanced Legal Studies at the University of London), as well as on my academic research in this area, I’m proud to say, I’ve edited a book, The Illegal Business of Human Trafficking, published by Springer in 2015. In addition, I have organized several international and national panels and conferences over the last few years, on this topic, in order to discuss key topics such as the exploitation of misery and human trafficking crimes and have plans for new publications in this field.

4. Diversification of interests – present and future: As a European Commission External Expert in the area of ‘Security, Liberty and Justice’ in 2014, I’ve sought to expand the CINETS network with new members, researchers, and academics interested in the field. At the same time, other topics of interest have started to emerge: the detention of migrants, the rights of migrants, and, of course, the Mediterranean crisis as a global management of displaced people. Together with Robert Koulish and Valsamis Mitsilegas, I co-edited a new book, Immigration Detention, Risk and Human Rights published by Springer in 2016, which brings together a collection of articles from the most prominent researchers in the field of immigration detention from different parts of the world, thus enabling deep reflection of what’s going on in this field.

My PhD thesis, ‘Immigration, “Crimmigration” and Violent Crime: Foreign-national prisoners and the representations about immigration and crime’, is currently under publication.  My thesis focused not only on immigration detention but also on foreign-nationals in prison based on the analysis of 350 judicial sentences on Portuguese and non-national inmates convicted for violent crimes in Portugal.

Reflecting upon these files formed the basis of my recent article, ‘Institutional Perceptions of Internal Security on the Relationship between “Sensitive Urban Zones” and Immigrant Criminality’ (Laws, 2016) that I had the great honour of co-authoring with the inspiring professor of the University of Coimbra João Pedroso, who accompanied and supervised the whole of my PhD journey (together with other inspirational professor António Casimiro Ferreira) from the sociology of law perspective. The legal perspective of my thesis was supported and supervised by professors Jorge Figueiredo Dias, Pedro Caeiro, and Alexandra Aragão, all based in the University of Coimbra).

Lately, I’ve been honoured to work with May-Len Skilbrei at the University of Oslo to coordinate a working group on the topic of ‘Immigration, Crime and Citizenship’ for the next European Society of Criminology (ESC) conference in Munster in September 2016. I’ve also recently become a member of the group ‘Crisis, Sustainability and Citizenships’ at the Institute for Legal Research at the Faculty of Law, University of Coimbra, and I continue my affiliation as an associate researcher with the Ius Gentium Conimbrigae, the Centre for Human Rights. I’ve also been lucky enough to have had internationally rewarding teaching experiences lately at Leiden Law School in the Netherlands; at Guararapes Faculty, Recife, International Faculty of Paraíba, Brazil; and at Sciences-Po Toulouse in France, where I hope my teaching has stimulated students to further enrich this field of knowledge. I also had the pleasure to meet highly respected academics, such as André-Jean Arnaud (in memoriam), Wanda Capeller and Jacques Commaille, with whom I have the highest pleasure to maintain contact and exchange ideas.

As my desire to expand this field of research continues to grow, I’m honoured to be part of and share my thoughts through Border Criminologies, another international research network, where members come together to discuss, debate, share and develop, and enrich this growing field of research.

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How to cite this blog post (Harvard style):

Guia, M. J. (2016) Immigration, Crime, and Crimmigration: The Ongoing Management of Irregular Migration. Available at: https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/centre-criminology/centreborder-criminologies/blog/2016/07/immigration-crime (Accessed [date]).