To study how Agamben’s state of exception became the new normal of the governance of migration in Europe, many have focused on migrants’ detention centres (De Genova, 2017; Andrijasevic, 2010). Yet, these centres are just the most visible manifestations of a continuous of laws, regulations, institutional and non-institutional tactics developed to keep unwanted migrants outside the margins of the polis – and, consequently, of the rule of law. Presented as necessary measures to preserve the European and national integrity, a series of restrictions were promoted by liberal governments to colonize multiple spheres of third country nationals’ everyday life (Guild, Groenendijk and Carrera, 2009). Yet, a close look at the everyday interactions between migrants and these exceptional legal norms reveals their racist nature (Alpes and Spire, 2014). General rules may have discriminatory effects on certain groups of third-country nationals. For instance, social and economic integration criteria are not neutral as they prevent individuals in a precarious situation from accessing citizenship, thus reinforcing inequalities and precariousness (Morris, 2003). By adopting a mainly qualitative top-down and bottom-up approach, here we analyse first how exceptional legal frameworks were introduced in Belgium to regulate several and apparently disconnected areas of non-EU migrants public and private lives. Thus, we discuss the everyday interactions that Congolese, US and Indian migrants have with these special normative tools as their implementation is mediated by Belgian administrators in municipal, regional or federal offices. The selection of these three groups allowed us to deal with the greatest variability of legal statuses, enabling us to put the effect of these diverse legislations in relation with a series of other variables such as, for instance, ethnicity. As we analyse the complex interplay between the law and individual everyday choices, we show how migrants of different nationality but with same legal status experience diverse degrees of discrimination and exclusion. By combining law, demography and sociology, we thus bring to light the functioning of those liminal spaces where the boundaries of citizenship are constantly redefined against a “dangerous other”, forcing migrants to negotiate their short and long-term trajectories. From this ground-level angle, the racist nature of the ‘state of exception’ becomes evident as it is exercised on migrants.
Transformation of Citizenship, Institute of International Law and International Relations of the University of Graz (Austria), 20-21 November 2018
Institutional Racism Within the State of Exception: A Study of the Impact of Law on Migrants’ Everyday Lives in Belgium