“I call it a system.” Unauthorized Migrants’ Understandings of the Long Reach of Dutch Internal Migration Controls


We draw on the concept of deportability to show how unauthorized migrants who (used to) live in the Netherlands perceive and experience Dutch internal-control mechanisms. We first conclude that these migrants’ deportability has serious legal, social, and existential effects on them, which they feel long after their return or deportation to their home country. Second, we state that unauthorized migrants evaluate the Dutch internal-control mechanisms as “one system” in which they distinguish three important, interlinked layers, consisting of (1) divergent actors, (2) laws and policies inside and outside the migration control domains located within (3) different geographies. This implies that individual nation-states, through their internal control mechanisms, also contribute to the externalization of migration control at a supranational level. We conclude that the state’s internal migration controls bring about immobility not only in the countries of settlement but also in the transit and home countries.

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Except where otherwise noted, content in this journal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Published: 2021-09-01
Pages:87 to 100
Section:Special Issue: Transforming Borders and the Discretionary Politics of Migration
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How to Cite
Kox, M. . and Staring, R. . (2021) “‘I call it a system.’ Unauthorized Migrants’ Understandings of the Long Reach of Dutch Internal Migration Controls”, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 10(3), pp. 87-100. doi: 10.5204/ijcjsd.2043.

Author Biographies

Erasmus University Rotterdam

M.H. (Mieke) Kox, MA is a PhD candidate at the Criminology department of the Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands. In her PhD research, she examines how unauthorized migrants understand and give meaning to internal migration controls in the Netherlands and how they relate to the law. It is based on longitudinal ethnographic fieldwork amongst 105 unauthorized migrants who (used to) reside in the Netherlands. Her other research focuses on everyday experiences of unauthorized migrants and refugees, immigration detention, transnational prisons and national-foreign offenders.

Erasmus University Rotterdam

Prof. dr. R.H.J.M. (Richard) Staring is full professor Empirical Criminology at Department of Criminology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands. He is specialized in ethnographic and other qualitative research methods in the broad research field of (irregular) international migration, borders and integration. He has published on poverty, crime, international and irregular migration flows, as well as on processes of incorporation of illegal immigrants, human smuggling and human trafficking, qualitative research methods, and qualitative analysis.