Niger’s status as a ‘hub’ for West African migration is now cemented in the imaginaries of interveners and global observers. Even as the number of migrants transiting the country falls sharply from a peak in 2015, the policies and practices on the part of the Nigerien government and its local partners continue to coalesce around irregular migration as a major security priority. This paper argues that, once we consider the voices of market insiders in the smuggling economy as well as those in the security and intervention sector, these narratives point to the fundamentally ambiguous status of the migration economy between the licit and illicit, the legal and the illegal. To capture this ambiguity, the paper draws on the concept of ‘quasilegality’, which captures the in-between status of the flows in question, and in particular the conceptual space between the licit/illicit and legal/illegal binaries. The term quasilegality is particularly useful to point to three factors in particular: the difference between the social sanction of a particular activity and the state legal frameworks that regulate and potentially repress it; the ambiguity of the state legal framework itself, particularly in its application; and smugglers’ / law enforcement actors’ own understandings of their activities. The paper upon which this talk is based contributes to debates on the externalization of EU borders, the political economy of migration, and the nature of organized crime in Africa.
About the speaker
Philippe M. Frowd is an Associate Professor in the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa, Canada. His research draws on critical security studies and focuses on emerging transnational forms of governance of security in the Sahel region of West Africa. His research has primarily focused on irregular migration and border control in the region and has been the focus of his latest book Security at the Borders: Transnational Practices and Technologies in West Africa (2018, Cambridge University Press). Philippe also works on the politics of non-state security provision and dynamics of militarization and intervention in the Sahel more broadly. His work has most recently appeared in Third World Quarterly, Geopolitics, and African Affairs. He is an associate editor of Security Dialogue.
This event is co-hosted by the Migration, Mobilities and Social Politics Research Cluster and the International Migration Research Centre (IMRC).