'Unwanted Citizens of EU Member States’ conference in Liverpool

On August 27, 2019 PhD student Maryla Klajn attended the one-day conference 'Unwanted Citizens of EU Member States’ in Liverpool.

A one-day conference, ‘Unwanted Citizens of EU Member States’, took place in Liverpool on August 27th, 2019, bringing together scholars from legal and social sciences, as well practitioners and activists involved in migration, border crossing, detention and deportation issues. Enjoying a large audience and a beautiful setting of the BlueCoat, the seminar mostly focused on various aspects of expansion in deportation numbers of EU nationals within Schengen, overrepresentation of certain groups of EU nationals in prisons (specifically Romanian, Polish, Albanian, Lithuanian, and Bulgarian citizens), as well as status precariousness of permanent residents and the migration discourse in Great Britain in the context of Brexit. The speakers presented various national and theoretical perspectives, providing examples and analyses from Spain, Romania, Poland, and UK, while also looking into their interconnectivities and similarities from a more international and global angle. The organizers, Agnieszka Martynowicz (Edge Hill University/MWG-NW, UK) and Witold Klaus (Institute of Law Sciences, Polish academy of Sciences, Poland) ensured both a welcoming and supportive, but simultaneously constructively critical environment for discussion among all of the speakers and the audience, with Agnieszka providing opening and closing remarks, pointing to the urgency of researching the topic of intra-Schengen mobility.

The first session of the day, Enforced Mobility, focused on deportations and transfers of EU offenders. Cristina Fernandez-Bessa (University of A Coruña, Spain) spoke about the prison population in Spain, in which foreign national are exponentially overrepresented (especially Romanian population), as they are in pre-trial detention, but under-represented in parole, often experiencing harsh and discriminatory conditions during their imprisonment. Gabriel Oancea (University of Bucharest, Romania) pointed to instrumentalisation of the procedure of ‘transfers for rehabilitation’ of Romanian citizens from foreign prisons back to Romania as an actual tool of regulating prison overcrowding. Next, Witold Klaus gave a thought-provoking talk, putting forward a concept of a ‘deportizen’, building on theories of Agamben, De Genova, and Jakobs, utilizing their concepts and models in the contemporary realities of the growing European deportation regimes.

In the second session, Challenging state policies through actions, the seminar had the opportunity to bring together activists involved in various migration-related issues in UK. Lauren Cape-Davenhill from Right to Remain/These Walls Must Fall shared the history and movement goals of the grassroots organizations protesting detention of migrants in the UK. Wiebke Reuterjans talked about activism and outreach of The 3Million/Settled UK movements, looking into the legal status of various migrant groups in the context of upcoming Brexit. In an inspiring manner both speakers touched on topics beyond purely scholarly interests, showing the raw, emotional, and human side of the injustice of contemporary border mechanisms and growing precariousness of many migrant groups.

The second session provided a perfect segue to the third one, Unsettling and unsettled status – denizens in times of Brexit, which dove deeper into the complicated matrix of migrant populations in the UK, and the shift in their legal status at the time of Brexit. Aleksandra Marcinkowska (Bradford City University, UK) discussed the switch from EU to UK law in regards to permanent residence and settlement status, using the Polish population of Bradford as an illustration of issues with implementation. Utilizing critical media discourse analysis Agnieszka Radziwiczówna (University of Wolverhampton, UK) showed how various British newspapers with different political proclivities presented very different, yet always strongly politicized (and/or instrumentalized) discourses of immigrants in the UK. Last in the session, Zana Vathi (Edge Hill University/Migration Working Group-NW, UK) discussed the issue of psychosocial well-being in context of return migration and agency, challenging the dichotomy of ‘forced vs voluntary’ return as an arbitrary division and analyzing impacts of an imposed or forced return (especially deportations) on various vulnerable groups.

Solange Maslowski (Charles University, Czechia/Centre for Migration Research, University of Warsaw, Poland) opened the last session of the day: EU citizens as a ‘threat’- removing ‘the other’. Focusing on her analysis of public policy, Solange exposed how specific migrant groups (i.e. Roma) are targeted by certain laws (aimed against activities such as vagrancy, squatting, or begging) in order to facilitate their removal, presenting them as a ‘threat to public policy’. Second speaker this session was our own Maryla Klajn (Van Vollenhoven Institute, Leiden Law School, The Netherlands), discussing a procedure of ‘transfers’ as the last stage in an intra-Schengen forced return of an EU national. Maryla used examples from her recent fieldwork on the Polish-German border, and discussed her observations of transfers of Polish citizens being deported from Germany by Bundespolizei officers into the hands of street-level Polish Border Guards. The last presenter, José A. Brandariz (University of A Coruña, Spain), linked progressive saliency of deportation of EU nationals within EU to intensifying waves of xeno-racism and the frequent political use of the discourse of a ‘criminal alien’, beautifully summarizing many of the concepts and issues touched upon throughout the day.

The event facilitated such lively and stimulating debates, the participants had a difficult time parting ways as the day ended. Considering the genuine intellectual connections clearly made that day among the presenters, combined with the undeniable passion all of them have for their projects, all bodes very well for the future collaborations as well as the Special Issue of the Central and Eastern European Migration Review, based on this conference and bringing together new publications by the speakers on the topics of ‘Unwanted citizens of EU member states and their forced returns within the European Union’(expected in print in early 2021).

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Liverpool city center and docks