From Exceptional Threats to Normalized Risks: Border Controls in the Schengen Area and the Governance of Secondary Movements of Migration

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Series Details Volume 37, Number 3, Pages 623-643
Publication Date 2022
ISSN 2159-1229
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As a direct response to the migrations of 2015, seven Schengen member states re-introduced border controls at their national borders, with five of them extending these controls continuously since then. Citing the impact of migration movements, they invoked the clauses of the Schengen Borders Code (SBC) temporarily allowing for such measures in order to counter exceptional threats.

Based on a qualitative analysis of the notifications of the member states in question to the European Commission and its response, we examine how migration and migratory movements have been framed as a security issue in order to legitimise the extension of border controls. Drawing on critical security theory and the different conceptualisations of threat-based and risk-based security, we show that despite the frequent invocation of a frame of threat – as mandated by the SBC –, the underlying rationales for upholding border controls are progressively constructed along a frame of risk. This is consistent with a prevalence of risk-based conceptions of security at the level of the European Union.

We conclude that the shift from threat-based rationales to risk-based conceptualisations of security undermine the spirit of the Schengen area as an area of free circulation since they tend to normalize the hitherto exceptional measure of internal border controls.

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