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Route 2: Third-Country Nationals

TCNs are categorized on the basis of their admission labels, such as labour migrants, asylum seekers, family migrants, refugees, and postcolonial migrants (Schrover and Moloney 2013, 257). Labour migrants are characterized in economic terms. They migrate for reason of employment, either on a temporary or permanent basis. Family migrants come to form a family (marriage migration) or to be reunited with family members (family reunification). This type of migration is highly and explicitly feminized (Bonjour and De Hart 2013). Postcolonial and colonial migrants are those originating from countries formerly colonized by the country of destination. In many cases, they have—or had—a legal right to settle in European countries (Hampshire 2013, 18). Policymakers use these categorizations as mutually exclusive groups. But in reality, these broad classifications overlap. People may move between categories (ibid., 257) or they may use the policy labels available for their migration project. For instance, many of the guest workers who left Greece, Spain, and Portugal in the 1960s and early 1970s had political motives to flee the regimes of colonel Papadopoulos and Makarezos, Franco, and Salazar, respectively. Applying for asylum in North and West European countries was cumbersome and risky. In those days it was easier to apply for a residence permit for work.

Many scholars point to the disproportional problematization of non-European immigrants (Rea et al. 2011; Favell 2013; Schmidtke 2012). Schmidtke (2012, 32) argues that the term TCN creates a non-European “other” by which the EU reproduces a 'hiatus between the wanted, highly-qualified, ideally Western migrants, and the unwanted ones from the non-European world'. The distinction made between wanted and un-wanted follows a 'utilitarian logic' of the country's economic competitiveness (ibid.). The difference between wanted and unwanted TCN immigrants comes clearly to the fore through visa procedures. Rules of visa application make use of so-called “positive” and “negative” lists to distinguish between TCNs that need a visa to travel to the EU Schengen area and those who do not (Groenendijk 2011, 24). Central databases have been created to collect information about nonnationals, especially since the 2004 and 2007 directives on legal migration. The introduction of these immigration databases[1] is legitimated as a security and safety measure linked to the political context of the fight against terrorism, other serious crime, and illegal immigration (ibid., 33). The lists are said to be based on criteria such as potential security risk, illegal immigration, and economic relations. The result is that the “positive” list consists of 'rich countries and countries in Europe and the Americas with predominantly white populations' (ibid.). Besides the implied distinction based on class and race/ethnicity, the lists also mark a religious watershed, as in practice they also distinguish between Muslim and Christian populations (ibid.).

  • [1] Groenendijk (2011, 33–34) refers to three databases. The first, the Schengen Information System (SIS; SIS-II is the new version which includes the possibility of using biometrics) enables exchange of data about suspected criminals, people who may not have the right to enter the EU, missing persons, and stolen, misappropriated, or missing property. Second, EURODAC is a system for comparing fingerprints of asylum seekers and some illegal migrants. Third the Visa Information System (VIS) enables Schengen countries to exchange visa data.
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