Informal Practices in Illicit Border-Regimes: The Economy of Legal and Fake Travel Documents Sustaining The EU Asylum System
Keywords:Migration, Informality, Europe, Illegality, Bureaucracy
On their route to secure asylum in the EU, asylum seekers rely on various strategies involving both licit and illicit paper practices. Based on ethnographic research with asylum seekers on the move between Turkey, Greece, and Germany, this article takes the realm of legal documents to probe the economy of legality and illegality that sustains the EU asylum system. Looking at how asylum seekers differentiate between their papers, the article demonstrates how efficacy rather than legality is the organizing principle through which papers are evaluated. Rather than being preoccupied with whether a paper is legal or illegal, ‘unauthorized’ migrants on the move evaluate papers on the scale of strong/not strong or dangerous/safe, asking what is more likely to work or pose less threat, and in what circumstances. The notion that both licit and illicit papers have a fickle efficacy in producing legality problematizes common policy and scholarly conceptions of the counterfeit as an informal space that is either external to the law or a perversion of it. Instead, it highlights how the European border and asylum regime exploits the legal/illegal distinction to criminalize asylum-seeking while obscuring how illegality is systematically embedded within it.
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