Securitisation of Asylum Through Informal Agreements with Transit States: Role of Sovereignty in Determining the Limits of Informalisation and Implications of Involved Parties

  • Tasawar Ashraf

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


In response to the unprecedented arrival of asylum seekers following the Arab Spring and events occurring thereafter, the European Union (EU) and its frontier states adopted the policy of externalising asylum and migration management to neighbouring transit states. Delegation of the responsibility of asylum management to transit states significantly undermined the human rights protections offered to asylum seekers by the Geneva Convention Relating to the Status o f Refugees 1951 (hereinafter referred as the Refugee Convention). However, little is known about how an informal agreement makes the human rights issue more complex. Informal agreements make it harder for the transnational courts to hold the collaborating parties responsible for human rights violations. The thesis presumes the migration collaboration mechanism adopted under the EU-Turkey and Italy-Libya migration agreements as informal agreement. It analyses the impacts of these informal agreements on state and non-state parties involved. The thesis argues that informal asylum management agreements are in contrast to the EU's founding values; therefore, in addition to widespread human right violations, informal agreements also force the destruction of humanitarian norms through a non-humanitarian and vague interpretation of solidarity, the responsibility to protect (R2P), and the rule of law.

The thesis further analyses the impacts of informal agreements on Turkey and Libya as transit states. It argues that the EU's externalisation ambitions are restricted by effective state sovereignty. Therefore, implications for the parties appear to be significantly lower than the implications of Italy's migration collaboration with Libya — a country having limited or fragile state sovereignty. The thesis shows that in the case of effective state sovereignty, transit stat's implications are limited to undue policy influence of the EU, which forces a shift from humanitarian approach to securitisation approach. Whereas, in the case of a non-sovereignty state, implications for the transit states are extended to externalising the state's de-facto control over state institutions and private militias of tribal and warlords. The absence of central state IV authority in Libya allows Italy to informally collaborate with all power groups and hire their services to curb irregular movements. Accordingly, the Libyan state's control over its institutions has weakened. The financial aid provided by the EU and Italy has made tribal lords powerful and more resilient to accepting the authority of the central government. Hence, this thesis concludes by arguing that the absence of central state authority in the transit state, which normally prohibits states from having externalisation agreement with such state, has been used by Italy to its advantage by informally expanding state authority over the operations of the Libyan state institutions and tribal lords. Accordingly, implications for all relevant parties have become more and more complex.
Date of Award2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Glasgow Caledonian University
SupervisorUmut Korkut (Supervisor)

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