Kaya, A.: Age of Securitization, 2011

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The aim of this paper is to elaborate the process of securitization of migration and Islam in the west and to claim that both republicanist and multiculturalist policies of integration proved to have failed in politically mobilizing migrants and their descendants. In doing so, from time to time I will refer to our latest qualitative and quantitative research called Euro-Turks. The research aims to reveal the perspectives of the German-Turks, French-Turks, Belgian-Turks and Dutch-Turks on Europeanness, Turkishness, religiosity, ethnicity and identity related issues. The research has also produced a very fruitful set of data to compare German, French, Belgian and Dutch integration and citizenship regimes, which respectively reflect ‘culturalist’ and ‘civilizationalist’ statecraft (Kaya and Kentel, 2005 and 2997; and Kaya, 2009). There are more than 4,5 million Euro-Turks dwelling in the European Union countries, around 3 million of whom in Germany, 400 thousand in France, 400 thousand in the Netherlands, and 200 thousand in Belgium. Migrants tend to comply with the legal, political, social and economic structure of the country they dwell in.

Securitization of Migration by the States: A form of ‘governmentality’

As we all know, the present usage of the term ‘security’ goes beyond its conventional limits. Security used to be defined in political/military terms as the protection of the boundaries and integrity of the state and its values against the dangers of a hostile international arena (Doty, 2000: 73). However, nowadays, security concerns are not only reduced to the protection of the states against ideological and military threats; security concerns have rather become related to the protection of national, societal, cultural and religious homogeneity, which is likely to be threatened by several different issues such as migration, ethno-cultural and religious revival, and identity claims of minorities. As we all know, migration has lately been presented in the western public space as a security threat which has to be handled. And also migration has usually been coupled with criminality, unemployment, misery, terrorism, drug trafficking, human trafficking and insecurity in the media and the public imagery. One could argue that modern states tend to extend the fear of ‘migrants’ and ‘others’ by categorising, stigmatizing and coupling migration together with unemployment, drug trafficking, human trafficking, criminality and terrorism (Doty, 2000: 73; and Huysmans, 1998). This tendency is reinforced by the usage of a rather racist and xenophobic terminology, which dehumanizes migrants. One could see this racist tone in the term ‘influx’, ‘flood’, ‘invasion’, and ‘intrusion’ which are used to express the extensive volume of migrants. A footnote is needed here to point out the fact that migration is not actually a real threat for the European Union countries at the moment as net migration is almost becoming zero. There are already some scientific studies in the UK and the Netherlands, for instance, which reveal that these countries are likely to face a big demographic problem very soon due to the decreasing fertility rate, increasing emigration and rising racism and xenophobia.

Securitization of migration has become a pivotal issue after the 9/11. The security discourse conceals the fact that ethnic/religious/identity claims of migrants and their reluctance to integration actually result from existing structural problems of poverty, unemployment, discrimination, xenophobia, heterophobia, nationalism and racism, but are not the reason of those problems. It seems to me and several others that states tend to employ the discourse of securitization as a political technique with a capacity to integrate a society politically by staging a credible existential threat in the form of an internal, or even an external enemy that is fabricated by security agencies (like the police and the army) through categorising migration together with drug trafficking, human trafficking, criminality and terrorism (Huysmans, 1998). This is what we call ‘governmentality’ with reference to Michel Foucault (1979). The main rationale of the security discourse seems to have shifted from protecting the state to protecting society. Thus, the protection of society against any kind of ‘evil’ has become the pillar of the security discourse in a way that popularized the term ‘security’ in all spheres of life.  

Immigration as a threat to societal security

Immigration has lately become one of the so-called pivotal threats to be primarily stressed by the western democracies. There are at least two premises on which immigration is perceived to be a societal threat: Premise 1) there are too many migrants; and Premise 2) Migrants do not integrate.

Premise 1. There are too many migrants:

The EU integration process has always entwined with the rise of political discourses addressing at the prospective ‘influx’, ‘invasion’, ‘intrusion’ and ‘flood’ of immigrants from new member states.  This was the case in the integration of Spain, Portugal, Greece, and now of Poland and Hungary. Such claims get even more passionate as far as Turkey’s membership is concerned. Turkey’s membership prospective brings about further challenges for the European public such as the so-called Islamic and civilizational threats. Recent bombings in European cities like Madrid and London make the picture even more complicated as the perpetrators are alleged to be originating from “Islamic fundamentalists”.

Let me please add up a few words concerning the common belief within the European Union countries, that there will be an “influx” of migrants from Turkey in case of full membership to the Union. This may, or may not, be the case. There are some other points to be made. For instance, our qualitative and quantitative study among Turkish origin migrants in Germany, France and Belgium, the Euro-Turks, reveals that around 30% of the migrants of Turkish origin would be willing to return when Turkey joins the Union. This tendency implies that, on the way to the European Union, the return migration may intensify in the long run along with the rise of democratic and economic standards in Turkey. It should also be kept in mind that such speculations concerning migration ‘influx’ were always there when other candidate countries were joining the Union such as Spain, Portugal, Greece and Poland. These countries have not experienced any kind of immense emigration after their full membership. Return migration was what they have gone through. 1,5 million Spanish, 600 thousand Greek and 500 thousand Portuguese migrants returned home after the membership of these countries into the EU.

Nevertheless, one should note that there is lately a growing emigration from Poland after the full membership, especially to Ireland, Britain and Germany. Is it really a trouble for the West as millions had claimed? On the contrary, it is not the unqualified labour to be permitted to enter West Europe, it is actually the qualified labour having the right to work in the western European countries. This means that it is not the Polish plumber invading France or England, it is actually qualified doctors, nurses and IT specialists leaving Poland, which does not have a developed labour market to accommodate its own qualified labour/people. By the way, let me also remind you/mention that even in a time when there was too much fuss about the Polish plumber ‘invading’ the French labour market in 2005 during the European Union constitution referendum, there were actually only 140 Polish plumbers working in France. Why then should Turkey’s situation differ from the others? Might it be that Turkey is too big, and culturally and religiously very different? Well, let alone the high risk of Turkey losing qualified labour, one should also bear in mind that Turkey has lately become an attractive destination for EU citizens to permanently live in. It is revealed that every year around 1000 qualified young Dutch-Turks are coming to Turkey to work; and around 4000 young German-Turks do the same. This is actually a kind of brain drain from western countries to the emerging markets. This could be a reason for the need of a discursive change in the West in order to not to be frightened any more of those qualified professionals with migrant origin who are aware of the fact that there is an alternative life out there, maybe in their countries of origin.

Premise 2. Migrants do not integrate:

It is commonly believed that migrants do not integrate into social, political, economic and cultural spheres of life of receiving societies. This belief is even stronger in the case of migrants of Muslim origin. As migrants are believed to be anti-integrationist, they are commonly perceived to be the reason for unemployment, racism, poverty, xenophobia and violence. The German Chancellor Helmut Kohl blamed, in his speech just after the Mölln disaster in 1992, the immigrants of being responsible from the racist attacks of the host German groups. In one of her public speeches in the Daily Mail (January 31, 1978), Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher complained about the massive immigration of the New Commonwealth or Pakistani people to Britain, and explained her concerns about the ‘occupation of England’ by a different culture (Barker, 1981: 15). And, one of the former French Prime Ministers, Edith Cresson, once complained that 'of every ten immigrants found to be here [in France] illegally, only three are expelled' (Cited in Bhavnani, 1993). The common denominator of those speeches given by the high level politicians is the extensive usage of the terms like ‘our people’, ‘our citizens’ symbolising the ‘victims’, and ‘immigrants’ referring to the 'criminals'.

It is the discourse of securitization which makes the situation rather difficult at the expense of immigrants. Shaping the public opinion in an accurate way primarily depends upon the existence of a strong and brave political will, which is ready to convince the public that religious and ethnic revival among migrant groups does not necessarily spring from their ‘essentialist’ and ‘non-integrationist’ cultures, or religions. Such a progressive official political will may convince the public that ethnic/religious/cultural revival among migrants can also be translated as a quest for justice and fairness, but not as a security challenge. Our research on the Euro-Turks reveals that Euro-Turks do not pose a threat to the political and social systems of their countries of settlement, but rather they are willing to incorporate themselves into the system. It is commonly known that Western European states, generally speaking, have the tendency to regard Islam as a threat to their national security. Instead, the research uncovers that orientation to Islam among the Euro-Turks could also be regarded as a quest for justice and fairness.

Political Participation of Migrant Communities

Migrant communities differ from each other in building their survival strategies and identities. For instance, while the French-Turks develop a universalist, republicanist and laicist political discourse and identity, the German-Turks generate a more particularist, culturalist and religious political discourse. The rationale/reason behind this differentiation is explicable through the historical, political and economic differences of each country: France being more universalist, civilizationist and assimilationist, and Germany being more particularist, culturalist and pluralist. To give another example, while the Flemish-Turks in Belgium tend to generate a more culturally distinct identity away from the receiving society, the Walloon-Turks tend to incorporate themselves more into the Walloon culture. This is because the Flemish society is more inclined to the multiculturalist discourse of integration whereas the Netherlands, and the Walloons, on the other hand, are more prone to the assimilationist discourse.

Germany and the Netherlands have a culturalist and differentialist incorporation regime, and France has a universalist and assimilationist one with an undertone of timid multiculturalism. Flanders in Belgium resembles that of the Netherlands and Germany, whereas Wallonia is more assimilationist. However, all these countries have become highly criticized with respect to the ways in which migrants and Muslims have been framed by the political elite and the mainstream media. Communitarianism in contemporary Germany and the Netherlands seems to provide the German-Turks and Dutch-Turks with a more liberal ground whereby they can politically, socially and economically integrate into the mainstream society. The data gathered by the structured and in-depth interviews in the course of the Euro-Turks research (Kaya and Kentel, 2005 and 2007; and Kaya, 2009) indicates that German-Turks, Dutch-Turks, Flemish-Turks, generally speaking, are more communitarian, religious and conservative than French-Turks and Walloon-Turks. Compared to French-Turks and Walloon-Turks, German-Turks seem to be less in favour of cultural integration, as they are content with their ethnic enclaves, religious archipelagos and traditional solidarity networks. However, other findings in the research indicate the contrary. Although, compared to German-Turks and Dutch-Turks, French-Turks and Walloon-Turks seem to be more engaged in the modern way of life, orientating themselves to integration, French language, secularism, laicism, and the French speaking media on the one hand, and they are less engaged in French and Belgian domestic politics, internet, theatres, and cinemas. However, German-Turks, Dutch-Turks and Flemish-Turks seem to generate more cosmopolitan, hybrid, global, and reflexive identities in a way that redefines Europeanness, which is actually subject to constant change. Thus, their experiences actually seem to indicate that Islam does not necessarily contradict Europeanness, cosmopolitanism, modernity, and globalism. When members of excluded or marginalized groups are oppressed because of their membership and ethno-cultural difference, their standing in the world becomes a collective, not an individual, issue. They stand or fall together. This collective condition might suggest the need for redistributive politics aimed at providing resources and opportunities to individuals – so as to liberate them from identities or, at least, from conditions that they have not chosen (Walzer, 2002: 40-41). Germany, the Netherlands and some parts of Belgium have lately become fertile grounds for migrants to become politically active in both domestic and national levels, even in European level. One should not underestimate the fact that Euro-Turks have become even more politically mobile after the rise of Islamophobic tendencies in the West. Local elections in both Belgium and the Netherlands in 2006 resulted in the political participation of thousands of Euro-Turks as both candidates and voters. Political participation among them has even become a source of distinction within the Turkish origin migrants and their descendants, which has given them a stronger status in the wider society.

On the other hand, contrary to the common belief, Euro-Turks research (Kaya and Kentel, 2005 and2007) reveals that there is a positive correlation between ethno-cultural membership of Euro-Turks and their political participation. The denser the network of associations of a particular ethnic group, the more political trust they will have and the more they will participate politically. Voluntary associations in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands create social trust, leading to more political trust and higher political participation (Jacobs and Tillie, 2004: 421). Furthermore, ethnic media also contribute to the political activities of the communities of migrant origin in the wider society. However, French-Turks mostly remain politically inactive.

It is evident that Liberal citizenship regimes are more welcome by migrants and their children. Western democracies and citizenship regimes seem to fail in treating minority claims as a quest for justice. Kymlicka and Norman stated that “immigrant groups that feel alienated from the larger national and [religious] identity are likely to be alienated from the political arena as well” (2000: 39). Traditional citizenship rhetoric is inclined to advance the interests of the dominant national group at the expense of migrants. Hence, it is unlikely that the classical understanding of citizenship can resolve issues of co-existence of ‘culturally discrete’ entities. In order to avoid the potentiality of conflict and alienation, there is an essential task to be undertaken: citizenship laws must not be based on prescribed cultural, religious, linguistic and ethnic qualities. Moderate and democratic citizenship laws to be formulated in line with the task stated above can be anticipated to resolve the emphasis made on ethnicity, religiosity and nationality by migrants groups. The remarkable increase in the rate of naturalization among the German-Turks after the introduction of more liberal citizenship laws in 2000 clearly illustrates that migrants and their descendants positively respond to inclusive citizenship policies. Prior to the year 2000, the number of German-Turks having German citizenship was around 350 thousand, and now this figure has gone up to more than 800 thousand. To put it differently, around 60 % of the German-Turks either have German citizenship or plan to have it soon. This percentage represents around 2 million people out of 3 million German-Turks in total. The new German citizenship law, although it has limitations, actually reveals that migrants can be quite receptive and incorporatist vis-à-vis democratic and inclusive political and legal changes (Kaya and Kentel, 2005).

There is lately a strong inclination among Muslim origin migrants as well as other ethno-cultural minorities in the West towards essentializing and reifying their identities, ethnicities, religions, pasts and purities. Majority societies tend to interpret such identity claims as an outcome of conservatism and essentialism featuring the Euro-Muslims in general, and Euro-Turks in particular. It is commonly argued that such an ethno-cultural essentialism poses a challenge to the national, societal and cultural security of the wider society in question. However, the Euro-Turks research undertaken among the Turkish origin migrants dwelling in four countries, Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, reveals that ethno-cultural revival among the Euro-Turks can be translated as a quest for justice and fairness, but not as a security challenge (Kaya and Kentel, 2005 and 2007). One could also realize the rising popularity of the claim that the EU will encounter an ‘influx’ of migration from Turkey when she joins the European Union.  I argue that this claim is a fabricated one, and illustrates a politically and socially constructed fear. This fear is mainly constructed by conservative political elite, who are not capable of bringing up solutions to the structural problems of insecurity, deindustrialization, poverty, violence, political inequality and structural outsiderism. It should not be forgotten that the same fear had also been raised when Spain, Portugal and Greece joined the Union. What happened in those cases was reverse migration. 30% of the Euro-Turks report that they would consider returning to Turkey after a prospective membership. The rise of the number of the EU citizens buying immovable properties in Turkey is another issue to be taken into consideration. Turkey has lately become an attractive destination for EU citizens to live in for good. Furthermore, the number of young generation of qualified Euro-Turks migrating to Turkey is rapidly increasing. Inanç Kutluer, director of the Dutch Migration Institute, a Euro-Turk himself, states that each year approximately 1,000 young Dutch-Turks attracted by the dynamic Turkish economy are migrating to Turkey to be employed in international companies (Personal interview, Utrecht, 28 March 2007).

The Failure of Multiculturalism and Republicanism

On the one hand one can claim that both ideologies of republicanism and multiculturalism have so far proved that migrants have been imprisoned in a culturalist, ethnicists and religious discourse by the states in a way that distances them from the attempt to represent themselves through legitimate political institutions like national and local parliaments. The latest bombings in Madrid and London have made the European public to revisit the popular sport of multiculturalism bashing. Many of those who bash multiculturalism have short-sightedly become supporters of mono-culturalism and assimilation. Nevertheless one should understand that the problem has very little to do with the cultural integration/assimilation of migrants. The problem seems to lay down somewhere else. The problem is actually the lack of political will of the receiving states in taking measures in order to politically integrate migrants, i.e., providing migrants with a political ground in which they could feel encouraged to elect and to stand as a candidate in the local, national and European elections. For instance, the fact that there are only four Muslim-origin MPs in the multiculturalist British Parliament does not make it more favourable than the republican French Parliament where there is not one single Muslim-origin MP. Once difference-conscious multiculturalism prompts migrants and minorities to mobilize themselves not along political lines but along cultural and ethnic lines, difference-blind republicanism fails in meeting identity based claims of migrants and minorities. Both perspectives seem to have strong pitfalls in prompting migrants and minorities to represent themselves in the legitimate political grounds such as parliament and political parties (Kaya and Kentel, 2005). I claim that those varying governmental policies concerning immigrants -no matter if they are formed by republicanists or multiculturalists- have so far contributed to the othering and reminorisation of immigrant populations of especially Muslim origin in the European countries. Aras Ören, a Turkish novelist and poet, warns of the dangers inherent in the acceptance of otherness and cultural difference:

“[I am afraid that while] the conservatives [assimilationists] lock us into our cultural ghetto by preserving the culture we brought with us as it is and by denying that there can be symbiosis or development,...the progressives [multiculturalist liberals] try to drive us back into that same ghetto because, filled with enthusiasm, by the originality and excotism of our culture, they champion it so fervently that they are even afraid it might disappear, be absorbed by German [western] culture (Quoted in Suhr, 1989: 102).”

 On the other hand, one could also argue that the discourse of security may prompt migrants and their descendants not to integrate and thus to generate reactionary social movements based on identity claims. So, what to do then? How can the states integrate migrants? Both interventions actually make us to revisit the old, familiar notion of ‘integration’.


Let me please briefly sum up my concluding remarks and suggestions: Discourse of security should be rephrased in a way that will free migrants and their descendants from the patronizing gaze of receiving societies. In other words, migration issues should be desecuritized. Shaping the public opinion in an accurate way, primarily depends on the existence of a strong political will, which may convince the public that ethnic/religious/cultural revival among migrants might also be translated as a quest for justice and fairness, but not as a security challenge. In this regard, symptoms and reasons should not be confused. States should not reduce integration into cultural sphere. Integration rather means more than that, and it has political, economic, and civic elements too. Political integration of migrants should be prioritized. Liberal Citizenship regimes should not be based on prescribed cultural, religious, linguistic and ethnic qualities. They should be rather inclusive and postnational.


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Prof. Dr. Ayhan Kaya, 2011, Istanbul Bilgi University. European Institute