The IRMA project is informed by the wider theoretical framework of globalization studies which point to the erosion of the sovereignty and independence of the nation state. Globalization is a multi-faceted and multi-level phenomenon: economically it involves the elimination of countries’ trade boundaries and the development of global multinational corporations. At the cultural level it signifies to a large extent the spread of a borderless and boundless consumerism. However this also creates opposed movements of return to local cultures and local economies. At the social level, globalization involves a sense that politics and democracy are increasingly less relevant as global market forces seem to take the lead. At the same time the volatility of the global economy creates a crisis of legitimacy for the neo-liberal policies that advocate stripping away the protections that nation states used to provide to their citizens in the name of an unstoppable global model of development (George and Wilding 2002; Holton 2005, Milliot and Tournois 2010).

Migration is deeply affected by globalization as the lifestyles, consumer habits, sense of relative deprivation as well as systems of production and politics of developing countries are shaped by the forces of social, political and economic globalization. People become more aware of the better prospects that potentially await them in developed countries. Information travels faster than before, and means to get connected through IT as well as means of transport are also cheaper and faster. The erosion of national boundaries create also more space and scope for local or transnational actors to be involved in irregular migration whether as local or transnational smuggling networks, or as local NGOs or international organisations.

Globalization has been the buzzword of the last three decades, so widely used by such a wide range of actors that it often remains too vague and elusive to translate into meaningful content. On the other hand, migration is lately discussed in relation to globalization; yet, little empirical evidence to date clarifies precisely the relationship between the two (King 1995; Castles 2000; Urzua 2000; Tapinos 2000; Stalker 2000; Papastergiadis 2000; Koser 2007; Castles and Miller 2009; Solimano 2010). It is therefore necessary to begin by offering some conceptual definitions of globalization and exploring its links with international migration.


Concept paper IRMA: Governing Irregular Migration: States, Migrants and Intermediaries at the Age of Globalisation