The re(b)ordering efforts made by states over the last three decades, for instance the securitization of some border areas and harsher visa policies, may denote an evolution of the international migration regime. The increase of migrant and refugee flows in the 1970s and 1980s (Hatton 2012), coupled with demographic and security challenges in developing countries (Geddes 2005), started to significantly alter an international migration regime that was essentially based on the notion of ‘control’ (Pécoud 2010; Georgi 2010). In the 1990s, the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the wars in Iraq and the former Yugoslavia added further policy makers’ concerns about the regulation of permanent and temporary migrations and refugee flows. A new regime, based on a global policy agenda relying particularly on the concept of ‘migration management’, was originally formulated by Bimal Ghosh, in 1993. Ghosh further developed this concept of ‘migration management’ in the 1996 project known as the New International Regime for Orderly Movements of People (NIROMP), funded by the Swedish, Dutch and Swiss governments (Ghosh 2000). Ghosh proposed a comprehensive international migration regime, designed to tackle what was perceived as current and future migration policy crises, and focuses on both migrants and refugees (Geiger and Pécoud 2010). Yet, Sassen argues that these two categories, migrants and refugees, cannot be merged: “there are separate regimes for refugees in all these countries and an international regime as well, something that can hardly be said for immigration” (1996, 64). Nonetheless, Ghosh’s ‘migration management’ approach was welcomed and later borrowed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). This notion of ‘migration management’ became a mantra of the IOM, “committed to the principle that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society” (IOM 2015e).
The IOM is an intergovernmental organization (IGO), created in 1951 as an operational organization (as opposed to a full-fledged migration organization now), known as the Provisional Intergovernmental Committee for the Movement of Migrants from Europe (PICMME). The context of the origins of the PICMME deserves to be examined briefly. After the Second World War, approximately 11 million displaced people brought about serious socio-economic concerns for European governments. The problem was generally framed as an economic issue of surplus populations in Europe, surplus populations that required resettlement to certain countries with manpower needs, e.g., the United States (US), Canada, Australia, and so on. Yet, there was no consensus over an appropriate solution, as the United States disagreed with multilateral international organizations, e.g., the United Nations (UN). In the midst of the cold war, the United States insisted on limiting international interferences over migrant and refugee policy issues, and thus proposed to create a basic institution with specific functions, based on an intergovernmental structure driven by nation-states’ economic agenda. Conversely, the UN supported the idea of an international organization that would lead international cooperation on migration and refugee issues, based on humanitarian purposes, i.e., the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) (Karatani 2005). In 1951, the conferences of Naples and Brussels ratified the US approach, which led to the creation of the PICMME, then re-christened several times before acquiring in 1989 the acronym IOM we know today. In short, Düvell argues that the IOM “was always intended to offer an economic counter-agency to the humanitarian UNHCR, set up the year before” (2003).
Georgi analyzes the historical development of the IOM in five major phases: during the cold war, the organization is a modest “anti-communist logistics agency” that supports some of western countries’ migration policies. Secondly, from the 1980s to 1993, the organization experiences an opportunistic phase, in the context of globalization and the end of the Soviet bloc; from 1994 to 2000, an expansion by solving the ‘migration control’ problem with a ‘migration management’ solution, although Pécoud notes that the difference between control and management is extremely tenuous (2010, 194); from 2000 to 2008, an exceptional growth of the IOM under Brunson McKinley’s leadership; and from 2008 on, the IOM was in a post-neoliberal era (Georgi 2010, 49- 61). We could also summarize this shift by suggesting that the IOM, originally a transport agency, shifted opportunistically to a multi-service agency for states.
The IOM, which is headquartered in Geneva, describes itself as a growing organization, from 67 member states in 1998 to 156 in 2014; from a total expenditure of US dollars (USD) 242.2 million in 1998 to USD 1.3 billion in 2013; IOM offices are located in more than 150 countries; operational staff was about 1,100 in 1998 and reaches at present 8,400, “almost entirely in the field” (IOM 2015g; Migreurop 2009). As opposed to numerous UN agencies that are going through significant organizational downsizing (Hammerstad 2014), the IOM provides an interesting example of international organizations that have the wind astern, symptomatic of nation states’ shifting international priorities in the 21st century. The expansion of the IOM, along with an increasing focus on border and migration security policy issues in diverse social science disciplines, may explain the emerging scholarly interest in this organization in the 2000s and 2010s. However, what explains the fact that it was and is still a relative research blind spot? First, the IOM is not an organization that belongs to the UN system. The absence of the IOM in an organizational framework that is over-scrutinized by international relations students may thus explain in part this research myopia. Second, and this is related to the first point, due to its narrow mandate and limited resources and activities until the early 1990s, the IOM has been a marginal organization for decades, strived to reproduce itself, especially in the 1960s, when the ‘iron curtain’ threatened its existence (Georgi 2010, 51). Third, the IOM’s lack of transparency regarding the services provided to its member states is another obstacle. Most of the contracts concluded by the IOM to offer these services are kept confidential. Besides, field research seems problematic: it is certainly possible to interview some IOM employees (see for instance Geiger 2010), and pretty challenging to converse with asylum seekers who are detained on the island of Lombok, east of Bali (Ashutosh and Mountz 2011), but it is extremely difficult to interview temporary foreign workers who have signed an IOM contract and understandably fear reprisals for voicing concerns (see for instance Vargas-Foronda 2010a, Ancheita Pagaza and Bonnici 2013).
At least two topics seem to draw consensus among researchers who study the IOM. First, many scholars agree that the IOM fosters neoliberal values and policies in a globalized context (Andrijasevic and Walters 2010; Geiger and Pécoud 2010; Vargas-Foronda 2010a). Similarly, Kalm uses the expression of ‘neoliberal governmentality’, borrowed from Foucault, which allows us to think about migration management in relation to the government of populations, where the maximization of human capital is seen as a key objective for governments and individuals (2010). Not far from Kalm’s analysis, Andrijasevic and Walters contend that the concepts of ‘international liberalism’ and ‘global governmentality’ allow us to grasp how the IOM works in a global field of power at the service of its member states; also, they argue that IOM policies should be analyzed through its practices, starting with specific ones defined by the IOM, for instance ‘assisted voluntary return’ (2010). Georgi identifies the IOM’s political project as a form of “neoliberal global migration governance” (Georgi 2010, 67). Ashutosh and Mountz show how the IOM works “at the intersection of nation-states, international human rights regimes, and neoliberal governance” (2010, 22).
Second, several scholars emphasize the fact that IOM activities also represent a significant business, relying for instance on EU funds, as the organization was able to secure European Commission funding to offer policy services to Albania (Geiger 2010, 157), on a vast repertoire of national ministries and agencies that consider that the IOM knows and defends migrants and asylum seekers’ human rights (Pécoud 2010, 195; Geiger 2010), or on temporary foreign workers’ remittances (Vargas-Foronda 2010b).
In the context of this literature, the externalization and internationalization of migration management seems to be one of the core features of the current regime. Yet, this international migration management regime is increasingly questioned by scholars (Geiger and Pécoud 2010; Kuntz et al. 2011) who have worked on the IOM. Although the literature proposes stimulating approaches to migration governance, it fails to propose a robust coherent framework that would make sense of the role of the IOM as a key component in the neoliberalizing processes we witness at multiple levels - local, national, transnational and international. In the first section of this chapter, we suggest an alternative model to analyze how neoliberal migration management requires focusing not only on the notions of workfare and prisonfare, but also on the ‘theory of fields’ theoretical framework. In this second section, we will analyze the role of the IOM in a labour contract for Guatemalan temporary foreign workers who are employed in farms in Canada.
Methodologically, this study relies on primary and secondary sources: primary sources include website pages from the IOM’s main website, as well as contracts, appendices to contracts and documentation in Spanish provided by Jacobo Vargas-Foronda; secondary sources comprise scholarly, government, IGO and non-government organization (NGO) documents.