"It’s important for the EU to work with non-state entities and take into account the viewpoints of civil society, so that its policies are relevant to the people who are affected. We’re at a point where NGOs, international organizations and individuals want a piece of the decision-making process."

When the unrest in North Africa reached a boiling point in early 2011, it pushed migrants to the shores of the European Union (EU) in attempt to flee the violence. "People move, and many of them need to move for humanitarian reasons," says Emek Uçarer, professor of international relations. "Migration has economic, environmental and political implications. Many recipient states want to curb large influxes, but must also keep in mind legitimate human rights concerns."

For nearly two decades, Uçarer has been keeping an eye on the EU's efforts with regard to immigration and asylum policy. In her research, she examines under what conditions states and non-state actors, such as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), intergovernmental organizations and individuals, can have meaningful input with regard to EU policy.

"NGOs have been trying to influence EU policy-making by developing alternative drafts of EU legislation, proposing amendments during ongoing conversations and advocating for the protection of the human rights of migrants," she says. For example, Brussels-based NGOs tried hard to steer the language of the 2008 EU directive on the return of undocumented migrants to protect those who would be expelled from a country.

"The NGO's pushed for the inclusion of language that would address what happens, for example, to migrants who are underage and unaccompanied," she says. "It's important for the EU to work with non-state entities and take into account the viewpoints of civil society, so that its policies are better informed and relevant to the people who are affected. We're at a point where NGOs, international organizations and individuals want a piece of the decision-making process."

To determine the relevant actors and understand how they fit together with the EU to solve problems, Uçarer is conducting field research in Brussels. "I'm interviewing people involved in policy development - civil servants, members of the European Parliament and NGO representatives, who are trying to lobby the EU to get their preferences considered," she says.

"There are more than 190 million migrants worldwide -- if this were the population of a country, it would be the fifth most populous in the world" says Uçarer. "The study of the causes and consequences of mobility of people will be a lasting field in the study of international relations."

Posted Sept. 13, 2011

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