Refugee Crisis and Migrations at the Gates of Europe: Deterritoriality, Extraterritoriality and Externalization of Border Controls

AuthorAlejandro del Valle-Gálvez
PositionFull Professor (Catedrático) of Public International Law, holder of the Jean Monnet Chair on Migration and Borders in EU Law, University of Cádiz. Director of the ?Migration and Human Rights in Europe's External Borders' Centre of Excellence. Article written within the framework of the R&D project España, seguridad y fronteras exteriores...
Journal of International Law and International Relations
Num 7, janvier-décembre 2019 | ISSN 2341-0868
Paix et Securité Internationales
ISSN 2341-0868, Num. 7, janvier-décembre 2019, pp. 117-160
ABSTRACT: The refugee crisis has shaped a new perception of the migration reality in Europe.
The ramif‌i cations of its impact on European integration are visible and enduring. The EU’s respon-
se has included a certain strategic perspective, albeit weighed down by an excess of eurocentrism
and a security perception that does not take third countries’ interests into balanced account. The ma-
jor economic e ort being made supports a far-reaching strategy, only now beginning to be outlined,
to promote economic development in the countries of origin and transit of migrants. Additionally,
issues such as the monitoring of respect for migrants’ human rights have not yet been suitably glo-
bally def‌i ned in this strategy.
Although the behaviour and response capacity of the EU and its Member States can be assessed
in di erent ways, the truth is that the migration debate has decisively swayed a block of countries
that are openly reluctant to engage in intra-European solidarity and accept the new realities and
responsibilities entailed by the refugees already present and yet to come to Europe. This position
is very negative in the medium and long term, since, as noted, the crisis has also underscored the
permanence of migration trends and f‌l ows and the consolidation of the routes or gates of entry to
This contribution considers the vulnerability of the European borders designed and in operation
in the Schengen Area. The internal borders were the most a ected at the start of the migration crisis
and are likely to be marked by current regulatory changes, which tend to allow exceptionality as
a relatively common occurrence in the European ‘federal’ area of free movement. Nevertheless,
the resilience of this system of the absence of internal border controls in the ‘federal’ area of free
movement is undeniable.
1 Full Professor (Catedrático) of Public International Law, holder of the Jean Monnet Chair
on Migration and Borders in EU Law, University of Cádiz. Director of the ‘Migration and
Human Rights in Europe’s External Borders’ Centre of Excellence. Article written within
the framework of the R&D project España, seguridad y fronteras exteriores europeas en el área del
Estrecho [Spain, security and European external borders in the area of the Strait], DER2015-
68174-R (PIs: A. del Valle and I. González), funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy
and Competitiveness and the ERDF.
Citation: VALLE GÁLVEZ, A. del, «Refugee Crisis and Migrations at the Gates of Europe: Deterritoriality,
Extraterritoriality and Externalization of Border Controls», Paix et Sécurité Internationales, num. 7, 2019, pp. 117-160
Received: 11 October 2019
Accepted: 15 November 2019
Refugee Crisis and Migrations at the Gates of Europe: Deterritoriality, Extraterritoriality and Externalization of
Border Controls
Paix et Securité Internationales
ISSN 2341-0868, Num. 7, janvier-décembre 2019, pp. 117-160
The impact on the EU’s external borders has been even greater, as it has shown once and for all
that, more than fragile or vulnerable, some border controls, such as the sea border ones, are not
practicable, especially those on Europe’s southern sea borders.
It is precisely this infeasibility of border control in marine areas that leads to the accentuation of
certain trends on Europe’s external borders, such as the externalization of migration controls. New
regulatory and strategic planning developments conf‌i rm this trend, as well as the current concern
for deploying an integrated external border management system.
With regard to the phenomenon known as the ‘externalization’ of migration controls, the litera-
ture considers it to refer to EU actions aimed at reducing, sorting and controlling migration f‌l ows
with the consent of third states in relations that are, by def‌i nition, asymmetrical. This article has
addressed the di erent situations that arise, highlighting the advisability of di erentiating between
externalizing migration policy, on the one hand, and extraterritorial action concerning migration
control, on the other.
In search of greater conceptual accuracy, the term ‘deterritoriality has been used, as it is more
neutral than the other terms mentioned insofar as it evokes the idea of positioning outside the te-
rritory certain border control and migration policy functions, to be carried out by other states or
by the state itself. Since these are situations and actions linked to migration and border control,
they should be conceptually situated outside the territory; the deterritoriality option hypothetically
makes it possible to encompass both the externalization and the extraterritoriality of border control
functions concerning migration.
To this end, this article has focused on the various notions and activities that might be discussed
in relation to the externalization’ and the ‘extraterritoriality’ of migration controls and border func-
tions, terms that, in sum, refer to migration control and management activities outside the territory,
carried out by public o cials of the EU states or by third states.
On the one hand, externalization is considered to refer to the management and control of mi-
gration f‌l ows, the activities of adopting agreements, programmes, action plans and measures to
encourage third states to monitor their own borders and migration f‌l ows in order to control, restrict
or impede physical access to the territory of the EU states, accepting the placement in their territory,
or the rejection, of refugees and migrants from other states. It does not involve the presence of or
direct exercise of control activities by public o cials of the EU Member States. In fact, outside
European territory it is highly debatable that states are strictly performing border control functions,
as it is an area that may more accurately fall within the more generic f‌i eld of migration f‌l ow control
linked to migration policy and European external action.
On the other hand, extraterritorialization is understood to entail the performance of border con-
trol functions by states themselves outside their own territory. This case should involve the presence
of or exercise by Member State public o cials of some (e ective) border control activities or func-
tions in areas without state jurisdiction or in the territory of third states, with their consent.
We are witnessing a change in the very concept of border in this post-globalization era, in which
certain functions are o shored and systematically placed outside a state’s territory and checkpoints.
However, territorial and extraterritorial actions must be di erentiated from those occurring as part
of external actions in or with third states for the purposes of migration policy and the control of
migration f‌l ows.
The reality is that a new border space south and east of the Mediterranean has been conf‌i gured for
migratory f‌l ows, which needs a new policy of external borders for these areas. Therefore, we must
ref‌l ect on new frontier spaces, with new concepts and approaches to the border that provide other
parameters of action towards migratory f‌l ows and external controls.
Today, the Union needs new instruments and concepts for these new realities, especially so as not
Paix et Securité Internationales
ISSN 2341-0868, Num. 7, janvier-décembre 2019, pp. 117-160
to lose sight of the fact that, when it comes to tackling crises such as those related to migration and
the rights of foreigners approaching or entering its territory and jurisdiction, Europe is a rational
construct entailing a project for civilizational progress. As such, it must permanently incorporate
its values and respect for human rights in all its policies, regulatory measures and actions with
foreigners and third states, both on its own external borders and beyond them. This is essential for
the identity and objectives of the European integration, and for the projection of the EU security,
solidarity and values in accordance with the International and European Human Rights Law.
KEYWORDS: European Union, immigration, refugees, asylum, European values, border controls,
immigration controls, migration policy, borders, internal borders, external borders, Frontex, mariti-
me immigration, externalization, extraterritoriality, deterritoriality, human rights
RESUMEN: La crisis de los refugiados ha conformado en Europa una nueva percepción de la rea-
lidad migratoria. Las ramif‌i caciones de sus impactos en la construcción europea son visibles y du-
raderas. La reacción de la UE ha tenido cierta perspectiva estratégica, aunque lastrada por un exceso
de eurocentrismo y de percepción securitaria, que no tiene en cuenta equilibradamente los intereses
de los países terceros. El gran esfuerzo económico que se está realizando sostiene una estrategia
de largo alcance que sólo ahora empieza a esbozarse, para fomentar el desarrollo económico en los
países de origen y tránsito de la emigración. Por otra parte, cuestiones como las de vigilancia del
respeto de derechos humanos de los inmigrantes aún están por perf‌i larse adecuadamente de manera
global en esta estrategia.
Aunque podemos hacer diferentes valoraciones del comportamiento y capacidad de reacción de
la UE y sus Estados, lo cierto es que el debate migratorio ha decantado decididamente un bloque
de países abiertamente reacios a la solidaridad intraeuropea, y a asumir las nuevas realidades y
cargas que suponen los refugiados presentes y por venir a Europa. Esta perspectiva es muy negativa
a medio y largo plazo, ya que, como hemos visto, la crisis también revela la permanencia de las
corrientes y f‌l ujos migratorios, y la consolidación de los vías o Puertas de entrada a Europa.
Hemos considerado en el trabajo la vulnerabilidad de las fronteras europeas diseñadas y en fun-
cionamiento en el Área Schengen. Las fronteras interiores fueron las más impactadas al comienzo
de la crisis migratoria, y probablemente van a quedar marcadas por los cambios normativos en
curso, que tienden a admitir la excepcionalidad como hecho relativamente común en el espacio ‘fe-
deral’ de libre circulación europeo. Pese a todo, la capacidad de resiliencia de este sistema de ausen-
cia de controles fronterizos interiores en el espacio ‘federal’ de libre circulación, es incontestable.
El impacto en las fronteras europeas exteriores ha sido aún mayor, ya que se ha puesto de relieve
en nuestra opinión def‌i nitivamente que, más que frágiles o vulnerables, ciertos controles fronterizos
como los marítimos son impracticables, en particular los de las fronteras marítimas meridionales
Precisamente esta inviabilidad del control fronterizo en espacios marítimos es lo que lleva en
nuestra opinión a acentuar ciertas tendencias en las fronteras exteriores europeas, como las de
externalización de controles migratorios. Los nuevos desarrollos normativos y de planif‌i cación
estratégica conf‌i rman esta tendencia, así como la preocupación actual por desplegar un sistema
integrado de gestión de fronteras exteriores.
Respecto al fenómeno conocido como de ‘Externalización’ de controles migratorios, la doctrina
ha venido considerándolo como actuaciones de la UE que buscan reducir, ordenar y controlar los

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