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Irregular Immigration Control in Italy and Greece: Strong Fencing and Weak Gate-keeping serving the Labour Market

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Italy and Greece have been often blamed by their fellow EU Member States for the excessive permeability of their borders, their inability to stop irregular migration, and their inefficient asylum systems. In addition the two countries have weak internal controls, especially as regards the sectors of the labour market where immigrants are usually employed e.g. agriculture, domestic work, tourism and catering. This article seeks to make sense of these fundamentally contradictory policies that characterise Greece’s and Italy’s approach to managing migration. The article starts by outlining the common features of Italian and Greek immigration policies and proposes an analysis of immigration control regimes along two dimensions: their internal (within the country’s territory) or external (at the border or outside the border) character, and their fencing (stopping) vs. gate-keeping (preventing) nature. Section 3 discusses critically the irregular migration inflows in Greece, the policies implemented to address them and their contradictory results. Section 4 reviews the related policies in Italy and casts light to their inconsistencies. In the concluding section, we highlight the possible explanations for these two countries’ lack of direction in immigration management pointing to the opposition between excessively regulated labour markets, large informal economies and strict border controls which however become lax and ineffective once irregular migrants or asylum seekers are within the country.


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