Migration control and narratives of steering

The dynamics of migration are incredibly complex, creating immense problems for governments attempting to steer immigration. These challenges are well elucidated in literature on societal steering, and especially Luhmann’s analysis of the impediments to steering by the political and legal systems. Politics and the law develop highly simplifying models of the dynamics they are seeking to steer, resulting in various problems of distortion and counterproductive effects. We can see examples of this in the case of migration control, where attempts to prevent irregular labour or stay have led to numerous unintended effects. However, it is far from evident how such problems of steering can be addressed. A number of cognitive, social and political factors place pressure on policy-makers to adopt highly simplifying models of these processes. The implication is that policy interventions have a structural tendency to ‘short-circuit’ the complexity of the migratory processes they are attempting to steer.

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