Learning from audio visual material: Migrants and borders
Learning from audio visual material: Migrants and borders

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Learning from audio visual material: Migrants and borders

1 Migrants and borders

These videos look at the issue of ‘gating’ in the context of border control policies and practices concerning international migrants. You will come across ideas of inclusion and exclusion, and how these relate to internal as well as external borders. The external border on which part of the video focuses is in southern Spain, where the experiences of African migrants are explored and forms of border control identified. These experiences are related to the UK where bordering is explored through the position of migrants from Eastern Europe and outside the European Union. The control of borders is at the centre of debates about the nature of surveillance, but the lived experience of migrants in entering and staying in a country, as well as the kinds of supports they enjoy (or are denied), is an important counterpoint.

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Voiceover commentary
Many people are travelling further and more often than ever before, whether it be for leisure, study or work. Yet at the same time crossing state borders is increasingly monitored and many people face tough restrictions in entering another country. And once within the borders of a country there are further controls that migrants face. Their presence is monitored in many ways, such as through registration and reporting requirements and the need to prove their identity and residence.
Liza Schuster
The current attempt to control migration isn’t that new, there’ve always been attempts to control migration, including internally. I suppose what’s new is the fact that governments have more tools at their disposal for that control.
Voiceover commentary
Over recent years, laws and practices have been introduced to control and contain immigrant populations. New surveillance technologies are being used to police the state’s external borders, but also to create and monitor internal borders within the state’s boundaries. This has created categories of ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ people for the purposes of state decisions about who can come and what they’re entitled to do and receive when they’re here.
Liza Schuster
People have always migrated. Always. Since the beginning of time. They followed the seasons; they followed their animals; they went hunter-gathering; they looked for work. Migration has always been part of human behaviour.
Voiceover commentary
Just as migration is not new, so state controls of migration and certain populations are not new. Passport and visa systems have existed since medieval times but it wasn’t until the twentieth century that having a passport became essential to moving between countries.
These increased controls were supported by state immigration and social welfare policies. In Britain, the Aliens Act passed in 1905 was introduced in response to the number of Jewish migrants arriving from Russia and Poland. Immigrants continued to arrive in Britain throughout the twentieth century and further restrictions were brought in, limiting entry and work opportunities to foreign nationals, as well as their entitlements to benefits and services.
Rhian Beynon
Modern immigration control as we know it really began in the post-war period and what we’ve seen is a tendency for increasing control and also for very differentiated rights depending on how you enter as a migrant.
Voiceover commentary
The rights migrants have and the restrictions they face also depend on where they come from. Citizens of European Union member-states are now able to move freely within the EU to travel, live and work.
But for people coming from outside the EU gaining entry is much more difficult. It’s especially difficult for people from poorer countries, and those who are unable to get a visa often pay vast amounts of money to get them inside ‘Fortress Europe’. Algeciras is a small fishing port in southern Spain. It’s just 14 miles across the sea to Africa but the waters have the most dangerous currents in the Mediterranean. Although no accurate figures for illegal immigration exist, it’s estimated that tens of thousands have entered the EU through this small port.
Voiceover commentary
One of these is Salif, a Senegalese immigrant who came to Europe with a plan to set up development projects to help his home country. He now runs a small voluntary organisation, recycling old farm machinery and shipping it to Senegal.
Salif
I said, “Well, I’m leaving. I’m crossing the border.” So at 5 o’clock in the morning we got ready to go. After our prayers, we came down from the mountains and went to the beach. There was the open boat waiting, they started the engine, we got on and we were off. It was already 7 in the morning, the sun was up. We left in the daylight, at 7 o’clock and headed for Spain. It was a clear day. A very interesting journey, but when I was in Morocco watching Spanish television, during those 21 days, I’d seen that many boats had sunk resulting in many deaths.
Voiceover commentary
As numbers of undocumented migrants arriving in boats from North African coast have grown, new measures have been introduced by the EU to keep its external borders sealed. One such measure is a state of the art surveillance system which was introduced in Algeciras in 2002 and is being rolled out along the Mediterranean coast.
Salvador Galindo
We had a really bad problematic with the immigration before, because we have lots of incoming citizens from Morocco, even from the centre of Africa, trying to enter illegally here into Spain, which is to enter illegally into Europe.
Voiceover commentary
The surveillance system, called SIVE, uses a series of powerful CCTV cameras and infra-red detectors to keep the entire stretch of sea and coastline under close watch. Operators in this control room monitor all the vessels passing through the Gibraltar Straits. When unidentified boats appear, they can control these cameras remotely to get a closer view of any area of the sea or coastline. Heat-sensitive cameras can also detect vessels that are smaller than conventional boats.
Salvador Galindo
This is a boat, which is the one that the … a rubber ring, well the children use, you know, this is one and a half metres length only, with 5 people inside. 5 people. 1½ metres. Pretty dangerous. This is the new way where they are trying to cross the Strait now because they think that this system cannot detect, you know, that small size of boat. But, as we see, it has been detected, in this case rescued. This is one of our vessels, you know, they are approaching them. Not only these boats, umm, we have been detecting here, from the last years people trying to cross the Straits on boats of drag wheels, windsurf tables. The imagination, you know – to get a floating thing and to cross. They are sometimes, you know, using refrigerators. They are jumping inside a refrigerator with an open door, you know. It’s floating, inside of the fridge, they are just crossing, using it like a boat.
Ramon Cortes
Well, on thing is for sure, borders have to be controlled. If border controls were removed, I am absolutely sure that there would be a 200 per cent increase in immigrants entering. That is clear, that is clear. To see how border control has developed in Europe, we need to look back to September 11th in New York. That was the beginning of an international approach to border control. The different EU agencies dealing with borders, immigration and terrorism etc, became more integrated as part of an EU agreement and began working towards a combined European border control. The result at the end – or the beginning of this new stage – was the creation of an EU border control agency, called Frontex. Frontex coordinates all the different countries’ activities around border control. When you control borders you are actually controlling all the traffic passing that border.
Salif
There have always been investments in projects to stop immigration, because European policy is not about opening up immigration, it’s about stopping it. So they are trying different ways to do it. Even with the SIVE, people still come, they just have to look for different strategies to come. Because if SIVE detects every ship, imagine the amount of boats and staff will be needed the day 80,000 pateras [open boats] arrive. SIVE will detect them, but it won’t stop them arriving.
Voiceover commentary
Despite this surveillance system stretching along the coast of southern Europe, undocumented migrants and those who transport them found new routes to cross the EU border. News footage:BBC Ten O’clock News opening sequence
Fiona Bruce
Good evening. For months they have been arriving in their thousands from Africa to the tiny Canary Islands, the new gateway into Europe. Now boatloads of Asians have started arriving there too, and the authorities in the Canaries have attacked Europe for failing to help them as they are overwhelmed by the sheer numbers reaching their shores.
Voiceover commentary
In 2005 and 6, record numbers of immigrants arrived in the Canary Islands after making a treacherous journey across the Atlantic Ocean from Africa. Mohammed is 19 and from Guinea, West Africa. After witnessing his father’s death in the civil war in Sierra Leone he decided to head to Europe in search of a better future. He made the crossing to the Canary Islands on a cruise ship, working as a cook on board to pay his passage.
Mohammed
I stayed on the boat in the sea for twelve days. The last day we slept at the Tenerife port and on the thirteenth day in Tenerife, the Guards came, everybody – the civil police, local police, secret police. The police came there, looked at the five black people on board and said “We’re taking these five people to the police.” I went to prison for a month. In there I ate and slept well, showered, I played football there with the people there. I got out of prison and I was sent to the foreigners’ centre in Tenerife. I stayed there – at the foreigners’ centre in Tenerife – for twenty-five days.
I risked my life to cross the Atlantic Ocean to come to Europe. It’s very serious. You get in. You’re arrested – and then you go back to your home country.
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Jose Antonio
I have been told that one morning, in just one hour, up to four hundred illegal immigrants in different boats have left the Moroccan coast heading for the Spanish coast. Imagine four hundred people distributed in different boats. It’s like an uncontrollable avalanche … The natural tendency of the Civil Guard is that we have love for our fellow humans, an urge to save human lives. I mean, when a cayuco [Spanish word for Senegalese fishing boat]crashes into the rocks with twenty people on board, you know that when you arrive just five or six would be saved. The others are dehydrated on the boat and the rest are dead on the rocks. If you get involved, you get involved and do all that is possible. You can’t think about it. Of course it makes you sad, people dying, of course. These people you don’t know where they come from, why they come here, you don’t even think of these questions in that moment. Is it a human life requiring help, meaning you must risk your own life? Yes, we must do what we can.
Ramon Cortes
We realised we couldn’t wait for an illegal immigrant to arrive in a cayuco: we had to try to stop him as early as possible. If people enter Spanish waters, we are obliged to save them. What starts as a borders control operation ends up being a salvage operation. That is what made us think that the operation had to be taken to African waters.
Voiceover commentary
Following these new routes into the EU, Frontex have now begun to push their border operations south, keeping the coast of West Africa under surveillance to prevent immigrants getting into European waters in the first place.
Liza Schuster
Because controls are not nice, European states have been very concerned to move these unpleasant aspects of border controls completely away from European territory. It’s quite difficult to see these overcrowded boats and they would engender quite a lot of sympathy were they to arrive in Europe, so it’s much better to try and stop these people arriving, because it will be hard to control them once they’re inside Europe and there are these porous borders. So you now have the external borders of Europe where control is becoming very sharp, but in turn you also have less visible borders which decide who’s entitled to what once they’re in the country. Bus passes across screen with slogan: ‘eurolines – no borders between us!’
Mohammed
These are my papers from Tenerife. The authorities there told me I had to leave Spain and not return for 3 years. Extradition. It says here. For 3 years. This is my paper from the foreigners’ centre. It says I’m illegal, you know? If the police ask me anything I show them this paper. They say, “OK, no problem.” I say, “Look this is my paper, from Tenerife.”
Salif
It’s said people travel with no papers, but it is because they don’t need them and they can cause harm. If you are caught in Spain with a passport from Senegal, the next day you can be deported to Senegal as there is justification. But if you have no paper and you get caught and asked what your name is, you can say “My name is … ‘Moon tower’ or ‘Muddy water’”. “And where are you from?”, “Me? I’m from Darfur” or “I’m from Somalia” or “I’m from Rwanda”. They will write down whatever you say.
Voiceover commentary
Mohammed is able to stay in Europe because he has no documentation showing where he should be deported to. But without a valid visa he’s not authorised to work and can’t access any benefits. To make enough money to live, he volunteers as a car park attendant and lives off the tips he gets from drivers.
Mohammed
If I work really hard, per month I can make good money: for example, I might earn 400€. I could earn that. Whatever I get per month, I send some of that to my mum’s family. My mum is away. I have to send good money. But I’m not earning much now. Hopefully that will come. To get papers here is very difficult, very difficult. I don’t have an equal life. I am not an equal. If you have the papers, you can work, have papers for your children, you know. You can work, get good money. But I can’t work properly. That’s why I have to go to the car park. It’s very difficult but also I cannot leave it. If I do, I cannot get my food or cigarettes, you know.
Voiceover commentary
Mohammed lives in a hostel for irregular migrants that’s run by a Catholic priest.
Mohammed
Each of us has a bed. That’s my bed. Over there. This is my bed. I sit here, and I think.
Voiceover commentary
Legal status determines what migrants can do and what kinds of protections and benefits they’re entitled to. But for many migrants, legal status is not fixed and they move between being legal and illegal in the eyes of the state. Salif now has legal residency in Spain but when he first arrived he was ‘illegal’. Like many other undocumented migrants, he was unable to get a work visa and did cash-in-hand work, selling clothes in the market. Now he helps newer arrivals, offering them advice and support. Salif talks to man in Senegalese
Salif
He has a problem with his papers. He’s legal here, he has a work permit and residency. But he’s on a temporary contract with a construction company. It turns out that he’s worked less days than he was supposed to and when he tried to renew his papers he was refused, because he’s only paid national insurance contributions for 117 days and he was supposed to pay NI for six months.
Voiceover commentary
Being legal or being illegal in the eyes of the state can change from one day to the next. It’s a porous and constantly shifting border. Migrants categorised as illegal have limited rights and access to state services, but migrants designated as being legal also face barriers in the countries they move to. Like Spain and many other European countries, migrant labour is a vital part of the economy in the UK. The British government and employers recognise that they need migrant labour, but conditions are imposed over migrants’ entry and stay. Some of these conditions are applied before people leave their home country, and a range of monitoring and surveillance methods are brought into play that continue after their arrival in the UK.
Rhian Beynon
From the state’s point of view, there are three main routes to migrate to this country – asylum, work and study migration, and migration for the purposes of family reunion. Now, if you apply to come to this country as an economic migrant, or for the purposes of family reunion, you’ll find yourself applying overseas, they’ll be taking your fingerprints and a range of information. If you’re an asylum applicant, you don’t claim asylum until you reach the shores of this country, but once you’re here you may find that you’re detained almost immediately or you may be electronically tagged, or you may be subject to regular police reporting. So depending on how you enter this country you may be subject to a range of monitoring and surveillance.
Voiceover commentary
For migrants from outside the EU, like Salif and Mohammed, getting a visa to enter Europe is extremely difficult. Nationals of EU member-states don’t need a visa to live and work in a different European country but still face certain restrictions. Since 2004 when eight Eastern European countries joined the EU, nationals of these so-called ‘Accession 8 countries’ have been able to move freely around the EU. Kris was a law student in Poland but decided to come to the UK for the opportunities he thought it would offer.
Kris
I was always willing to come to England, I must say. For me, like access to European Union wasn’t the reason. I think I simply didn’t like the way I was living over there. I wasn’t like fulfilling my dreams down there.
Voiceover commentary
Since arriving four years ago, Kris has worked in different factories in the north-east of England. When he first arrived he found work through one of the many employment agencies recruiting foreign workers. But to sign up with them he had to first prove he was allowed to work in the UK by getting what’s called a Worker’s Registration Certificate.
Kris
That’s a certificate issued by Home Office, right, which makes employer more confident in actually hiring you. That’s the document which allows me to work in England as well, so that’s something that we can’t go without, right. That’s the basic thing for all the Polish guys who are working in England, you know. When I saw the document, I went a bit like, let’s call it scared, right. We didn’t knew what it is, whether all the question must be answered properly – if not, you’re gone. And there was a fee obviously as well and if we just start living in England it was pretty hard for us to pay that 70 quid.
Rhian Beynon
The Workers’ Registration Scheme was specifically set up as a means of monitoring the number of nationals from the Accession 8 states that came to this country from 2004. They generally – in theory at least – have the same rights as UK nationals. Problems facing them are they may not understand those rights, they may not speak fluent English, they may be, for example, distrustful of trade union organisationss, so theoretically they’ve got the same rights but in practice accessing those rights and avoiding exploitation in the workplace may not necessarily follow.
Voiceover commentary
Kris is part of a large Polish community in the north-east of England. Despite being highly qualified, many of them are employed in agricultural and factory work. Like Kris, his friends also found jobs by going through agencies recruiting temporary foreign workers.
Andrew
We’re not paid holiday or Christmas time.
Kris
The overtime hours and the holiday payment they vary, depending on the workers, if they are on full contract. Because agency doesn’t want to release them as workers. So them guys are simply treated as a temporary, after a year spent on site, working all these overtime hours. It’s a bit curious, isn’t it? Why, why it’s still happening like that.
Voiceover commentary
The Workers’ Registration Certificate enables the state to monitor both Eastern European workers and their employers. It also enables the state to restrict welfare entitlements. Accession 8 nationals must have been registered for at least a year before being able to access social security benefits.
Rhian Beynon
What we know is that it’s not 100 per cent effective. Because it involves a fee to join, not everyone joins it. However, if they don’t join it, they may find it hard to prove something called ‘habitual residence in the UK’ which then affects their ability to access the same benefits as UK nationals.
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Liza Schuster
There are definitely borders within Europe. Sometimes they coincide with the borders of the state. Sometimes it’s to do with entitlement. So, these people in this territory are entitled to this, but those other people who are in this same territory are not entitled to … benefits or … protections. So you have lots of different kinds of borders that are shifting and changing all the time. And who they include and exclude also shifts and changes depending on different needs, in particular of the nation-state or of the economy or even of the welfare state. I think the welfare state is a hugely important factor in migration policy. One of the reasons that governments, for example, or local authorities, will give for needing to know who’s in my territory or area or local authority, what are their needs, is so that they can tailor resources to the needs of that population. The flaw in this argument is that too often migrants are seen as recipients of welfare, they’re seen as those people who come in and who need lots of help and support. If we look at migrants as a whole, they pay into this welfare state, so they finance the welfare state. They are often also employed within the welfare state.
Voiceover commentary
Jennita is a nurse from the Philippines who’s been working in the UK’s National Health Service for four years. Her journey as a migrant nurse began several years before that.
Jennita Mejorada
It was 1994 when I decided to work abroad. Initially I work in Saudi Arabia. From Saudi Arabia I went to Dublin, Ireland. I worked there for nearly three years before coming to London.
Voiceover commentary
The combination of her nursing skills and a global nursing shortage enable her to move around the world more freely. But her situation is far from secure. In the UK, despite paying tax and national insurance, she has no access to social security benefits here. Her right to remain in the country depends on her employer, so if her employment is terminated she’s not allowed to stay in the UK.
Jennita Mejorada
I have five years’ contract. So basically I have to renew it if the, the hospital will still employ me. So I have to renew my visa next year, 2009. You have to submit your CVs, your bio data, your documents that you’re really registered as a nurse. Your ... oh what is this? From the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency that you’re qualified and you’re indeed as a nurse. You have loads of stuff to process.
Voiceover commentary
Providing and processing documentary evidence is an increasingly important part of borders control policy. Many countries around the world are introducing biometric passports. These are combined paper and electronic identity document using biometrics – fingerprint, iris and facial recognition – to authenticate identity.
Rhian Beynon
What we’re seeing is an increased use of IT and communication technologies to monitor the movement and presence of migrants. Biometric identity cards are going to be used to keep people under surveillance, mostly through their access to services because you’ll need that data to be able to access health services, to be able to access work. If you can’t produce your card you won’t be able to access those services and work.
Voiceover commentary
In the UK, foreign nationals from outside the EU are required to carry biometric identity cards. One of the drivers of this policy is to combat false ID documents. But there are concerns that this technology may not be secure and that it may be used to deny people with irregular status from accessing welfare services. For example, biometric ID may be used by health workers to decide which patients take priority.
Rhian Beynon
What we’re seeing is the responsibility for monitoring passed over to other organisations like businesses, like health services. That’s the logical consequence of making those agencies responsible for monitoring entitlement to services and work. So in effect they are becoming quasi immigration officers.
Voiceover commentary
A range of surveillance technologies and practices are being used to police external and internal borders. Sometimes legitimated by state security and crime control concerns, border control measures both watch over and watch out for migrants.
Ramon Cortes
Every country has to control its borders because we need to know who is inside and who is outside. For example, if we know who is inside – even they are illegal – our services such as national security and welfare would be planned to assist the real number of people in the country. If a national citizen is monitored though the census, health service records etc., etc., it should be the same for foreign nationals.
Liza Schuster
The dangers of trying to control and monitor migrant populations are twofold. One is the danger with trying to control and monitor any population. What’s this surveillance going to be used to do? Another difficulty is that it does tend to legitimate, if it’s applied to a particular population, fears or worries or prejudices surrounding that particular population. If that group are being monitored or controlled, there must be a reason. Are they potential terrorists? Are they criminals? Are they traffickers? So it legitimates and creates a distinction between ‘us’ and ‘them’.
Salif
I feel I am a citizen of the world. I do not understand about borders. For me borders do not exist because the universe is everyone’s and I have my place in it. So I don’t wait for permission to move around. I do it as being one more part of that universe and I move around without bearing in mind barriers or borders. I do not believe in those things. Those are barriers created to oppress people, no?
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