Policing Movement(s): State Orders, Migrants and Refugees in Southeastern Europe since the 19th Century

by Ulf Brunnbauer (IOS Regensburg)

Keynote for the conference “Unsettled Europe”, University of Graz, 20-21 January 2017



In 2015, the expression “Balkan Route” became synonymous for the uncontrolled movement of refugees from the war zones of the Middle East to the European Union. By now, the route has been closed because of joint government efforts. This essay reflects on the place of the most recent refugee movement through Southeastern Europe in the miration history of the region. It argues that the wish of the state to control cross-border migration has led to new concepts of statehood and new forms of control. What is particularly evident is the close relationship between the politcs of movement and nation-building since the 19th century. Southeastern Europe offers examples for governments attempting to exploit emigration for nationalist purposes, while at the same time the influx of refugees strengthened processes of ethnic homogenization. Similar social fears and political dispositions can be identified with regard to the politics of emigration and of immigration; and both forms of migration had lasting effects on historical development in Southeastern Europe. This essay especially details the consequences of refugee immigration, showing that Southeastern Europe has also a very peculiar immigration history.