“Can privatization kill?”

“Can privatization kill” asked Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen in an op-ed in the New York Times last year. Gammeltoft-Hansen is a senior researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies DIIS and tomorrow will present a book about the migration industry and the commercialisation of international migration. 

A provocative question – particularly in times, where privatization is all over us from caretaking over education and even to security. Yet, aren’t provocative questions exactly what journalists and indeed academics should ask?

On today’s front page of the Euobserver is Luludja, a Bulgarian Roma woman migrated to France where she sells roses and her body to pay the debt to her traffickers. The story is documented by a team of journalists who did crossborder research from Germany, France and Bulgaria. They asked the obvious question about the illegal migration business, documenting heartbreakingly how Luludja’s hope to achieve a better situation for herself and her family was abused. The team observed the troubling problem of Roma migration in Europe and decided to not just observe but ask. They wanted to document. They fulfill their task in the chain of asking the right questions in a democratic system.

Gammeltoft-Hansen and his co-author Ninna Nyberg Sørensen – senior academics in the fields of law and sociology/anthropology – take the question one step further. They look into the systemic problems of migration business. Not only clandestine and illegal activity but the obvious too. Visible on state budgets and carried out in the name of democratic governments. “Migration has become big business, and international migration has become increasingly commercialized,” they write about their observations in the invitation to a seminar tomorrow. “Over the last few decades, a host of new commercial opportunities have emerged that capitalize both on the migrants’ desires to migrate and the struggle by governments to manage migration. From the rapid growth of specialized transportation and labour contracting companies, to multinational businesses managing detention centres or establishing border security, to the organized criminal networks profiting from human smuggling and trafficking.”

So now – what should be the next move? This is the provocative question into the so called European Public Sphere. How should Europe react to its serious problems? Some of the necessary questions have been asked and documented. Academic analysis allows to see a larger pattern. On the democratic to-do-list now are public debate and political action.