Irregular and Illegal Migration through Ukraine



With the expansion of Europe's borders, Ukraine has entered the spotlight of attention as a source and transit country for irregular migrants. Irregular migration has risen on the international security and political agendas because it is perceived as a threat to security, and has been linked to problems such as crime and drugs. In the debate about how to manage this migration, the voices of the migrants themselves are often lost.

Drawing on a review of the literature and migrants' testimonies, this paper argues that assumptions about irregular migrants in policy and position papers can be revised in light of migrants' experiences. For example, whereas officials and workers in non-governmental organizations often picture irregular migration in terms of an inexorable striving, what migrants emphasize most is the undesirable nature of their movement. And, whereas many sources view irregular migration as symptomatic of globalization and the transnational “flows” of people, capital, and ideas, asylum seekers who become irregular in the absence of a strong asylum system in Ukraine describe highly constrained lives that include detention and isolation.

Before more efforts are directed toward combating irregular migration, migrants' descriptions of a traumatic and transformative experience of being “turned into illegals”, and “broken” can be taken into account. While there is a tendency to view the migrants as the problem, this paper suggests it is international migration regimes and not migrants that need amendment and improvement.