Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Facing Precarious Rights and Resisting EU ‘Migration Management’: South European Migrant Struggles in Berlin

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Abstract:  In this article, I trace struggles regarding EU internal mobility and migrant labour as they emerge in the mobilization of South European migrants in Berlin. The effects of the 2007–2008 financial crisis and European austerity politics have reoriented migration flows within the EU, increasing South-to-North migration with Germany as a prime destination. German public discourse on the matter reveals a view on (EU) migration that focuses on its economic ‘usefulness’ and tries to regulate it accordingly. EU citizenship turns out to be a key instrument of such EU internal ‘migration management’. The emergence of migrant activist groups, however, hints at another force at play. In their fight for social rights and better working conditions, migrant activists show they will not allow themselves to be easily ‘managed’ into precarious ‘productivity’. Against this background, I argue that EU internal mobility is a field of struggle where attempts to control migrant labour clash with moments of autonomy and resistance. My aim is to explore this field from a migration perspective, analysing rationales of EU ‘migration management’ and their impact on migrants’ lives as well as investigating the strategies that migrants develop in response. Based on an analysis of EU legislation and interviews with Italian activists in Berlin, I trace conflicts around EU internal mobility and migrant labour. Against the background of critical migration studies, I analyse EU internal ‘migration management’, especially regarding the role of EU citizenship. Then, I look at EU migrant struggles in Berlin through the lens of autonomy of migration, drawing on the example of the Italian activist group Berlin Migrant Strikers.

Keywords:  autonomy of migration; border regime; differential inclusion; migrant labour; migration management; migrant struggles



© Celia Bouali. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.