Government and International Relations Honors Papers

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William Rose

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This thesis examines the effect of irregular immigration on Spanish Mediterranean policy from 1989-2011. It seeks to answer the question: what is the relationship between irregular migration and Spanish foreign policy? Knowing that Spanish foreign policy became increasingly repressive and coercive on the one hand while also becoming more preventative and cooperative, a subsequent question is: how and why did this happen? While both migration policy and foreign policy are well studied areas in Spain, the intersection of the two is rarely addressed. By 2011 the Spanish government had imposed an effective blockade of its maritime border and the amount of immigrants arriving by boat had dropped to record-low levels for the period of study. However, though the total foreign-born population of Spain is roughly 5 million, less than 1% arrived by boat. Maritime arrivals represent a socially constructed threat while the vast majority arrived with visas through airports and overstayed. This perceived threat, however, is highly correlated with Spanish Mediterranean policy and Spain realigned its strategic priorities to combat these irregular migrants.

To explain and assess this relationship, this paper uses an analytical framework that I developed from the collected works of authors on both Spanish foreign policy and migration policy. I identify six decision-making factors and analyze the cases of Morocco, Mauritania, and Senegal in the context of these factors. I find that Spain shifted its foreign policy towards the Mediterranean from one based on unilateral action and inaction to a multilateral, Europeanized approach. Spanish policy by the end of the period of study was characterized by cooperative, preventative tactics aimed at stopping migration before it began. Because of the perceived threat posed by irregular migration, Spain prioritized migration control over other matters of national interest, including the economic crisis that began in 2008. Though it was ultimately successful in curbing irregular migration, the Spanish case is very different from the Syrian refugee crisis currently facing Europe. However, Spain’s case and my analytical framework would be useful models for a state that is faced with a similar influx of economic migrants.



The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.