Irregular Afghan Migration to Europe: At the Margins, Looking In

Author:   Dimitriadi, Angeliki
Publisher:   Palgrave Macmillan
Reviewer:   Abhishek Yadav

Dimitriadi, Angeliki (2018). Irregular Afghan Migration to Europe: At the Margins, Looking In, Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN: 978-3-319-52958-5, 204 pages. 


Turning and turning in the widening gyre, 

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; 

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

These above lines are part of the famous poem “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats, which perfectly fits to the migratory theme of the book. The issue of irregular migration has taken over the centerstage in world politics as it has been considered amongst one of the most critical non-traditional security challenges being faced by the Westphalian states. The book is largely based on the author Angeliki Dimitriadi’s doctoral and postdoctoral work, which provided her with the first-hand accounts of issues involved in Afghan migration. The book primarily focuses on Afghans who seek to transit through Greece and Turkey. Author has beautifully incorporated personal narratives with the migrants and the policies formulated by the states to bring the larger debate of asylum, hospitality and transit migration with its underlying nuances. The book becomes quite relevant as incumbent US President Donald Trump has decided to withdraw American forces from Afghanistan after the ongoing talks with the Afghan Taliban. This decision has wider repercussions for the Afghans who are already facing a fragile state due to multiple reasons, and it can compel them further to leave Afghanistan for better life prospects. The book has adopted an interdisciplinary approach to discuss the decision-making process of Afghan migrants.

The book has been divided into six chapters widely covering theoretical debates, human rights violations, decision-making patterns and empirical research. The first chapter titled “Introduction: Delineating the Linkages” presents the complex issues involved in the grant of refugee status by the host states. It also deals with the highly complex role and importance of transit countries like Greece and Turkey for Afghans to enter Europe and how these countries act as crossroads between the Global North and the Global South. The second chapter “Deciding to Be Mobile”describes the reasons of emigration of Afghans from Afghanistan and Iran. Afghanistan facing “absence of rule of law, weak governance, reemergence of regionalized alliances and financial insecurity” are amongst some reasons which compel Afghans to seek for a better life and in some cases for survival (p. 35).  Iran’s discriminatory policy-change for Afghans, especially after Khomeini rule, compelled them to emigrate from Iran to Europe. Author has beautifully described the crucial role of smugglers in providing information and path to the Afghans who seek to reach their desired destinations. Author has also attempted to showcase the restrictive measures adopted by the states which ultimately affect Afghans’ attitudes and bodies during the migratory journey to the destination.

The third chapter “In-Between Spaces: The Journey to Europe Goes through Turkey” describes concepts of borderlessness and border discipline with special reference to Afghans’ migratory journey. The author has insightfully mentioned the role of Turkey as a transit and destination for the Afghans. As Turkey usually becomes the first country of arrival and transit for Afghans, it plays a very crucial role in determining the future course of direction for the Afghans. The decisive role of employment in Turkey largely leads to decision-making by Afghans regarding their period of stay in the country. Moreover, the difficulties faced by Afghans in Turkish society regarding economic incentives and societal acceptance has also been covered by the author in a detailed manner.

The fourth chapter titled “Greek Policies on Migration and Asylum: An Exercise in Creative Ambiguity” provides the overview of Greek policies on migration and asylum and their implementation at the ground level. It gives insights on Gate-keeping and Gate-fencing policies being adopted by Greece. Author has categorically attempted to divide the Greek policies into prior and post-2010 to analyse the Afghan narrative of Greece. It also deals with the issue of detention which was being used as a tool to deport refugees and now has become a tool to punish, forewarn and deter them. The chapter also highlights changes in Greek policies after the verdict of European Court of Human Rights in M.S.S. vs Belgium and Greece case regarding the dysfunctions of the Greek asylum system. The fifth chapter “Afghans in Greece: Transit, Immobility and Return”largely focuses on the role of Greece in arranging the arrival, stay, detention and deportation of Afghans. It also covers the recent changes brought out in Greek policies due to a large amount of migration of people from conflict-ridden Syria to Greece. Moreover, the author has given the detailed accounts of the formation of Xenios Zeus policy and its subsequent adverse impacts on Afghan refugees. The description of detention sites and reception places provides a deeper look into several issues relating to decision-making process of migrants.

The last and the concluding sixth chapter has been titled “Transit no More” to elaborate the lack of capacity in Greece for receiving refugees and therefore being labelled as a ‘bad host’. It also presents the picture of the changed scenario after the EU-Turkey deal which adversely affected Afghans. The chapter also gives an account of the de-facto opening of Western Balkan route which paved the way for refugees to travel from Greece to Central Europe without any need of smugglers. For Dimitriadi, the “Fortress Europe” is a problem rather than a solution to deal with the migration crisis in Europe (p. 197). The Author criticises the “safer” areas approach of some European countries to justify the returns of Afghans to Afghanistan. The final chapter evokes larger debate for policymakers to identify the patterns of Afghan migration which includes vast amount of issues which are not going to be limited to the Afghans.

Personal accounts and narratives of the refugees and migrants have made the book an interesting read as it provides varied emotions ranging from fear, trauma and quest for survival, security and satisfaction. However, some aspects like Pashtunwali could have been elaborated further to give the proper insights to the readers as of how does the Pashtun code of honour become one of the determining factors that lead to Afghan migration from Afghanistan to the other regions of the world. The role of non-governmental institutions could have been given more space and elaboration to provide a complete picture of the issues involved in the whole migratory journey. Overall, the book is a valuable contribution in the field of irregular migration as it has interwoven the government policies, international law, migrants’ emotions and insecurities through a particular case study of Afghans. The book can cater to the needs of policy-makers, human-rights advocates, academicians and research scholars who have an interest in the field of Diaspora, Migration, Politics and Sociology.


Abhishek Yadav is a Senior Research Fellow and PhD Research Scholar at the Centre for South Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

E-Mail: [email protected]


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