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Disempowering through discourse – An Analysis of the Euro-Maltese Language on Asylum Policy

Lea Lemaire
Institut d'Études Politiques Aix-en-Provence
Lea Lemaire
Institut d'Études Politiques Aix-en-Provence
Lisa Richaud
Université Libre de Bruxelles
Open Panel

Abstract

While asylum policy analysis has largely been concerned with security and control dispositives (Bigo, 2007, Terri Givens, 2008), less attention has drawn to the discursive construction of this policy and its effects on asylum seekers. Following the works of Fairglough (1992) and van Dijk (1998) on critical discourse analysis, this paper focuses on the linguistic choices made by the Maltese authorities and the European Union in dealing with asylum issues and their implications in articulation with the micro level. Our objective is to analyze how asylum seekers are constituted as subjects through policy makers’ language. We hypothesize that official discourse, both imposed by policy makers and internalized by the personnel of Maltese refugee camps, performs the disempowerment of migrants. Providing an ideological legitimacy for the policy making itself, this discursive construction shapes an unequal power relationship between asylum seekers and the host country authorities. Empirical data is provided by a research conducted in 2009-2010, consisting in textual analysis of European and Maltese discourse on asylum policy as well as discourse and socio-cultural practices analysis based on a fieldwork carried out in Maltese refugee camps. The paper is organized as follows: First, we focus on "stories" (Emery Roe, 1992) elaborated by the European Union and the Maltese government on the European asylum policy. Metaphors of "asylum shopping" and "burden sharing" have shaped the relationship of domination exerted on migrants. Second, we examine how disempowering discourse exerts effects on migrants which are observable through their interactions with the personnel of the camps.