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Title: Understanding the 'refugee crisis' : an actor-centred analysis of the constitution of asylum governance in Italy
Author: Pettrachin, Andrea
ISNI:       0000 0004 8510 7041
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2020
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Through analysis of asylum governance mechanisms, this thesis opens the 'black box' of asylum governance processes during the Italian 'refugee crisis'. Between 2014 and 2018 Italian asylum policies became increasingly restrictive, asylum-seekers' reception was highly inefficient, and asylum-seeking migration became more politicised. This thesis complements and challenges existing accounts of the 'crisis', which tend to focus on governance outputs and outcomes without providing satisfactory explanations about how these were produced in the first place, and largely neglecting actors' understandings and decision-making processes. To address this gap, I develop an actor-centred 'macro-micro-macro' approach applied across different governance levels, based on framing and sensemaking perspectives and network analysis. Drawing from 127 interviews and an extensive document analysis, the thesis shows that the understandings, actions and interactions of Italian asylum governance actors contributed to shape asylum-seeking migration as a social and political problem, constituting the 'refugee crisis' itself. I reach this conclusion by developing six interrelated empirical findings. First, at the regional level, actors' assessments of the situation around them were driven by perceptions of public attitudes to immigration and of its salience. Second, these perceptions were often disconnected from objective evidence and grounded on pre-existing narratives. Third, these perceptions decisively shaped political decision-makers' actions. Fourth, the interaction of decision-makers that exhibited different approaches to asylum-seekers' reception influenced the production of key outputs and outcomes: the efficiency of regional reception systems, levels of politicisation of asylum and the consequent emergence of migration-related mobilisations by the public. Fifth, these outputs, in turn, decisively influenced actors' perceptions of public opinion, mostly reinforcing pre-existing narratives. Sixth, these recursive regional governance processes had powerful effects on the national governance level, significantly influencing the understandings, decisions and actions of national policy actors. They ultimately drove and shaped the restrictive policy approach adopted by the Italian government since 2017.
Supervisor: Geddes, Andrew Peter ; Wood, Matthew Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available