From Security Considerations to De-securitising the Discourse on ‘old’ and ‘new’ Minorities

by Andrea Carlà. 2020. In Extending Protection to Migrant Populations in Europe Old and New Minorities, edited by Roberta Medda-Windischer, Caitlin Boulter and Tove H. Malloy, 156-175. London: Routledge

Key words: old minorities, new minorities, migrants, (de)securitization, human security
Summary by Margaux Dandrifosse – IBEI


Micro-summary: Migrant and minority issues should be conceptualized under the shared umbrella of cultural diversity and governed through de-securitization processes and the provision of human security.

Summary: In this work, Carlà innovatively associates the securitization of both national minorities and migrants with a society’s perception of diversity. The author claims that the securitization of national minorities (old minorities) and migrants (new minorities) are similar in various aspects, as both concern the governance of cultural diversity.

To build his argument, the author develops his own conceptualization of securitization. It is considered as an exclusionary practice which shapes identities and produces rigid homogenous categorisations, opposing minorities to the majority group in a society. The two groups are seen as possessing irreconcilable interests, cultural markers, and ethnicity. They perceive each other in terms of an insider friendly group as opposed to an outsider threatening bloc. Accordingly, cultural diversity, represented by minorities and migrants, is considered as an abnormal threatening feature to be eliminated.

Based on this conceptualization of securitization, the main argument of the text is found in the imperative to de-securitize minority issues. Nevertheless, de-securitization does not only lie in the granting of rights and power-sharing to minorities. Rather, it consists in framing cultural diversity as the normal in society. Moreover, Carlá argues that securitization should not be entirely dismissed as both minorities and majorities are still entitled to security claims. Instead, it is necessary to go beyond the interpretation of securitization as negative and as inherently opposed to a positive de-securitization. It is argued that securitization and de-securitization can be reconciled through the concept of human security. Human security shifts the referent object of security from states or groups to individuals. It enables to overcome the rigid opposition of “minorities versus the majority”, placing all individuals under a shared umbrella, and breaking group boundaries and homogeneity to emphasize individual security.

Consequently, the author argues that the optimal policy practice to govern both national minorities and migrants is to combine de-securitization with the approach of human security. In that way, diversity must be conceived as normal and each individual must be entitled to security.

Follow-up: Carlà brings into light the concept of human security to de-problematize the opposition between securitization and de-securitization of minorities and migrants. Emphasizing human security as the basis for a policy approach to minorities and migrants yields interesting avenues for a new framing of those groups in society. This approach could be considered to have been inspired by the author’s extensive previous researches on South Tyrol (2014; 2015; 2016; 2020). Carlà has also recently looked at how the pandemic has affected the securitization of minorities (2020).

Relevance for the SECUREU Project: This work presents evident links and contrasts with the article by Sasse (2015). Both authors argue that national minorities and migrants must be considered in the same light in terms of security policies. Nevertheless, while Sasse (2015) argues that the promotion of rights for minorities and migrants has increasingly been promoted as a policy solution to the securitization of those groups in Europe, Carlá (2020) emphasizes de-securitization and a human security approach to promote individual rights and security for both minorities and majorities.

Nevertheless, Carlà offers an innovative conceptual framework to analyze the securitization and de-securitization of migrants and minorities in Europe. It would be interesting to examine how the securitization of migrants and minorities in the EU creates rigid exclusionary groups of “friends versus enemy”, around what lines such divisions are created, and how this influences growing xenophobia. Furthermore, the human security approach has the potential to inform policy recommendations to deal with xenophobia, right-wing populism, and migrants/minorities marginalization in Europe. However, it raises the question of who the current referent object of security in the EU is, whether this should change, and whether and how this can be changed. Moreover, would a human security policy successfully break group boundaries or would this approach yield a counter-reaction manifested in further xenophobia and right-wing extremism?