Prof. Dr. Arjen Leerkes

Professiorial Fellow

Research group(s):
6. Migration and Development

There has been a selective securitisation of migration since the 1990s: irregular migration and asylum migration in particular, are increasingly seen as a socio-economic threat (such as to the welfare state or economic privilege), a cultural threat (undermining ‘Western values’), or as a threat to public safety (terrorism and immigrant crime). That process has coincided with heightened efforts by governments to selectively restrict international migration to the Global North. While individuals with the ‘desired’ amount of economic or human capital tend to be welcomed, the majority of the world’s population has increasingly seen its legal opportunities for mobility and immigration being curtailed.

In my research, I aim to understand how states shape patterns of international migration in intended and unintended ways, and at what human costs. Research in that direction has led to various publications on the social operation, effectiveness and legitimacy of different aspects of migration control, including migration policing, immigration detention, deportation and assisted return, admission policies for family reunification, and asylum recognition rates.

My second main research interest is to better understand the implications of the selective securitisation of migration for social cohesion in multi-ethnic societies. I have conducted various studies on how the 'context of reception' (the economic, legal and social conditions in destination societies that influence immigrants’ incorporation trajectories) shapes patterns of immigrant crime. In the near future, I intend to also conduct high-quality research to better understand – and help reduce – ethnic and socio-economic differences in institutional trust (focusing on trust in the police) and formal punishment.

I obtained a PhD in Sociology and Political Science in Amsterdam in 2007. In 2009, Amsterdam University Press published a revised version of my dissertation: Illegal Residence and Public Safety in the Netherlands. My research has been published in various highly-ranked journals in migration studies, sociology, criminology, law, social policy studies and urban studies. I contributed to two books by Oxford University Press.

In my view, it is crucial to also engage with governments, NGOs and the wider public. I have contributed to various reports for the Dutch government, the Dutch parliament, the European Commission, and for local governments (Amsterdam and Rotterdam), and I regularly advise Dutch and international NGOs. I occasionally write blogs and letters to the editor, and regularly comment on the news in the Dutch and other European media.