Populist Radical Right Parties and Securitization of Immigration

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Aknur M.

Security Perceptions in Liminal Spaces: Opportunities and Challenges in the EU, Middle East and Russia, İzmir, Turkey, 12 - 13 May 2022, pp.107-126

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Full Text
  • City: İzmir
  • Country: Turkey
  • Page Numbers: pp.107-126
  • Dokuz Eylül University Affiliated: Yes


Public anxiety in Western Europe about immigrants and refugees has increased due to the 2007-2008 financial and economic crisis, the 2009-2010 Euro crisis and the 2015 refugee crisis in Europe as well as the terror attacks in Brussels, Berlin, Paris, London, Nice, and Manchester.  Having been more of a societal and economic issue from the 1960s to 1990s, immigration has become a security issue in the last couple of decades. According to the Copenhagen School of security studies, securitizing speech acts are particularly important for turning a non-security matter like immigration into a security issue. Thus, immigration was transformed into an “economic security” issue threatening the well-being of Europeans due to their allegations of immigrants taking away their jobs. It also became a “cultural security” issue as a supposed threat to European identity, religion, and life style. Most importantly, immigration was seen as a “state security” issue due to the perception that it was a threat to European countries’ peace, and stability, and territorial integrity.

Framing immigration as a security issue is mainly observed through the discourses of the political elite. Of these elites, Western Europe’s populist radical right parties have concentrated on this issue more than the others. Indeed, their central discourse has securitized the immigration issue, which they have used for their political benefit by continuously highlighting societal and cultural insecurity. These parties have played a significant role in promoting rhetoric and policies that increase public anxieties concerning immigrants. To gain the votes of the economically and culturally suffering groups, the parties’ leaders have securitized immigration through speeches, social media posts, and political advertising. As a sign of their effectiveness prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, a number of parties became junior partners in European coalition governments during the late 2010s. The purpose of this paper is to examine the securitization discourses of radical populist right parties in Western Europe concerning the recent flow of refugees mainly coming from Syria. To that the paper will concentrate on the discourses of the leaders of populist radical right parties in Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands.