New article: ‘I’ve too much baggage’: the impacts of legal status on the social worlds of irregular migrants

Drawing on in-depth qualitative interviews with irregular migrants in the UK, this article shows how the condition of ‘illegality’ permeates migrants’ everyday lives, gradually invading their social worlds and social and community networks. The article will focus on three aspects in particular: firstly, the impact of being undocumented on the ways migrants choose who to interact with and how; secondly, the range of social activities undocumented migrants engage in and the places where they socialise; and thirdly, the interaction with community organisations, churches and mainstream support agencies. Overall, by revealing differences as well as commonalities in the ways ‘illegality’ impact on migrants’ social worlds, the paper argues for a conceptualisation of ‘illegality’ that takes into account analytically how this intersects with specific legal and policy arrangements and broader socio-economic context, as well as with migrants’ expectations and histories.

Link to the article:



The Arab Spring and Human Mobility: International Symposyum, University of Oxford, 20 March 2012

Migration in its various forms has been a key part of the popular uprisings that spread across North Africa and the Levant in 2011. The columns of vehicles escaping from cities and villages under siege in Libya, the boats crammed with Tunisians crossing the Mediterranean Sea and landing on the island of Lampedusa, and the numerous Egyptian émigrés and university students returning to Cairo to join the protests in Tahrir Square are a few examples of the ways in which human mobility intersects current events in North Africa and the Levant.

The ‘North Africa in Transition: Mobility, Forced Migration and Humanitarian Crises’ workshop organised by the Refugee Studies Centre (RSC) and the International Migration Institute (IMI) at the University of Oxford on 6 May 2011 offered a platform to begin exploring how these events have impacted existing patterns of mobility in the region and generated new ‘mixed’ migration flows. Panelists observed that the regional crises had prompted some economic migrants to become forced migrants; pushed forced migrants into irregular migration channels; and made multiple migrant groups, including seasonal and long established migrants, ‘involuntarily immobile’. Panelists also observed that apart from large-scale displacement within and from Libya, migration patterns from most other countries, such as Tunisia and Egypt, seemed to have remained remarkably unaffected by the political turmoil, in stark contrast with predictions made by some politicians, journalists and researchers about mass displacement.

To build on this event and take stock of further political and economic developments in the region, the RSC and IMI are organising a second international symposium on migration and forced migration in North Africa and the Levant on 20 March 2012 with the participation of international scholars, practitioners and policy makers. This second workshop will examine the extent to which the Arab Spring has shifted migration dynamics and migration and
refugee governance.

The workshop will address the following questions:

  • How have varying processes of political, economic, and social contestation in North Africa and the Levant affected human mobility?
  • To what extent have events transformed or impacted the institutional behaviour and responses of international organisations and civil society groups working in the field of migration and refugee protection?
  • How have publics and governments in North Africa and the Levant positioned or repositioned themselves in relation to issues of asylum and migration?

Migration Studies, new refereed journal to start publication in spring 2013

Migration Studies, OUP

Migration Studies is a new multi-disciplinary refereed journal from Oxford University Press (see journal’s webpage). It will publish work that significantly advances our understanding of the determinants, processes and outcomes of human migration in all its manifestations.

Migration has always defined human populations, and today it is one of the most powerful currents shaping global society. In recent decades, the increasing scope, complexity and salience of human migration have inspired new conceptual and policy vocabularies, and stimulated ground-breaking research efforts across many different academic disciplines.

Migration Studies will contribute to the consolidation of this still-fragmented field of study, developing the core concepts that link different disciplinary perspectives on migration, and bringing new voices into ongoing debates and discussions. Drawing on the expertise and networks of a Global Editorial Board of senior migration scholars, the journal will publish articles of exceptional quality and general interest from around the world.


Migration Studies invites papers that contribute substantively to a core scholarly discipline or sub-discipline, while engaging with migration research in other disciplines. Papers will be reviewed through a global editorial board including senior scholars in each of the following fields:

  •  Anthropology
  •  Demography
  • Economics
  • Forced Migration
  • Geography
  • History
  • International Relations
  •  Sociology
  • Political Science

The editorial team (Alan Gamlen – Editor, Alexander Betts, Thomas Lacroix, Emanuela Paoletti, Nando Sigona and Carlos Vargas-Silva – Associate Editors) also welcomes book reviews, special issue proposals, and ideas for presenting content in new ways.


Please follow instructions for authors on the journal’s webpage:

Health status and legal status

Extract from the forthcoming report No way out, no way in: Irregular migrant children and families in the UK by Nando Sigona and Vanessa Hughes

Meeting the health needs of a growing and super-diverse foreign-born population in the UK is a challenge for health services. However, these needs are currently only partially acknowledged and addressed. As Jayaweera (2010: 1) points out, government policy ‘has focused largely on addressing ethnic inequality in health’, leaving aside other factors that may have an impact on migrants’ health needs and experiences of the healthcare system such as country of birth, language, length of residence and, significantly for the purpose of this study, immigration status.

The Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health is a case in point. While the 2007 report showed that about 20 per cent of deaths directly or indirectly related to pregnancy occur in women with poor or no antenatal care, it failed to consider that one of the main deterrents to access care may be the policy of charging ‘non ordinarily resident’ patients for maternity care introduced in 2004. For Maternity Action :

Charging women for maternity care has the effect of deterring women from accessing care, irrespective of formal rules requiring care to be provided even if the woman cannot pay in advance. Many women with limited resources are not prepared to take on a debt which they are unable to pay. To avoid the debt, they do not access services until they go into labour or something goes wrong.

Drawing on interviews with migrant children and parents, No way out, no way in offers qualitative insights into the impacts of undocumentedness on irregular migrant children’s health status.

2012: Migration and migration research in the new economic order (1)

How and to what extent will the economic crisis affect migration? This is clearly a complex and composite question that requires many answers. As a starting point, I would suggest that we should look not only to migration flows, trends, patterns, systems, networks and stocks but also to the experiences of actual migrants and to the settlement conditions that are produced directly and indirectly by changing economic conditions which are opening up as much as closing down spaces and opportunities for migrants and migration. While the economic instability is certainly global, it is not felt in the same way everywhere and as a result of the crisis, new economic power geometries will emerge or consolidate. Migration is a responsive phenomenon (although with a history) and will certainly recognise emerging opportunities and changing realities. Will migration scholars be able to capture it? Migration studies as a field of research is closely intertwined with policy making and has often a Western-centric bias that comes as unchallenged. The research agenda is often set elsewhere by statutory and non-statutory donors whose interests are mainly local and national or at most regional (e.g. EU), what happens elsewhere, in the global South (incidentally, the label will soon become obsolete) for example may easily escape the gaze of mainstream migration scholarship. As a result we may end up seeing a lot of work on the negative impacts of the crisis and much less on the new geographies of migration which are likely to be not-Western centric.