Migration, citizenship and diversity: IRiS Seminar Series

IRIS black2Below the programme of the first IRiS multidisciplinary seminar series I am convening next term in collaboration with Dr Katherine Tonkiss (School of Government & Society, University of Birmingham). We will be pairing each speaker with a discussant, I’ll post the list of discussants early in January.

The seminars take place in the Muirhead Tower, Edgbaston Campus, B15 2TT, University of Birmingham. Unfortunately they gave us three different rooms for four events! All welcome, and hopefully no one get lost in the Muirhead Tower.

15th January, 3pm (429 Muirhead Tower)

Phillip Cole, University of the West of England

Beyond Reason: The Philosophy and Politics of Immigration

29th January, 4pm (415 Muirhead Tower)

Madeleine Reeves, University of Manchester

Making up a passport: hyper-documentation and the ethics of ‘illegal’ residence in Russia and Kyrgyzstan

12th February, 3pm (427 Muirhead Tower)

Agnieszka Kubal, University of Oxford

Struggles against subjection: the consequences of criminalization of migration on migrants’ everyday lives

26th February, 3pm (429 Muirhead Tower)

Sarah Neal, University of Surrey

Conviviality, encounter, diversity, migration: But where did race go? Thinking about multiculture by bringing sociologies of race and superdiversity together

Illegality, youth and belonging: Call for Papers open!

The Call for Papers of the second symposium of the ‘Legal status, rights and belonging’ series is now out. Deadline is 15 July. The series overall investigates the relationship between immigration regimes, citizenship and politics of belonging and is jointly convened by Dr Roberto G. Gonzales at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education and myself at the new Institute for Research into Superdiversity (IRiS) at the University of Birmingham , in collaboration with Dr Elaine Chase, Jenny Allsopp and Vanessa Hughes at the University of Oxford.


Scholarly literature shows that neoliberal globalisation, through delocalisation of state borders, precarisation of labour, restructuring of the welfare system, and the emergence of new non-state actors operating transnationally, have fractured the connections between state, territory and residents triggering a significant transformation in the meanings, practices and experiences of membership in contemporary Western democracies.

The coexistence of different regimes of rights and the interplay of multi-layered systems of governance are a feature of contemporary societies. The multiplication of legal statuses for non-citizens is one of the manifestations of this transformation. However, little is known about the impact of the proliferation of legal statuses and precarisation of membership on the ‘members’ of these societies, and the ways in which legal status (or its absence) intersect with social cleavages such as age, class, gender and ‘race’ and shape social relations.

Conceptions of state membership have been based on a notion of a bounded community whereby rules of legal citizenship determine community belonging and set the parameters for exclusion. More recently, however, a burgeoning line of scholarship is challenging the primacy of the nation-state for determining membership and endowing rights, arguing that recent trends in globalisation, human rights, and multiculturalism have made state borders less consequential. Focusing on non-citizens’ long-term presence and their status as persons, this scholarship argues that non-citizens create spaces of belonging that supersede legal citizenship. To be sure, both the older and the newer definitions raise critical questions as to when and how territorial presence constitutes membership.

Main themes of the symposia

Collectively the symposia aim to break new ground through analyses that are empirically informed, theoretically engaged and ethnographically rich and drawing on the expertise of scholars from a range of disciplinary backgrounds and state contexts. As immigration has become a topic of great visibility among scholars, policy makers, and the media, this endeavour holds appeal to a range of audiences.

Illegality, youth and belonging (University of Harvard, 25-26 October 2013)

The second symposium will explore the confusing and contradictory experiences of belonging and illegality that frame the everyday lives of undocumented immigrant youth. Although the protection of children is seen as a valence issue worldwide, national governments face the growing challenge of how to best provide for children’s well-being, given the political popularity of strong enforcement stances and stringent immigration policies against undocumented immigration. This tension has produced a broad range of state responses, with implications for local communities, services, and protections. Moreover, resulting from the uneven impact of the current global economic crisis, a new geography of migration is emerging, both in terms of new immigration destinations and of changing systems of governance of in- and out- flows of population. Little is known about whether and how social and political membership is changing in association with these processes.

The Call for Papers for Illegality, youth and belonging is available here: Deadline for submissions:15 July 2013

Within and beyond citizenship: lived experiences of contemporary membership (Oxford, 11-12 April 2013)

OxChi1The first symposium held in Oxford focused on the interplay between forms and modes of contemporary membership, migration governance, and the politics of belonging. Participants discussed issues such as the position of the non-citizen in contemporary immigration and emigration states; the nexus between human mobility, immigration control, and citizenship; the tension in policy and practice between coexisting traditions and regimes of rights; the position of mixed status families in relation to the nation-state; and the intersection of ‘race’ and other social cleavages and legal status. The conference programme included four keynote talks by Nicholas De Genova, Roberto G Gonzales, Tanya Golash Boza and Nando Sigona, a roundtable and ten panels.

To find out more about Within and beyond citizenship you can:

120000 migrant children fall through the net: new report

An estimated 120,000 children living in the UK without legal immigration status are at risk of destitution, exploitation and social exclusion because of contradictory and frequently changing rules and regulations which jeopardise their access to healthcare, education, protection by the police and other public services, a new report published today by the University of Oxford shows.

The report No Way Out, No Way In: Irregular migrant children and families in the UK is published by the ESRC Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford. It shows that irregular migrant children – more than half of whom were born in the UK and have lived here their entire lives – are being trapped between laws protecting children and the enforcement of migration control.

Dr Nando Sigona, the report’s main author, said: “Current immigration policy seems to override the concern for children’s rights. Nobody, not the public, nor the children or their families, benefits from this”.

Both international and British laws guarantee children access to education and healthcare, irrespective of their immigration status, and oblige public authorities to work in the children’s best interests. But increased demands on public authorities by the UK Border Agency – such as asking social services to report suspected irregular migrants – are pushing families and children away from essential services, leaving them more vulnerable and isolated. This can also mean that children and their families who are victims of serious crime may be afraid to report it to police because of their fears about their immigration status.

Frontline professionals like GPs and teachers are increasingly being asked to check the legal status of children in their care. Not having legal status can mean the children either don’t go to school or can’t participate fully. It also means they may not be able to register with a GP or that pregnant mothers who lack legal status may avoid antenatal and postnatal care for fear of being reported to UKBA.

Dr Paramjit Gill of The Royal College of General Practitioners stated: “Having a large group of young people without access to healthcare has significant public health implications such as missing out on routine immunisation and screening programmes”.

Dr Sigona said: “The point of the report is to identify the situation that these children are in, and the difficulties that this places on the public service providers with whom they come into contact. Teachers, GPs and social workers should be allowed to do their jobs without having to act as de facto immigration control officers”.

Through a vivid portrait of children’s everyday lives, the report shows the profound extent to which the immigration system can affect the health and educational achievements of irregular migrant children from an early age, and seeks to contribute to the policy debate on how to reconcile the protection of children’s rights and migration control for the benefit of both the children and British society more broadly.

Ilona Pinter, Policy Advisor on Young Refugees and Migrants, The Children’s Society said: “This research shows the harsh reality facing tens of thousands of undocumented migrant children across the UK. Denying families access to support and vital services is leaving children hungry, homeless and destitute. Regardless of their immigration status, the government has a responsibility to protect all children in the UK”.

Finally, considering that children who were born or spent most of their childhood in the UK are unlikely to be deported, and the potential negative impacts on British society of a long term excluded population, the report recommends policy makers to provide effective pathways for irregular migrant children to regularise their legal status.

About the report

The study was carried out by a research team at the ESRC Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS). It was funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust and was part of a comparative research project in collaboration with the Institute for the Study of International Migration (ISIM) at Georgetown University (USA). The research team conducted their qualitative study over two years, interviewing 49 irregular migrant families from Jamaica, Afghanistan, China, Brazil, Nigeria and ethnic Kurds reaching in total over one hundred minors, and carrying out 30 interviews with public service providers (teachers and GPs), local authorities, policy makers and support organisations.

About the authors of the report

Dr Nando Sigona, the main author of the study, is Research Associate at the ESRC Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) and Senior Research Officer at the Refugee Studies Centre,both at the University of Oxford. His main research interests include: irregular and child migration, asylum in the EU, Roma politics and anti-Gypsyism in Europe, and the relationship between migration, citizenship and belonging.

Vanessa Hughes is Research Assistant at the ESRC Centre on Migration, Policy and Society where she contributes on a number of research activities and projects on irregular and child migration, migrant integration in the EU, citizenship, and urban change.