Legal status, rights and belonging: International symposia

The analysis of the relationship between legal status, rights and belonging is the central theme of two symposia jointly organised by the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago and the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), the Refugee Studies Centre (RSC) and the Oxford Institute of Social Policy (OISP) at the University of Oxford.

The symposia are convened by Dr Roberto G. Gonzales  (University of Chicago) and myself .

Main Themes of the International Symposia

The events will be held respectively in Oxford in April 2013 and in Chicago in October 2013 and will address two interrelated aspects of the relationship between legal status, rights and belonging:

The symposium will investigate the interplay between forms and modes of contemporary membership, migration governance (both immigration and emigration), and the politics of belonging. This will be achieved through in-depth examinations of a range of experiences of membership including, but not limited to, those of:  ethnic minorities; citizen children of undocumented migrant parents; former unaccompanied asylum seeking children; people with dual citizenship; ‘failed’ asylum seekers; and stateless people. Participants are invited to discuss 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; and the intersection of ‘race’ and other social cleavages and legal status. The Oxford symposium is organised by Dr Nando Sigona (Refugee Studies Centre), Vanessa Hughes (COMPAS) & Dr Elaine Chase (Oxford Institute of Social Policy).

  • Illegality, youth and belonging  (Chicago, October 2013)

This second symposium will explore the confusing and contradictory experiences of belonging and illegality that frame the everyday lives of undocumented immigrant youth. Over the last two decades in the United States, non-citizens have experienced a shrinking of rights while immigrant communities have witnessed an intensification of enforcement efforts in neighbourhoods and public spaces. In effect, these trends have sewn fear and anxiety and narrowed the worlds of youth—such that even mundane acts of driving, waiting for the bus, and traffic stops can lead to the loss of a car, prison and deportation. But these young people have also benefited from local and national efforts to widen access—particularly in the realm of education—providing young immigrants important opportunities to establish connections, form relationships, and participate in the day-to-day life of their communities. The experiences of undocumented immigrant youth teach us about the two-sided nature of citizenship—such that persons can be removed from spaces, denied privileges and rights, but can experience belonging too.

Collectively this joint initiative aims 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. Read the Background paper & Call for Papers

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TEDxEastEnd 2012

TEDxEastEnd 2012 is an opportunity to explore the realities and ideas around our increasingly interconnected world – how we can take advantage of the benefits this produces and tackle the simultaneous challenges it presents.  The line-up of the forthcoming event on Sat 13th October is impressive and I gladly accepted the invitation to join the list of speakers. My talk is scheduled at the end of the second segment (around 5pm). Tickets for TEDxEastEnd are sold out but the event will be broadcasted in live streaming from 2-7pm.

Operation Mayapple: Another name & shame campaign from the UK government

A few years ago the Labour government launched a name & shame campaign against employers who employed undocumented migrants and fined them with up to £10,000 for each worker. More recently the coalition government has employed a similar strategy to tackle tax avoidance . Following what must be deemed a successful model, in a similar fashion today the Home Office Border Agency is advertising the results of its latest law & order campaign named Mayapple started in May this year. The campaign is mostly a PR operation that comes after a series of fiascos in migration and border management (some self-inflicted as in the case of the ‘net migration’ policy) that have seriously affected the reputation of the Home Office and its Border Agency.

Video and photo cameras were sent with UKBA officers to film ‘law & order’ operations (maybe inspired by the experience accumulated with the participation to the UK Border Force TV series).

However, this is not a PR operation for the 2000 migrants who having overstayed and/or breached the terms of their visas had to return home.  One third was made of Indian citizens. The rest were mostly from Pakistan, Nigeria, China, Bangladesh and Brazil.

One is left wondering if there is any rationale behind these countries of origin. A devil’s advocate may argue that there is not one rationale but three. To maximise impact and minimise troubles, the ‘illegal migrants’ were carefully cherry picked according to the following criteria: a) no women and no children because human rights activists could make a fuss; b) no citizens of rich and wealthy allies (i.e. US, Canada and Australia) because their embassies could raise a few eyebrows; c) no white people because they don’t fit the stereotype of the ‘illegal’ migrants, and, added benefit, the choice would please a section of the right-wing electoral body.

There is also a further aspect to consider. As shown in an excellent piece published in the Brixton Blog, the Operation Mayapple doesn’t affect only the ‘illegal migrants’ who are eventually removed or the approval rating of  Damian Green, local residents in areas that have been targeted by UKBA’s raids feel criminalised and angered by UKBA’s heavy-handiness during the arrests. After last year’s riots, the Home Office should be wary of exacerbating community relations to achieve short term political gains.

The Battle of Schengen

The tensions within the EU institutions and with member states over the governance of the Schenghen Area is spiralling. The European Parliament has recently added its voice to the conversation arguing for the control over the implementation of the rules on the Schengen area to be kept at the EU level. This is a response to pressure from EU member states that have increasingly been pushing proposals that reclaim powers of control over internal borders.  The array of cases infringing the Schengen rules, with EU citizens facing controls which shouldn’t exist at internal borders – with Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, France, etc. pose a challange to freedom of movement, a fundamental right of European citizens and one of the main pillars of the EU.

“The European Parliament doesn’t accept that the rules on the Schengen area, established in the Amsterdam Treaty and further consolidated within the Lisbon Treaty, are being infringed by Member States. Schengen is a common concern, therefore, we need to guarantee that the Schengen governance is carried out at EU level. The freedom of movement and the rights of citizens must be preserved. The European Institutions should play an active role in maintaining vigilance over the Schengen functioning, and be able to respond to any challenges that might occur” (Carlos Coelho MEP, European Parliament Rapporteur on the Schengen dossier)

Is this the end of Schengen? Germany, Austria and Finland want to restore border controls

Germany, Austria and Finland are considering the unilateral restoration of border controls for passengers and vectors coming from Greece. In statements made by the Austrian and German Interior Ministers at the meeting of the Council of Interior Ministers of 8 March 2012, the two ministers expressed their concerns about Greece’s inability to effectively control flows of illegal immigrants at its land borders with Turkey. In a written question to the EU Commission, the Greek MEP Georgios Papanikolaou asked for the EC Commission’s view. Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs responds (E-002940/2012):

The Commission shares the concerns about the flow of irregular migrants into Greece, in particular through the external border withTurkey and has put in place a comprehensive strategy to tackle this problem, elements of which are of an operational nature involving the FRONTEX agency […]  At the same time, the Commission continues to encourage the Turkish authorities to sign the readmission agreement it has negotiated with the European Union, fully implementing its existing readmission obligations to better prevent irregular migration generally and to cooperate with EUROPOL and FRONTEX in this endeavour.

 As regards the possible reintroduction of internal border controls between Member States inside the Schengen area, the Commission […] recalls that this is only possible – as an exceptional and temporary measure by a Member State – when it is considered necessary on account of a serious threat to public policy or internal security.