What future for undocumented migrant children in the UK?

compasHere the ppt of the Compas Breakfast Briefing I gave in December on the situation of undocumented migrant children in the UK.

An estimated 120,000 undocumented migrant children live in the UK. A large majority of these are either born in the country or migrated here at an early age. These children were brought up in the UK, educated in British schools and many speak English as their main language. Successive British governments have provided undocumented migrant  children with some entitlement to public services. However, contradictory and frequently changing rules and regulations, cuts to public spending, and broader reforms in the provision of public services mean that even when legal provisions still exist, access to public services has become limited in practice, which can lead to destitution and social exclusion. The risk of producing a generation of disenfranchised youth, de facto non-deportable and yet excluded from citizenship, should not be underestimated and demands sensible and pragmatic solutions.

This briefing is based on ‘No way out, no way in: Irregular migrant children and families in the UK’ by Nando Sigona and Vanessa Hughes (2012). The COMPAS study was funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust.

Net migration back on the headlines

The Office for National Statistics has released its quarterly update on UK net migration. This time the figure, 183,000, is ‘favourable’ for the UK government. This is a drop of about 25% from the previous quarter, mainly the result of the increase emigration of Britons is search of better opportunities abroad (this is what migration is mostly about)  and the recent UKBA’s scaremongering campaign against universities and further education colleges (e.g. London Met) that has made the UK a less attractive destination of overseas students. But what exactly ‘favourable’ means here? As I have argued in the past on this blog, the UK government’s decision to use the quantum of net migration as an indicator of its success or failure in relation to the governance of migration is questionable for multiple reasons. I discussed this in a talk on ‘Unwanted’ immigrants and the liberal state I gave last year at the Alumni Weekend at the University of Oxford. My talk starts at 17’52”.

Hundreds of children live in the UK without legal status: interview on Voice of Russia

Wilson Center, Washington DC

A startling number of children are living in the United Kingdom with no formal documentation. Many of the children have been brought into the country as ‘illegal immigrants’ while others have been born here and never registered.I spoke to VOR’s Tim Ecott on how serious the problem is and of the risk of lack of legal immigration becoming de facto statelessness for tens of thousands of children. The interview is a response to today’s BBC news on statelessness in London that rather confusingly conflates destitution, lack of legal immigration and statelessness. Unfortunately, the heading and subheading given to the interview by Voice of Russia doesn’t do justice to the contents of the interview.

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