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.
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:
- Within and beyond citizenship: Lived experiences of contemporary membership (Oxford, 11-12 April 2013)
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
I wrote a comment article on Anthropology Today (October 2012) challanging current assumptions on the so-called ‘deportation turn’ and demonstrating that the main impact of immigration control and enforcement is not the physical removal of unauthorised migrants but the production of a precarious and insecure mode of membership in society. The situation of undocumented migrant children is a case in point. For those without access to the journal, an earlier version of the piece appeared on this blog (do get in touch if you are keen to read the full version). I am currently working on a longer academic paper which I will be presenting as a paper in Goldsmiths and at the RSC this term.
Matthew Gibney and I are convening the RSC‘s forthcoming seminar series on the theme of forced migration and citizenship. The talks are scheduled on Wednesdays at 5pm at the Oxford Department of International Development (ODID), 3 Mansfield Road, Oxford. They are open to the public. Speakers include: Kieran Oberman, Irial Glynn, Katy Long, Bridget Anderson, and Lydia Morris. The first talk on deportation and the changing character of membership in the UK by Matthew Gibney is on Wednesday 10th October. The full programme is available here: http://www.rsc.ox.ac.uk/pdfs/public-seminar-series/public-seminars-michaelmas-2012.pdf