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“My Visa Application Was Denied, I Decided to Go Anyway”

Interpreting, Experiencing, and Contesting Visa Policies and the (Im)mobility Regime in Algeria

Farida Souiah

impose visas for Algeria, but the colonial past made it more difficult than for other countries. Security was a mere excuse to impose visas on people that France saw as potential undocumented migrants, Algerians as well as others ( GISTI 1991 ). At

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Nonrecording states between legibility and looking away

Barak Kalir and Willem van Schendel

recording, nonrecording, and derecording in order to manage economic benefits, racial discrimination, and ideological anxieties. But these shifts cannot resolve the tensions: state agents’ refusal to legalize undocumented migrants not only devalues their

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The temporality of illegality

Experiences of undocumented Latin American migrants in London

Ana Gutiérrez Garza

status ( Khosravi 2007 ; Sigona 2012 ). Willen’s phenomenological approach to the study of undocumented migrants in Israel demonstrates how illegality not only affects the external structures of migrants’ worlds but also shapes their subjective

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Steve Kwok-Leung Chan

migration towards Thailand, with emphasis on undocumented labor and trafficking in persons. As undocumented migrant workers outnumber their legal counterparts in the destination nation, it is a significant social phenomenon worthy of examination. One

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Stefan Le Courant

In order to do my PhD fieldwork among undocumented migrants in a detention centre, I had to become a volunteer for an NGO providing legal assistance. In this paper I examine the effect of this double commitment through the study of two figures: a ‘liar’ and a ‘madman’. I question the grounds upon which field anthropological practice is based, namely, the ideas of long‐term fieldwork and serendipity. I hypothesise that anthropological knowledge is constructed in the successive oscillations between various positions and points of view on the field and not in the quest for the right distance from the subject under scrutiny.

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Non- and dedocumenting citizens in Romania

Nonrecording as a civil boundary

Ioana Vrăbiescu


This article explores state practices in Romania that lead to the non-, de-, and redocumenting of tens of thousands of inhabitants. Unlike state practices of (non)recording aliens (asylum seekers, refugees, undocumented migrants), the scale of dedocumenting native citizens in Romania exposes a deliberate and systematic modality of governance through exclusion from state records. These practices of citizenship dispossession lead mostly to the gender discrimination of marginalized women and the racial exclusion of Romani ethnics. People who were born and live on the state’s territory become de facto stateless. By scrutinizing state regulations and institutional practices, this article unravels the logic of dedocumenting citizens, a process that allows state actors to select those who belong to the nation on the basis of criteria that are incompatible with basic civil and human rights. This selective modality of recording endows state actors with crucial and direct control over the political and economic lives of undocumented citizens.

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‘I have too much baggage’

The impacts of legal status on the social worlds of irregular migrants

Nando Sigona

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.

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Imposture at the border

Law and the construction of identities among undocumented migrants

Stefan Le Courant

In early 2001 Masséré Sissoko left his village in the Malian region of Kayes and began a journey to France. He travelled under the name of Mahamadou Diarra, an identity with which he obtained a visa. Years later, as he was undocumented in France, Sissoko reused this identity in order to obtain ‘papers’ that could reduce the effects of his irregularity and eventually maximise his possibilities of regularisation. This meant fabricating an existence for his double by producing documents in his name (i.e. tax declarations, bank receipts) and even sometimes by embodying this identity. The multiplicity and wide range of documents that Sissoko and his fellow ‘undocumented’ migrants manipulate thus allow them to free themselves from the omnipresence of the border and to construct a life. However, identity documents, and all other documents, are constantly subjected to authenticity tests and inquiries of veracity. What does it mean to exist when you cannot live under your own name? By following the personal journey of Masséré Sissoko and his double, this article explores the connections between identification, identity and the (im)possibilities of existing within a regime of illegality.

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Stéphanie Ponsavady

Immobility: Undocumented Migrants, Boats, Brussels, and Islands,” Godfrey Baldaccino urges us to reflect on how the current pandemic has mainstreamed the practice of quarantine. All over the world, populations have come to accept this measure as a way to

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Deborah Snow Molloy and Robert M. Briwa

actions designed to punish humanitarian aid. Collectively, twenty-first-century US border militarization represents state-sanctioned violence against undocumented migrants. Migrants deterred by the surveillance, walls, and barbed wire in urban areas are