Ethical Issues in Irregular Migration Research in Europe Franck Düvell, Bastian Vollmer, Anna Triandafyllidou


This paper is concerned with the ethical issues arising for researchers engaged in the study of irregular migration. Based on the authors’ research experiences, the paper goes beyond analysis of ethical dilemmas and aims to provide some guidance to researchers in this field. Irregular migration is by definition an elusive phenomenon as it takes place in violation of the law and at the margins of society. The very nature of this phenomenon raises important issues, including the sensitivity and vulnerability of the research subjects and a whole series of other ethical issues to be addressed both when conducting fieldwork with irregular migrants and also at the later stage of data analysis, processing and dissemination. The paper first considers various methods in researching irregular migration and defines research ethics. It then discusses the differences between sensitivity and vulnerability and their particular implications for irregular migration research. Next, the paper looks at the ethical challenges arising from fieldwork and discusses the sensitive issues involved in the relationship between researcher, irregular migrant and society. Finally, it discusses the question of disseminating findings (both qualitative and quantitative) to wider audiences. In conclusion, we highlight the key points that we consider to be important when studying irregular migrant populations.

Düvell, F., Vollmer, B. and Triandafyllidou, A. (2010) ‘Ethical Issues in Irregular Migration Research in Europe’, Population, Space and Place, 16(3): 227-239