Illegality vs irregularity

What do ideas like ‘irregular’, ‘illegal’, and ‘undocumented’ bring to debates about migration—and what are their limitations? What do they reveal about exclusion, protection, or the role of states? What kinds of ethical and political challenges do researchers encounter when communicating about irregular migration to the public? What factors help to determine patterns of irregularity—and how should policymakers respond to them?


Notes from Bridget Anderson on the discussion…

The forum started from a discussion of the term ‘illegality’ and Bauder’s suggestion of ‘illegalisation’. We differed in our responses – some people preferred the term ‘irregular’ but I feel that this is too strongly associated with bowel movements, and Will had data that showed that ‘irregular’ is a term that does tend to be used in conjunction with physical health – though most commonly with ‘irregular menstruation’. I was less put off by ‘illegalised’ than most of the other people there who felt that it has an emotional power, that it has an element of judgement and that it is too related to transgressive actions. I said that I thought if you’re going to have a problem with that then you have to admit that there’s a problem with ‘migrant’ as well – which now I think of it is increasingly pejorative. Where we did agree is that the term we use should depend on the context.

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Discussion Items

*Bauder, Harald (2014).Why We Should Use the Term “Illegalized” Refugee or Immigrant: A Commentary ’, International Journal of Refugee Law, 26(3): 327-332. (6 pages) [relates to De Genova (2015) below]
*Jacobsen, Christine M (2015).Communicating Irregular Migration’. American Behavioral Scientist: 59(7): 886-897. (12 pages) [relates to Thorbjørnsrud (2015) below]
*Triandafyllidou, Anna and Maurizio Ambrosini (2011).Irregular Immigration Control in Italy and Greece: Strong Fencing and Weak Gate-Keeping Serving the Labour Market’ European Journal of Migration and Law, 13: 251-
273. (23 pages)
*Photography from Time Magazine (2014). ‘Boat Migrants Risk Everything for a New Life in Europe’; the Guardian (2014). ‘African Migrants Look Down on White-Clad Golfers’; and Valdez (2011). ‘ Residues o f Border Control’ . Southern Spaces: Robert W Woodruff Library, Emory University, USA. (10-15 minutes to view all three sets)

Discussion items will be introduced by pre-selected participants at the beginning of the Forum. These introductions are intended to form a common ground for all attending. Items marked as ‘background’ provide good overviews of some aspects of the topic, especially for participants who may be new to the subject. Finally, ‘further suggested’ items provide additional comparative, policy-orientated, and/or methodological insights.

Background Items

Associated Press (2013). ‘Illegal Immigrant’ No More . The Definitive Source Blog: AP. (Blog length)
Vollmer, Bastian (2011). Irregular Migration in the UK: Definitions, Pathways and Scale. Migration Observatory Briefing: COMPAS. (5 pages)

Further Suggested Items

Back, Les, Shamser Sinha and Charlynne Bryan (2012).New Hierarchies of Belonging’. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 15(2): 139-154. (16 pages)
De Genova, Nicholas (2015).The Border Spectacle of Migrant “ Victimisation”, Open Democracy. (Blog length)
European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (2014).Criminalisation of Migrants in an Irregular Situation and of Persons Engaging With Them’ Report: FRA. (17 pages)
No One Is Illegal Group (2003). The No One Is Illegal Manifesto.
Nyers, Peter (2003).Abject Cosmopolitanism: The Politics of Protection in the Anti-Deportation Movement’. Third World Quarterly, 24(6): 1069-1093. (25 pages)
Thorbjørnsrud, Kjersti (2015).Framing Irregular Immigration In Western Media’ . American Behavioral Scientist, 59(7): 771-782. (12 pages)