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Irregular Migrants in Belgium and the Netherlands

Irregular Migrants in Belgium and the Netherlands: Aspirations and Incorporation

Masja van Meeteren
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Irregular Migrants in Belgium and the Netherlands
    Book Description:

    This book surveys the many different ways in which irregular migrants settle and make a living in Belgium and the Netherlands. Offering an empirically grounded theoretical critique of the dominant research's focus on survival strategies, overreliance on comparisons of migrant communities, and overemphasis on structural explanations, Masja van Meeteren instead takes the aspirations of irregular migrants as her starting point, which opens up fascinating new questions about their lives and roles in their new home nations.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-2308-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-6)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 7-10)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 11-12)
    Masja van Meeteren
  4. 1 Irregular Migration as a Fact of Life
    (pp. 13-22)

    Irregular migration has emerged in all Western economies since World War II (Sassen 1999), and it has risen considerably in past decades (Arango 2004; Castles & Miller 2003; Jahn & Straubhaar 1999).¹ In Northern Europe, this increase has partly been an unforeseen consequence of the end of foreign labour recruitment, which was introduced in the 1970s (Brochmann 1999b). In addition, the 1990s witnessed large numbers of asylum seekers in search of protection who were not granted asylum, but nevertheless illegally stayed in their destination countries (Koser & Lutz 1998). The increased number of irregular migrants in Northern European countries is thus in part...

  5. 2 Beyond Victims and Communities Bringing in aspirations
    (pp. 23-44)

    The presence of irregular migrants has been a fact of life in Western societies for decades. However, attempts to study their lives in these countries have long remained limited to the United States (see, e.g., Chavez 1998; Cornelius 1982; Hagan 1994; Mahler 1995; Massey et al. 1987; Portes & Bach 1985; Rodriguez 1987). The question of how irregular migrants are incorporated in receiving societies has gained footing in Europe only since the mid-1990s. After the pioneering Dutch projectThe Unknown City(Burgers & Engbersen 1999), studies of other European countries soon followed. These countries include Belgium (Adam et al. 2002; Devillé 2008;...

  6. 3 Studying Aspirations
    (pp. 45-60)

    Since I aim to study irregular migrants as active agents, I need methods that enable me to study the practices and actions of irregular migrants. The grounded theory approach provides a suitable methodological framework. In the grounded theory approach, human beings are ‘viewed as active agents in their lives and in their worlds rather than as passive recipients of larger social forces’ (Charmaz 2006: 7). Furthermore, as the aim of grounded theorists is to construct theory, it perfectly suits the inductive approach argued for in the previous chapter.

    Grounded theory methods are advocated by Glaser and Strauss in their book...

  7. 4 Immigration Policies in Belgium and the Netherlands
    (pp. 61-80)

    Immigration policies play a decisive role in the allocation of life chances to irregular migrants (Baganha et al. 2006; Burgers 1998; Engbersen, Van der Leun & De Boom 2007; Menjivar 2006; Samers 2003). As governments create opportunities and impose barriers to irregular migrants, state policies shape their window of opportunity and their room to manoeuvre. In addition, policies may affect the choices that irregular migrants make within this window of opportunity (Cyrus & Vogel 2006; Hollifield 2004). Furthermore, the room to manoeuvre that policies create is not limited to the boundaries of the receiving nation-state: policies are believed to affect even irregular...

  8. 5 Investment, Settlement and Legalisation Aspirations
    (pp. 81-96)

    This chapter examines my respondents’ aspirations during their stay in Belgium or the Netherlands. From this analysis, it appears that three types of aspirations can be distinguished. The first type of aspiration concerns working and making money in the destination country and returning with it to the country of origin. Thus, respondents with this type of aspiration hoped to achieve future upward mobility in their country of origin. They were usually ‘target earners’; that is, they saved for very specific projects, ranging from starting their own business to financing a future wedding in the country of origin (Massey et al....

  9. 6 Living Different Dreams (I) Aspirations and functional incorporation
    (pp. 97-142)

    The scholarly discussion on irregular migrants and their incorporation in destination countries has been governed by the question of whether irregular migrants can achieve full incorporation. In line with the victim perspective, many scholars argue it is impossible for irregular migrants to achieve full incorporation due to their lack of legal status (see, e.g., Chavez 1991; Engbersen 1999a; Leman 1997; Van der Leun 2003b). In some conceptualisations of incorporation, participating in political life and having citizenship rights are regarded as important parameters for incorporation. In such views, lack of legal status is a direct impediment to achieving full incorporation. Other...

  10. 7 Living Different Dreams (II) Aspirations and social incorporation
    (pp. 143-164)

    A striking feature of studies on irregular migrants is that little or no attention is paid to their social incorporation. Most studies bypass this theme entirely, while others consider it to be of secondary importance. This lack of attention is probably inspired by the implicit assumption in much research that when migrants are busy ‘surviving’ there is little time for recreational activities or maintaining social relations. Most studies which do deal with the social aspects of irregular migrants’ lives therefore portray images that are in line with this ‘survival perspective’ discussed in chapter 2. They tell stories of migrants who...

  11. 8 Aspirations and Transnational Activities
    (pp. 165-182)

    The previous two chapters dealt with patterns of functional and social incorporation in the receiving societies. However, irregular migrants also maintain ties to their country of origin. To understand how irregular migrants live in the receiving societies it is therefore important to take their transnational engagements into account. Transnationalism was defined by Basch, Schiller and Blanc (1994: 6) as ‘the process by which transmigrants, through their daily activities, forge and sustain multi-stranded social, economic, and political relations that link together their societies of origin and settlement, and through which they create transnational social fields that cross national borders’.

    From the...

  12. 9 Striving for a Better Position Aspirations and the role of economic, cultural and social capital
    (pp. 183-200)

    As argued throughout this book, one should take care not to regard irregular migrants as mere ‘victims’. Although irregular migrants do obviously experience limitations, a ‘victim perspective’ can obstruct our understanding of the ways they manage to improve their situation and realise their aspirations (see also Devillé 2006; Paspalanova 2006; Van Nieuwenhuyze 2009). The present chapter seeks to answer the question of what forms of capital irregular migrants need to realise their aspirations. Realisation of their aspirations is closely connected to the extent to which they are able to mobilise and enforce resources like social, cultural economic capital (see Bourdieu...

  13. 10 Assessing a New Perspective
    (pp. 201-220)

    This book has sought a better understanding of the lives of irregular migrants in Belgium and the Netherlands. It focused, in particular, on irregular migrants’ patterns of incorporation, their transnational activities and the role played by different forms of capital in their realisation of their aspirations. I outlined a research approach that takes the aspirations of irregular migrants as a starting point. Following this approach, we arrived at a better understanding of the way patterns of incorporation and transnational activities of irregular migrants are shaped. The literature on irregular migrants has in the past overemphasised structure while neglecting agency. The...

  14. Appendix 1 Semi-structured interviews: Overview of respondent characteristics
    (pp. 221-223)
  15. Appendix 2 In-depth interviews with irregular migrants: Overview of respondent characteristics
    (pp. 224-225)
  16. Appendix 3 Organisations interviewed
    (pp. 225-226)
  17. References
    (pp. 227-242)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 243-248)