Posts Tagged 'migration'

Family migration: Re-uniting across international borders

Why have so many Polish families chosen to make the UK their home? In this blog post, Anne White discusses some of the motivations for and complexities of family migration to the UK, as explored in her book, Polish families and migration since EU accession, out today in paperback. 

Anne White

British society has been changed beyond recognition by the recent influx of people from Central and Eastern Europe, and particularly from Poland.

To everyone’s surprise, within a few years Poles have become the largest group of foreign nationals and the largest foreign-born population in the UK. The evidence suggests that many Polish people now consider themselves settled in Britain, at least for the medium term.

The fact that so many Poles are with their families does a great deal to explain why they feel at home in the UK, even if just ten years ago parents shared the general ‘wait and see’, ‘let’s give it a go’ attitude of the tens of thousands of other young Poles who experimented with migration to the West around the time their country joined the EU.

How did it happen?

The Brexit campaign centred on the slogan of ‘taking back control over our borders’, but migration research has demonstrated time and time again that controlling immigration in a democracy is an unrealisable ambition. As Castles and Miller (2009) famously observed, immigration cannot simply be ‘turned on and off like a tap’.

Migration is not a thing, like water, but the individual or combined actions of many individual people, all with their own experiences and motivations.

The decisions and actions of migrants abroad are shaped by the twists and turns of their integration experiences (‘The main thing is that my child is doing well at school’ ‘Can I bear to go on working as a cleaner or do I have to change my job?’ ‘Will my English ever improve or should I give up?’) and their ebbing and waning transnational practices (‘I seem to be spending more and more time on Skype to my friends in Poland’ ‘Should we stay with our parents in Poland this summer or take a holiday in Spain?’)

My book, Polish families and migration since EU Accession, explores the stories of Polish parents in the UK – and how they talk about their integration, transnational practices and feelings about possible return to Poland – to understand how they make decisions about how long to stay and how, as it has transpired, they hardly ever decide to go back to Poland.

In my book¸I demonstrate the seemingly unstoppable dynamics of networks, as family members and friends of the ‘pioneer’ migrants move abroad, often without definite plans to stay, but find themselves putting down roots, and inviting other Poles in turn.

“The absence of immigration controls cannot on its own explain why migration happens.”

The EU provides a free movement space, but since most EU citizens do not move abroad (even if they could make a better living by migrating) the absence of immigration controls cannot on its own explain why migration happens. The main point is that the free movement space allows families and friends easily to re-unite across international borders.

This, as much as economic factors, explains why Polish and other Central and East European migration has continued apace since my book first appeared in 2010. The family reunification process is now visible in many other West European countries, not just the UK. Networks have continued to function dynamically despite the global economic crisis, austerity policies and increased hostility towards migrants from majority populations.

I undertook 115 in-depth interviews with Polish mothers in Poland and the UK, as well as fieldwork notes and a specially-designed opinion poll in Poland about family migration.

A new chapter for the paperback edition draws on my 114 interviews for three recent projects as well as ethnographic fieldwork and a vast reservoir of English- and Polish-language Polish migration research which has suddenly appeared in the last few years and which I also review.

“Migration is best understood by combining a sending and receiving country perspective.”

Most of my research was conducted in Poland, in the conviction that migration is best understood by combining a sending and receiving country perspective. My fieldwork sites had rich histories of migration and a strong but changing ‘migration culture’ which was evident from how interviewees talked about migration and the workings of networks.

Migration should not be ‘into the dark’ (with nothing fixed in advance) but if you could go abroad ‘to someone’ it was worth ‘giving it a go’. Individuals and families who migrated were not condemned by neighbours for being materialistic or unpatriotic: instead, they were said to be migrating ‘for bread, not coconuts’ and a ‘normal’ standard of living.

Most interesting, however, was the fact that the migration culture was changing with regard to taking children abroad. Whereas until very recently the norm has been for just one parent to work abroad, usually the father, returning at intervals to his household in Poland, there is now widespread agreement that this produces too much heartache and that ‘families should stick together’.

In other words, the reasons why Polish children move to the UK are to be found in Poland as much as in the UK.

What of gender roles?

On the one hand, classic family reunification where the husband goes first can appear to simply reinforce traditional roles. However, on closer examination it appears that family reunification is a step towards, and evidence of, more equal relationships between spouses.

Not all wives are happy to stay in Poland and wait for their husband to send them remittances. Moreover, the book illustrates that wives, and sometimes also children, have a major role to play in shaping the family’s migration strategy.

A decisive event in many families, and one which deserves attention from scholars, is the ‘inspection visit’, when family members visit the husband shortly after his departure abroad. In other words, it is important to look closely at what is entailed by ‘family reunification’ for twenty-first century migrants, and to recognise that it does not necessarily imply the playing out of conventional gender roles.

Polish families and migration since EU accession by Anne White can be ordered here for £21.59.

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The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

 

How have attitudes changed in the last five years towards asylum and migration?

Five years ago, based upon more than two decades of research with people seeking asylum, Maggie O’Neill wrote Asylum Migration and Community. In today’s blog post O’Neill reviews, in light of the reaction to the Syrian refugee crisis, how little has changed in terms of attitudes and approaches towards asylum despite the evidence of what can be achieved through the use of participatory action research, visual research/the image and creativity.


MONeill2“What is the legal way to immigrate? Why don’t they give me this option? I am illegal because there is no legal route.” (Matthias Kispert , 2015, ‘No More Beyond‘)

Jeremy Corbyn’s acceptance speech as leader of the Labour party on Saturday 12th September connected for me, with much research and scholarly work on the current asylum-migration crisis. With shades of Zygmun Bauman’s (2004) use of ‘negative’ or ‘uneven’ globalization, Corbyn stated that going to war creates problems for humanity and we not only need peace but we need to recognise we cannot go on like this with grotesque levels of global inequality; that the richer governments must step up to the plate; and that people should not end up in refugee camps instead of contributing to the good of all.

Corbyn’s approach and commitment to welcoming refugees to the UK and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel’s in Germany, is a loud and clear message mirrored in the vigils and demonstrations across western Europe calling for refugees to be allowed in and for open borders.

Yet at one and the same time Hungary has erected a 4m high fence along its border with Serbia, the Hungarian police are described as treating migrants like animals (the Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann has drawn parallels between Hungary’s treatment of refugees and Nazi Germany’s treatment of Jews) and the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia are so far refusing to take any of the migrants; and counter vigils and protests are also taking place across Europe.

Beyond borders?
The movement of people across borders is a key defining feature of the twentieth and twenty first century (as it has been, to a lesser degree ,throughout recorded history). It is now five years since I published Asylum Migration and Community (Policy press) and yet the book could have been published yesterday, so little has changed.

Based upon more than two decades of research with people seeking asylum  funded by the AHRB and AHRC I argued that migration in the context of ‘negative’ or ‘uneven’  globalisation is on the increase;  that increasingly restrictive asylum policy measures  impact  upon the humiliation and  social marginalisation of  people seeking asylum,  refuge and the hope for a better life;  and that  that there is an urgent  need to challenge and  transform social inequalities in relation to the asylum-migration-community nexus.

I argued that there was a withdrawal of humanising practices, a lack of welcome to people seeking asylum, and a heightening of the adversarial approach to those who seek to make their lives in the UK and the North. At the same time there is a significant lack of accountability and responsibility by governments and states for their part in the production of the worlds refugees.

I also stated, and still believe, that we need to face up to our global responsibilities towards the displaced, address the causes of ‘the misery of growing refugee movements’ and foster dignity and egalization in the institutions, laws, policies and practices towards people seeking safety in the asylum-migration-community nexus. International agreements on settlement are vital. Further, that creative, cultural and participatory research can support this process, as part of a public sociology or criminology, that can helps build communities of practice to challenge and change such gross inequalities and open and keep open spaces for critical thinking, help mobilise resistance, recognition and respect for people migrating – moving beyond war, violence, poverty and environmental disasters.

Arts based research
For Walter Benjamin (and also John Berger ), the imaginary is central to utopian political thinking, and in order to counter the petrification of the imagination Benjamin stresses the need to revolutionize our image worlds. Thus, arts-based research that prioritises thinking in images can bring into being a politics of representation informed by a politics of subalternity that offers ways of seeing and understanding that may feed into public policy and ultimately help to shift the dominant knowledge/power axis embedded in current governance around ‘immigrants’, migration and in the case of the research documented here the asylum-migration and community nexus, in this case, for women migrants in Barcelona, women seeking asylum in the UK and artists documenting displacement and migration.

Moreover, the benefits of working in participatory ways using arts based research with people seeking asylum to represent lived experiences, claim a voice, raise awareness of relations of humiliation, exclusion as well as inclusion and challenge exclusionary processes and practices, can support the articulation of identity and belonging for those situated in the asylum-migration nexus. This is vitally important to the development of dialogue, a recognitive theory of community, cultural citizenship and social justice, particularly when the voices of migrants are mediated by others, notably the mainstream press and media; as can be seen in ‘Women, wellbeing and community‘ participatory research conducted with women seeking asylum in collaboration with a regional refugee organisation and film maker Janice Haaken.

Global Governance: what next?
In a world of constant movement, of glocalisation, global mobility, migration and what Castles (2003) calls the asylum-migration nexus an enormous amount of energy, time and money is spent on securing the borders of Northern states, of erecting stronger and stronger barriers to entry. This is the current case in Hungary and in Melilla (a Spanish city located on the north coast of Africa, sharing a border with Morocco) where 11.5km of heavily patrolled triple wire fence prevents migrants trying to enter; the current closing of the borders in Austria, Germany and Hungary on the 14th September 2015 as a result of ‘gridlock’; alongside increasingly restrictive asylum policies preventing entry and speeding up removals.

In an open letter to world leaders, Parvati Nair (2015) writes that Greece and Italy are on the frontline in responding to the mass movement and arrival of people and the photograph of three year old Alan Kurdi’s body washed ashore, has mobilised international responses to the ongoing migration crisis in the Mediterranean. For Nair “this signals two inter-related tragedies: firstly, that of the human loss and suffering that is ongoing in this context, and secondly, that of the dire shortcomings of global and regional good governance of migration”.

Similarly, David Held (2015) recently argued that “only when people live securely in a world where sustainable development is promoted in all regions, where severe inequalities between countries are tempered and reduced, and where a universal constitutional order guarantees the rights of all peoples…can cosmopolitan ideals be realised”.

I believe we need to revolutionize our image worlds to think and do creative governance in relation to migration and develop a radical democratic imaginary around borders, migration and belonging .

In taking this project forward I will be working with photographer John Perivolaris, Counterpoint Arts and other collaborators to extend Asylum Migration and Community both theoretically, methodologically and practically in Methods on the move: borders, risk and belonging funded by a Leverhulme Fellowship that brings together walking methods with biographical methods to interrogate the concept of borders, risk and belonging in collaboration with artists and film makers. This will, I hope, in some small way feed into and envision ‘more inclusive, more just, more democratic politics’ and we must work together to create change.

References

Information on  Counterpoints Arts can be found here

No More Beyond‘ is a video essay that was part of Counterpoints Arts Dis/Placed exhibition, June 2015.  Filmed in the city of Melilla, a Spanish enclave in northern Morocco, where 11.5 km of heavily patrolled triple wire fence separate EU territory from migrants trying to enter. The project takes its title from the city’s motto: Non Plus Ultra’. – See more here 
Zygmunt Bauman (2004) Wasted lives: modernity and its outcasts Cambridge, Polity Press.
Stephen Castle (2003), ‘Towards a sociology of Forced Migration and Social Transformation’ in Sociology Vol. 37, No 1, (edited by O’Neill and Spybey) February 2003 London: Sage.
David Held (2015) The Migration Crisis In The EU: Between 9/11 And Climate Change
Parvati Nair (2015) The Mediterranean Crisis: An Open Letter to World Leaders
Maggie O’Neill (2010) Asylum, Migration and Community Bristol: Policy Press

John Perivolaris work including Migrados can be found here
John Perivolaris and Maggie O’Neill (2014) (2014). ‘A Sense of Belonging: Walking with Thaer through migration, memories and space’. Crossings: Journal of Migration & Culture 5(2-3): 327-33

Asylum, Migration and Community is available for purchase from our website here (RRP £25.99). Don’t forget Policy Press newsletter subscribers get a 35% discount when ordering through our website. If you’re not a subscriber yet why not sign up here today and join our Policy Press community

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blogpost authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

From persecution to humiliation: the treatment of asylum seekers in the UK

Last month a pregnant woman who was detained at Yarl’s Wood immigration centre was told by a midwife she could not find her baby’s heartbeat and was refused a scan for four days. For this pregnant woman from South Africa, married to a British citizen, it took two court orders before UK Borders Agency took her for a scan. This case is a prime example of the lack of humanity in our treatment of people seeking asylum.

An enormous amount of time and money is spent securing the borders of western states, erecting stronger and stronger barriers to entry. The construction of the ‘asylum seeker’ as deviant is well documented. Indeed, government responses to asylum seekers are framed by law and order politics represented by the media, law and the courts. Yet, in order to be recognised as a refugee under the terms of the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees a person must make a claim for asylum at the port of entry or the UK Borders Agency offices in Croydon or Liverpool as soon as possible on entering the UK. Most asylum applications are refused and if the authorities refuse an asylum application, an applicant is able to appeal against the refusal, although some asylum seekers will only be able to appeal once they have left the UK (Applying for Asylum, Refugee Action, 2008).

Hence, the social and cultural context that asylum seekers experience is marked by a culture of disbelief, underpinned by law and order politics. This is combined with a focus upon strengthening and protecting borders which places responsibility on the asylum seeker for their situation. This impacts upon the experience of seeking safety for people fleeing persecution, human rights violations, violence and war. Their experiences are marked by humiliation, shaming, racism and mis-recognition.

For Zygmunt Bauman the existence of this group is much less the result of personal tragedy than the result of a global system that classifies some as without worth, as human waste. Their very disposability is created through discourses of abjection. Indeed, as Imogen Tyler notes “the figure of the asylum seeker increasingly secures the imaginary borders of Britain today”.

Published last month, Asylum, migration and community argues that we need to face up to our global responsibilities towards the displaced, address the causes of ‘the misery of growing refugee movements’ and foster dignity and egalization in the institutions, policies and practices towards people seeking safety in the asylum-migration-community nexus. Creative, cultural and participatory methodologies can support this process as can networks such as the global humiliation and human dignity network as part of a public sociology or criminology that helps to build communities of practice to challenge and change such gross inequalities and keep open spaces for critical thinking.

Maggie O’Neill, author of Asylum, migration and community


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