Home Sociology Integration Processes and Policies in Europe
Route 2b: Legal Immigrants and Target of Return Policy
Undocumented migration and the entry of asylum seekers are driven by forces— such as transnational networks—that governments cannot control (Castles 2004, 205). Although the issue of asylum was actually an important incentive for the EU to harmonize migration-related policies (see Penninx and Scholten in this volume), it has proven difficult to address the root causes of migration, not least because of the different objectives of the various EU bodies and member states (Castles 2004, 223). Undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers who are not granted residence permits become the target of return policies. In many European states, unsuccessful asylum seekers may be transferred to “detention and removal centres” (on the UK see Sales 2002; on Sweden see Khosravi 2009); others become “illegals” trying to live their lives without formal papers. The EU deportation regime has received particular public attention regarding the position of women (as mothers) and children. In Norway, the UK, Sweden, Germany, and the Netherlands media have featured stories of children who have been sent “back”—sometimes forcibly (Fekete 2005). Scholars also point to an increasing proportion of asylum seekers being trafficked as a result of restrictive policies (Koser 2000). Here again, women and children are especially targeted in protective policies, for example, as a result of the 2000 United Nations Protocol to Suppress, Prevent and Punish Trafficking, Especially Women and Children (Hastie 2013).
Undocumented immigrants are vulnerable and caught in between different policy layers. Formally they are excluded from integration policies, but at the same time many are informally incorporated by local institutions such as schools, churches, and associations (for an overview of literature on this category see Chauvin and Garcés-Mascareñas 2012). As Castles (2004, 223) argues, '[policies] that claim to exclude undocumented workers may often really be about allowing them in through side doors and back doors, so that they can more readily be exploited'. At the same time, expelled migrants are attracted by the demand for the flexible labour facilitated by the large informal economy in countries such as Greece (Fakiolas 2003).
The presence of undocumented migrants and opportunities for them to settle vary widely across European member states. Hellgren (2014) argues that undocumented migrants are more accommodated in Spain than in Sweden. Until 1 July 2013 undocumented migrants in Sweden had—in contrast to recognized asylum seekers—no right to basic healthcare and schooling for their children. This was amended under pressure of the United Nations, which criticized Sweden for violating human rights conventions (ibid., 1180). In Spain undocumented migrants are documented at the local level. They have the same access to schooling and, up to 2012, healthcare as anyone else (Garcés-Mascareñas 2012, 121, 209). Moreover, Spain has a larger informal population than Sweden. Undocumented migrants in the former fill a major “care gap”, providing cheap labour in healthcare, childcare, and domestic services. While in Sweden undocumented migrants 'reflect a moral dilemma and challenge to the principles of the welfare state', in Spain 'the presence of individuals without permission to stay may not be problematic for any moral reasons, or by principle' (Hellgren 2014, 1184).
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