Going Together Sans Papiers: Organizational Activity of Irregular Immigrants in Belgium

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1 Going Together Sans Papiers: Organizational Activity of Irregular Immigrants in Belgium By Oleg Korneev Submitted to Central European University Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology In partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Sociology and Social Anthropology Supervisors: Associate Professor Ayse Caglar Associate Professor Prem Kumar Rajaram Budapest, Hungary 2006

2 Abstract This thesis focuses on the category of the sans-papiers, which in the Belgian context depicts the irregular immigrants. On the basis of a comparative study in Flanders and Brussels-Capital Region I explore the questions concerning the origins and the dynamics of irregular immigrants organizational activity a phenomenon that has escaped the attention of migration scholarship. This may be attributed to the long-standing tradition in migration studies to equate immigrant organizations with ethnic ones. Obviously such a pan-ethnic immigrant category as the sans-papiers does not fit into these limits. Another reason is the taxonomy of irregularity, which not only functions in the vein of Foucault s concept of governmentality in relation to immigrants, but also restricts the focus of migration research. Therefore, in order to comprehend the specifics of the organizational activity of the sans-papiers I locate my research in the frame of social movement theories. In particular, I draw on studies bridging collective identity perspective and political context approaches in the research on social movements. My main findings result from a month-long intensive fieldwork in three Belgian cities (Brussels, Antwerp and Gent) which combined participant observation, interviews and documentary analysis. I show that two most significant factors the master status of the irregular immigrants (coupled with mistrust accumulation towards specific social and political actors) and variations in political opportunity structures within Belgium shape irregular immigrants mobilization, mediating between organizational development and social movement growth. 2

3 Acknowledgments It might sound trivial but this thesis would not see the light without the support I have been getting from people around me from the time when I was struggling with my first research proposal till now when I am writing these lines. I would like to thank my supervisor Ayse Caglar for her trust in me, for careful (re) reading of my unclear drafts, and for her persuasive comments which finally shaped this work. I want to thank my second supervisor Prem Kumar Rajaram for encouraging me to follow the way I have chosen and for his careful suggestions that guided me in the field. I would also like to thank David Berliner whose enthusiasm, optimism and enormous organizing potential gave me a chance to have my far-from-home fieldwork done. For critical and non-critical comments on my work I thank all the participants of the thesis writing workshop a great idea of our department. I am indebted to all my informants who agreed or refused talking to me, who treated me seriously and showed how minor my field problems were in comparison to what they had been experiencing for years. Especially I would like to thank Elke for welcoming my research, Abdel for his open heart and Charle and Hassan for their sincerity. I would like to acknowledge the significant assistance provided to me by professors from Univeriste Libre de Bruxelles - Pierre Petit and Dirk Jacobs. I want to thank Marie-Aline Cauderlier and Laetitia Nolde for being my hosts and guides in Brussels, and Maya Perkisas whose tea saved me from getting sick in rainy Antwerp. I am grateful to my friend Michiel Humblet and his family Jenny, Jean, Elke, Ricardo and Rineke who not only provided me with excellent conditions at their hospitable home, but also cared about me through all my fieldwork. A lot of thanks go to my friend Pieter Coppens who shared with me his small student room, showed me touristic Belgium and inspired me for most exciting fieldwork experiences. Thanks to Claudia Ciobanu who is from time to time reminding me that people are more important than my thesis and all related stuff, and to Apostolos Fotiadis with whom I shared the obsession with my research subject and who did not dismiss my often simplistic interpretations. I want to thank Judit Koppany for being my devoted editor and even occasional co-author. I am grateful to all my CEU friends (Anca, Jasmina, Yuliyana, Varduhi, Hulya, Robert, Eeva, Yulia, Max, Ulyana, Alina, Alba, Tomek) for going with me through thesis-related troubles and to Yulia Sitnova because she believed that I would manage. Special thanks go to my mother Nadezhda Korneeva and to Nikolai Malahov for their invaluable support and tender love I was feeling from the distance. 3

4 Table of Contents Abstract.2 Acknowledgements...3 Introduction Irregular Immigrants: Context of Mobilization Elusive Irregularity Sans-Papiers in Belgium Regularization Campaigns Pro-Immigrant Environment? Proper Immigrant Organizations Immigrant Activism and Social Movement Theories Organizational Activity of Belgian Sans-Papiers Methodological Remarks Discovering the Field: Problems of Getting In and Out of Multiple Locations Methods Planned and Methods Used: Adjusting Research Strategy in the Field Immigrant Organizational Activity: Case of UDEP Origins and Organizational Structure Membership Patterns of Organizational Activity: Brussels-Capital Region and Flanders UDEP in Three Belgian Cities Resource Mobilization, Action Repertoire and Self-Positioning to Other Actors Practice of Church Occupations and Position of the Church Organization and Movement: Complex Interrelations..62 Conclusions.66 Reference List.70 4

5 Introduction It is rare for people to have no papers, and if they say so they are hiding something, and this is not something we want to encourage. So we say if you won t show your passport we will not blame you or punish you, but we will not be sending you to our services. (Support worker, Rome Caritas) 1 The day when the sans-papiers themselves will start fighting for their rights, the situation can change. (Mohamed Benzouia, member of the Universal Embassy) 2 In the autumn 2005 Belgium faced a mobilization of the sans-papiers people who do not posses any valid documents officially proving their identity which would permit to establish not only their national background, but also their status in relation to the territory in which they live (Kagne 2001: 45). These irregular immigrants 3 of diverse origins began organizing themselves to struggle for regularization. It was not a completely new phenomenon, because Belgium had already witnessed similar mobilization in Then, after the death of a young Nigerian girl Semira Adamu (rejected in the status of a refugee 4 ) during a forced deportation from Belgium the sans-papiers organized protest demonstrations and suddenly occupied churches in some parts of the country. This provoked immediate reactions in the media as well as among the power holders. However, the new wave of the sans-papiers mobilization is even larger in its scale. 1 Quoted from Morris, Lydya (2002: 73) 2 From the interview with Benzouia, Mohamed (2004; my translation) 3 A special section in the following chapter is devoted to the problem of definitions applied to different immigrant groups 4 This case has been widely discussed in Belgium, it also provoked international reactions (see, e.g. Amnesty International 2002; Nees 1998) 5

6 It is noteworthy that despite the importance and the presence of irregularity problematique in public discourse, questions of irregular immigrants organizational activity escaped the attention of immigration scholars with only rare exceptions (see Engbersen 2001; Kagne 2000, 2001). In this thesis I address the issues pertinent to such activity. In particular, I aim to examine the reasons behind the emergence and persistence of irregular immigrants organizations despite the existing abundance of pro-immigrant non-governmental organizations. Moreover, I want to understand what the pan-ethnic character of these organizations can tell us about immigrant activism and the scholarship on such mobilizations. I approach these organizations as ideal strategic research sites (Merton 1987) for migration research. Indeed, studying them allows scholars to identify, first, problems migrants are confronted with, second, policy inconsistencies and failures eventually articulated in the discourse and practice of such organizations, and third, the character of their relationship with different social actors that can be crucial for the realization of their aims. Such a study implies an investigation into at least two extremely controversial topics: irregular migration and immigrant organizations. As to the topic of irregular migration, there are many studies concerning the nature of the irregularity. Such scholars as Hughes (2002), Jordan and Duvell (2002), Kagne (2001), Rajaram and Grundy-Warr (2005), Rodriguez-Pose (2002) plunge into the deep water of this phenomenon and consider specific national and regional cases where it manifests itself. Another research area deals with the specific policies towards irregular migrants. Baldwin-Edwards (1996) writes about the development of EU common immigration policy with a significant emphasis on tackling irregular immigration problems; in one of his later works (2004) he considers the position of undocumented migrants in the welfare states in Europe. 6

7 Some other researchers (Adam, Ben Mohammed, Kagne et all 2002; Engbersen 2001; Quasoli 2001) focus on the strategies which immigrants employ in order to prolong and render their residence more bearable in particular countries. In addition, Legal scholars focus on the legal mechanisms shaping both potential immigration channels and statuses of already in-land immigrants (e.g. De Bruycker 2000). Nevertheless, despite the irregularity emphasis put on the immigrants, scholarship is marked by an absence of attention to the problems of irregular immigrants organizational activity. Concerning the field of immigrant organizations, there is a surprisingly overwhelming emphasis on the perspective equating immigrant organizations with ethnic organizations (Jacobs and Tillie 2004; Jacobs, Phalet and Swyngedouw 2004; Moya 2005; Schrover and Vermeulen 2005). This obviously disregards other significant trends in immigrant associational activity, such as manifested by the sanspapiers in Belgium. Therefore, I argue that study of organizational activity of irregular immigrants can not be successful if locked within migration research. It should be framed within the realm of the social movement theories. There are several reasons for such a claim. First, to understand the logic underpinning such action, irregular immigrants organizational activity may be considered as part of a more general phenomenon of immigrant mobilization underlying social movements. Second, and even more important for future theoretical elaborations, identifying the particularities of irregular immigrants organizational activity helps comprehend both the social conditions and the political forces behind the emergence of some significant social movements paradoxically kept on the periphery of research. 7

8 Indeed, contrary to the students of immigrant organizations, scholars working within a burgeoning field of social movements have already paid attention to the problems I emphasize in this work, namely to the nature and the character of panethnic immigrant mobilization and organizational activity, which distances itself from pro-immigrant associations. This serves as an indirect indicator of the fact that the phenomenon itself is not something radically new. It is perfectly illustrated by the works of Simeant (1993, 1994) and later on referred to by such prominent theorist of social movements as Charles Tilly (1999). There are several case studies on related problems in France (Garcia 2006; Fuchs 2006) and in Spain (Frank 2006). In my research I focus on Belgium the country where diverse modes of irregular immigrants mobilization have recently become very obvious. However, so far the scholars of immigrant activism have not explored the Belgian sans-papiers case and I hope my work can contribute to this very volatile field. I aim to investigate the questions concerning the origins and the specificity of organizational activity of the sans-papiers in Belgium. Previous research on similar issues has relied on two leading approaches within the social movement theories political opportunity structures perspective (see Hooghe 2005) and resource mobilization theory (Simeant 1994). Drawing on the critique emerging from the recent conceptual works on social movements I will also incorporate theories bridging such political context approaches with collective identity perspective to the study of social movements (e.g. Meyer 2002; Whittier 2002). In this vein I hypothesize that two most significant factors the master status of the irregular immigrants and variations in political opportunity structures within Belgium were equally 8

9 significant for the emergence of irregular immigrants organizational activities and for the forms they took. With such an agenda in mind, I focused on a comparative study of irregular immigrants organizational activity in two regions of Belgium Flanders and Brussels-Capital Region. This comparative framework gave me opportunities to look at the variations in political opportunity structures and their impact on the patterns of this activity. The month-long fieldwork drew heavily on the participant observation, different types of interviews and documentary analysis. Not only did such research techniques provide me with rich ethnographic evidence on what various actors involved in immigrant mobilization were saying, doing and displaying to the public, but they also enabled me to analyze the discrepancies among all these aspects of their activity. For instance, while declaring their independence in the information leaflets, spokespersons of the sans-papiers admitted their collaboration with some of the NGOs in the conversations with me. In other cases, representatives of the NGOs publicly announcing support for the actions of the sans-papiers, expressed some negativism assessing the irregular immigrants mobilization in the interviews I conducted with them. In the first chapter of the thesis I outline the theoretical framework of my research. I first address the phenomenon of irregularity, contextualize it by looking at the position of the sans-papiers in Belgium, and then move to the issues of immigrant activism drawing upon a broader conceptualization of (pro)-immigrant organizations and social movements. In the second chapter, I discuss my findings and start with a reflection on both advantages and problems of a multi-located fieldwork, as well as methodological and ethical hardships experienced in my field. They eventually became very important for my analysis, because they pointed to some aspects of the 9

10 phenomenon under study (such as controversial relationships of irregular immigrants activists with some other social actors) which otherwise would be less visible. Thereafter, I examine the nature of the particular type of immigrants organizational activity, purposes that it has, its relational networks as well as the actions undertaken by the sans-papiers in Belgium. Finally, I reflect upon the problem of categorization of such associational activity referring to the concept of social movements. 10

11 1. Irregular Immigrants: Context of Mobilization In this chapter I want to look critically at some studies on irregular migration and at the current research in the field of immigrant organizations. I argue that the latter is overwhelmingly ethnically biased as indicated by numerous works equating immigrant and ethnic associations. Consequently, such studies could not capture nonethnic based immigrant organizational activity which has long been witnessed in the case of the irregular immigrants mobilizations. Attempting to solve this problem, I first explore the phenomenon of irregularity, then review recent works on (pro) immigrant organizations, and finally discuss the applicability of some approaches developed by the research within the social movements paradigm to the study of irregular immigrants organizational activity. I believe that only usage of the conceptual tools provided by the social movement theories can facilitate understanding specificity of irregular immigrants collective action Elusive Irregularity Irregular immigrants, illegal immigrants, the clandestine, undocumented migrants - it is not surprising at all that an ordinary observer might get confused with such terminological variety. Even within academia there is little consensus over definitions in general, and those related to multiple immigrants classifications in particular. That is why I feel the need to disclose some paradoxes of an elusive category of irregularity, to show what this category in fact veils both in the research and in politics, hoping to contribute to the current discussions of a phenomenon central to my research. As has been shown by Bigo the evocative power of naming the immigrant figure is a consequence of the fact that many unresolved structural questions converge 11

12 here in a space lacking political solutions (unemployment, urbanism, demography, the North/South gap and so on) (2002: 80). Indeed, such taxonomy can perfectly function not only in the spirit of the constitution of scholarly knowledge, but also in the vein of Foucault s concept of governmentality, and I will return to this important aspect later. For these reasons many students of migration, being cautious of misleading terminology (potentially leading to stigmatization of whole immigrant groups) repeatedly have to make a number of reservations and clarifications in their works and to render explicit what they particularly mean under this or that category of migrants. Besides, there exists an obvious problem of the lack of reliable data on immigrant groups referred to by many of those working on migration issues. Thus, anthropologist Kopnina asserts that there is no clear demarcation as to which category a migrant belongs; these categories shift according to migrants circumstances the legal status of migrants is subject to change (2005: 32). Understandably, this is one of the factors leading to many of simplifications and generalizations in the relevant literature. Some scholars declare that irregular migration is crossing borders without proper authority, or violating conditions for entering another country (Jordan and Duvell 2002: 15) thus equating irregular migration with illegal migration. Others prefer referring to a composed category of undocumented aliens and undocumented (but legally resident) workers (Baldwin- Edwards 2004: 323) thus avoiding problematique definition of illegality differently perceived from sociological or legal perspectives. And there are those who bravely embark on a hard task of refining the definitions. For instance, Rajaram and Grundy-Warr (2005) suggest a very careful approach to terminology rightly indicating that migrants are often categorized in 12

13 rather untidy and unsatisfactory ways. Terms such as regular / irregular, legal / illegal, and documented / undocumented are based on simplistic opposites that in reality are blurred or overlapping (74). Discussing the variety of causes and modes of migration, multiple migrants experiences and different approaches states adhere to in determining migrants categories, the authors explicate that care needs to be taken when applying blanket categories such as irregular or undocumented [because] for instance, people who enter a country with proper documentation may decide to over-stay and take on employment in violation of conditions of entry, thus become irregular in one sense whilst being documented at the time of entry (Rajaram and Grundy-Warr 2005: ). As the most important part of this discussion I consider an acknowledgement that: economic migrants at the lower end of the economic scale and asylumseekers are often restricted to irregular migration. Irregular migrants often live shadowy lives, distinctions and categories make little sense here; the concern is on commonly seeking shelter, livelihood, health care and schooling on an illegal basis (Rajaram and Grundy-Warr 2005: 74). Thus, in my view, the most important characteristic inherent in the definition of irregular migrants is exactly the irregularity of the legal status a person might have due to certain circumstances, which obviously makes him/her a member of a particularly vulnerable group within any society. However, in concrete social settings some more specific - more material features (namely, presence or absence of proper documents) become a basis for defining of such a group. 5 The importance of the irregularity problematique is indirectly manifested by its presence in the scholarship. Indeed, there is a great bulk of literature on the issues of irregular migration concerning the nature of the phenomenon. Such scholars as 5 I will return to this issue in the next section discussing the position of irregular immigrants in Belgium 13

14 Hughes (2002), Jordan and Duvell (2002), Kagne (2001), Rajaram and Grundy-Warr (2005), Rodriguez-Pose (2002) give insights in general matters concerning irregularity and consider specific national and regional cases where the phenomenon manifests itself. Even more popular is a research area dealing with the specific policies towards irregular migrants. Baldwin-Edwards (1996) provides an excellent overview of the development of EU common immigration policy with a significant emphasis on tackling irregular immigration problems; in one of his later works (2004) he discusses the position of undocumented migrants in the welfare states in Europe. Bigo (2001), Guiraudon and Joppke (2001), Huysmans (2000), Monar (2000, 2002) deal with a tremendously important issue of securitization of immigration in general and in European context in particular. 6 Although policy measures, implementation practices and effects which such securitization implies can vary, most obvious manifestation of it is increasing restrictiveness of external aspects of immigration policies. It has already become a commonplace in almost every work on immigration issues to declare that European governments are struggling with the problems of irregular migration through the construction of all kinds of external and internal barriers. Some migration scholars legitimately discuss such emerging phenomena as fortress Europe (Geddes 2000), panopticon Europe (Engbersen 2001) or ban-opticon (Bigo 2002). Other researchers investigate strategies which individual irregular migrants use to be able to prolong and to render more bearable their residence in particular countries, as well as actions of the authorities leading to virtual stigmatization of 6 The term securitization was developed by Ole Waever, an International Relations scholar representing so-called Copenhagen School, famous for its new security studies accentuating interdependence between internal and international security fields. Securitization means representing 14

15 immigrants (Adam, Ben Mohammed, Kagne et all 2002; Engbersen 2001; Quasoli 2001). Legal scholars pay attention to the legal mechanisms shaping both potential immigration channels and statuses of already in-land immigrants (e.g. De Bruycker 2000). Nonetheless, where the irregularity is concerned, one discovers that the scholarly literature places irregular immigrant in a very specific niche that leads to the consequent absence of attention to the problems of irregular immigrants organizational activity. 7 Indeed, however surprising this paradox might be, most of the researchers repeatedly disregard the fact that irregular migrants represent a specific social group and may act not only individually, but also collectively. It is particularly striking if one conceives of such collective activity as one of immigrants surviving strategies. Almost none of the researchers dealing with this controversial issue of survival, pays due attention to the fact that organizing in groups with the aim of political action, represent nowadays one of the leading residence strategies for many irregulars. One may contest such critique by saying that the phenomenon is probably relatively new and scholarship simply has not caught up with it. I agree with Engbersen who, in his intriguing article based on his previous qualitative studies of the residence strategies of illegal immigrants, states that secret societies consisting exclusively of illegal migrants are not very apparent (2001). The author conceives of illegality as a master status of immigrants, and discusses it in relation to Simmel s concept of secret society (2001: 240). Using an example of illegal migrants who get organized to enforce legal regularization (Ibid.) Engbersen rightly points out that instead of keeping secrecy they always seek publicity considered as an ultimate means certain dimensions of social life as being under consistent threats, thus necessitating application to them of elaborated security measures. I will return to this problem in one of the next sections. 15

16 for the realization of their aim. Taking into account irregular status of the migrants and their vulnerability in the face of the law, the establishment of such organizations might be regarded as somewhat paradoxical. But I believe that the very essence of such activity is in making irregular immigrants problems visible for the general public and for the authorities, thus challenging a distorted perspective present in public discourse, when giving a face to crime is giving the migrant a face (Bigo 2002: 81). Still, Engbersen claims that groups in which illegality is an exclusive means of organization, and of which all members are illegal, are very difficult to find (Ibid.). On the contrary, I argue that rareness and novelty of this phenomenon are rather disputable. As I will show further, the majority of the migration scholars simply have not paid due attention to it. Addressing the notion of irregularity as an overarching immigrant category in a case-specific context can be a starting point in the quest for explanations of irregular immigrants organizational activity Sans-Papiers in Belgium In this section I am going to consider the above discussed terminological issues referring to a multi-faceted picture of sans-papiers in the Belgian context. It should be clear that social, political and legal realities in a single country transform and redefine categories, and the one of irregular immigrants is not an exception. For this reason it is necessary to give a brief overview into the history of both the phenomenon and the term sans-papiers used in Belgium to designate a broad category of the irregulars. 8 7 With only some exceptions, see, for example Engbersen (2001), Kagne (2000, 2001). 8 In this account I will substantially draw on the work by Kagne (2001), as well as on Adam, Ben Mohamed, Kagne et all (2002), and De Bruycker (2000) 16

17 At the origin of the emergence of sans-papiers there is a conjuncture of many factors. Since the end of the Second World War Belgian immigration policy has been significantly based on economic imperatives, specifically reflecting the needs of the growing businesses. From the 1940s to the 1960s the Belgian authorities (as many others in Western Europe) concluded several bilateral agreements with countries of the Southern Europe and Northern Africa to import labor force from those regions. Having a work permit did not necessarily lead to obtaining a residence permit. In addition to this mainstream immigration policy, following their humanitarian obligations under the international norms and taking into account demographic situation within the country, the Belgian government implemented measures providing possibilities for family reunification. A significant shift in policy occurred because of social-economic challenges brought about by the oil and economic crises of 1970-s. Consequently, many European countries decided to close their borders for economic immigrants. As a result, a significant number of those already in the country happened to be without a clearly defined administrative status. Some of them had work permit without being employed, others worked without having residence permit, and the rest had not yet managed to obtain neither a work permit, nor a residence one. As for potential immigrants, from 1974 onwards, the possibilities to establish oneself legally in the country have been extremely restricted by a limited number of options: asylum seeking and family reunification (Adam, Ben Mohammed, Kagne et all 2002: 7). Such facts give serious grounds to argue that the creation of different categories of sans-papiers is, to a large extent, the result of essentially restrictive immigration policies. Logically, the difficulty of legally entering and staying in Belgian territory led to the sharp increase in different forms of illegal immigration 17

18 (either entering the country illegally or entering on legal but non-immigration grounds and then overstaying the period of sojourning). In many cases today asylum-seekers whose demands are rejected opt for going illegal, instead of returning to their country of origin, especially if their asylum procedure had already lasted for several years during which they created social ties in the country (see Kopnina 2005: 33). Interestingly, the phenomenon of irregularity has existed in Belgium for the decades; however, the notion sans-papiers is a relatively new socio-historic invention. Indeed, as it is rightly claimed by Kagne an expression sans-papiers is not a legal category (2001: 42). It refers to a concept coined in France where it became overwhelmingly popular since the occupation of the Saint-Bernard church in 1996 by many immigrant families. A sans-papiers is a person who does not posses any valid document officially proving her identity which permits her to establish not only her national background, but also her status in relation to the territory in which she is (Kagne 2001: 45). However, both in France and in Belgium in legislative texts and in any other official documentation such categories as foreigners in irregular situation or irregular immigrants are in use (De Bruycker 2000) leaving sanspapiers for other dimensions of public sphere and for the usage by different social actors. Frequent references to the expression sans-papiers unite under a specific category the individuals, who have in common such markers as marginal administrative status and consequent exclusion from many of the dimensions of social life (Kagne 2001: 42). Besides, as pointed out by Kopnina [irregular immigrants remain beyond the sphere of formal control (2005: 31). Therefore, drawing on the concept of governmentality developed by Foucault (1991), one might argue that the creation of a specific category in the political tool-kit gives to the authorities a 18

19 possibility to apply to a group that already exists out-there certain governing measures. They include policing, normalization and disciplining in the vein of increasing securitization of immigration. Then, as claimed by Bigo, for specific groups to be blamed for public policies failures it is simply necessary to categorize them anticipating profiles of risk from previous trends, and projecting them by generalization upon the potential behavior of each individual pertaining to the risk category (2002: 81). The notion sans-papiers might have become such a category exclusively defining the problematic others due to the crucial symbolic loading of this concept linked to its literate meaning without papers. Not only being but also being seen sans-papiers jeopardize irregular immigrants in the social sense, because, as indicated by Kagne, identity papers seem to be the cardinal vector of social existence, in the vein of identification as a citizen. Any daily activity subjected to administrative regulations is conditioned by the possession of these official documents (2001: 46). However, the usage of the notion sans-papiers might also have a positive vector, which refers to the situations when irregular immigrants themselves use this expression to denote their commonalties and to create a group with the aim to render legitimate and to better defend in relation to the authorities and to the public opinion their common status (Kagne 2001: 43). Such context given, labeling particular immigrant groups as illegal (continuing sate-centered practice of opposing legal and illegal, normal and abnormal) not only stigmatize but also virtually deprives them from a basis of self-protection. Accommodating irregular immigrants under various ethnic groups does not account for specificity of their situation non-reducible to the problems regular immigrants might encounter. 19

20 Of course, simplifications are unavoidable as far as there is no possibility to translate the notion of sans-papiers, to reduce it to any of the existing ones in the literature on migration research, because this category is bounded by a specific social context. Instead there are grounds to rely on the notions that actors use themselves, thus considering sans-papiers as an overarching non-ethnic category of migrants in the same vulnerable position in relation to the state (and to the society). It is not yet an analytical concept, but rather a marker of an externally- and self-defined group, which provides a possibility for a fresh look at processes of immigrants mobilization, conventionally regarded as exclusively ethnically originated phenomenon Regularization Campaigns Balancing between economic interests, social problems and international humanitarian obligations, immediately after the economic crisis of 1970s the governments of Western European countries began seeking compromises in their immigration policies. Although unprecedented emphasis was put on the restrictive dimensions manifested in the enforcement of border controls and other related measures, some legal novelties were introduced to stabilize the current situation within countries already accommodating thousands of immigrants. Such novelties were, first and foremost, practices of regularization campaigns taking place almost all over Europe, although with highly varied criteria and conditions across the countries (see De Bruycker 2000). They were envisaged as exceptional procedures designed to facilitate the management of immigration flows by the states by bringing immigration indicators to zero (Ibid.: 1) with simultaneous significant changes in the immigration legislation. Overall numbers of regularized 9 Further on in the course of this paper depending on the context I will be using the notion sanspapiers interchangeably with the term irregular immigrants 20

21 persons in the countries of the European Union for the period of exceeded a significant point of 1,5 million people (Ibid.) Belgium was not an exception within such a dynamics. Following the manifestations supported by trade unions and aiming to bring things into an order the government decided to regularize a certain number of such persons. From 8000 dossiers, 88% have been regularized, with a principal criterion to have a job or an employer s promise to provide a person with it. After that several waves of regularization occurred. The last campaign of mass regularization in Belgium started in January 2000 and was envisaged to end in October of that year. In 2000 the number of asylumseekers in Belgium peaked and according to some estimates more than 12,000 persons have been waiting for an answer for more several years, thus adding to the number of irregular immigrants (Gsir et all 2005: 6). Indeed, in the same year the report of the Commission of the Interior of the Belgian Senate concerning the governmental immigration policy communicated the existence of approximately of irregular immigrants (quoted from Adam, Ben Mohammed, Kagne et all 2002). Due to such pressing situation the campaign was still going on even in 2002 (Ibid.). Moreover, in two years, in December 2004 the Minister of Home affairs decided to speed up the individual regularization of asylum seekers waiting for recognition of their status for more than three years (Gsir et all 2005: 6). Regularization of the irregular immigrants has become one of the features of Belgian immigration policy it usually acts as a normalizing mechanism from time to time rendering the immigration situation in the country to the state of tabula rasa. De Bruycker admits that regularization constitutes for the authorities a way to bring the foreign population in the country into an order (2000: 4). A side-effect of this 21

22 practice is that through regularizing of some immigrants it creates a substantial group of the rejected (De Bruycker 2000: 5-6). Hence, acting in compliance with humanitarian (mostly international) obligations the states still try to balance their policies with economic rationalism, particularly in relation to the welfare system and to the interests of the entrepreneurs interested in the existence of a significant illegal employment sector. Moreover, regularization definitely adds to the reproduction of irregularity, however paradoxically it might sound, because the candidates are not authorized for official residence unless they have already lived in the country illegally for a certain number of years! (Ibid.: 10, italics are mine). Nonetheless, I believe that, criticized or praised, 10 regularization campaigns have a significant positive impact exceeding immediate expectations of any of the stakeholders. Besides regularizing a certain number of persons, transforming them from object of the police to the subjects of the law (De Bruycker 2000: 3) at a given time in a given location, they also create a new vector of political processes linked to immigration situation within a country. In other words, they become one of the major elements of political opportunity structures needed for specific types of political actions Pro-Immigrant Environment? Bearing in mind a specific master status of irregular immigrants, in this part of the work I will discuss some of the plausible explanations for the puzzle: of why, in the environment where many pro-immigrant non-governmental organizations operate, irregular immigrants engage in establishing of their own organizations. 10 For a critical account of regularization campaigns from legal point of view see De Bruycker (2000) 11 This will be discussed in more details in the last section of this chapter 22

23 One cannot deny the fact that, except for state stakeholders actively shaping migration policies in Europe, there are other (non-state) actors which try to deal with the problems faced by various categories of immigrants, of whom a significant part is irregular. First and foremost, these actors are various local, national and international non-governmental organizations. They run campaigns for social tolerance of newcomers, provide juridical assistance and quotidian help to migrants, and lobby political institutions at all levels. In broad terms, they provide support for migrants challenged by many problems in the host countries. Some experts place pro-immigrant organizations among key actors in the field of immigration (e.g. Lydia Morris 2000). The issues of the role of these NGOs are mostly addressed in the scholarly literature in the context of policy-making campaigning and lobbying practices with the purpose of influencing decision-making at national and international (or supranational) level and attention is paid to multiple pro-migrant lobby-groups (see Geddes 2002). However, some authors distinguish between different types of nongovernmental organizations, which are somehow active in migration field (Geddes 2002; Jordan and Duvell 2002). They identify lobby groups influencing immigration policy-making at national or supranational level, and support organizations, which are mainly preoccupied with casework activities and quotidian assistance to migrants. Such dividing lines are sometimes difficult to establish for the reason that some of organizations combine various types of activity. But the essential principle is always a bottom-up strategy when migrants needs are first identified through permanent casework with immigrants and then articulated in campaigning and lobbying. Recently, some scholars have begun emphasizing a new role played by immigrant organizations in the regularization, adaptation and consequent 23

24 incorporation of irregular migrants. For example, such a shift arising out of the needsassessment by the staff of the organizations working with multiple migrant categories has been manifested in the United Kingdom. Existing support organizations for immigrants in the UK used to deal exclusively with the problems of asylum-seekers and regular migrants, but recently they are becoming explicitly active in the field of assistance and advocating for irregulars (Jordan and Duvell 2002). Through constant interaction with immigrants, support organizations come to recognition of their problems that leads to new responses to immigrants need. This is especially important in order to understand how non-governmental organizations represent immigrants. Pro-migrant organizations can create this image through any kind of their activities. The crucial factor here is that those organizations which work with immigrants directly can better assess their expectations from the host society and hence better articulate them towards the society. In this context, the role of pro-migrant groups as being interlocutors or intermediaries between immigrants and the receiving society gains larger importance. On the one hand, they have their own mission and agenda that are significantly shaped by the fact of interaction with immigrants and identification of their immediate and long-terms needs. On the other hand, pro-migrant support organizations can be regarded as part of the receiving society trying to take into account its needs and to channel the patterns of behavior of the immigrants according to the society s expectations. That is in their relation to immigrants these organizations can function as a part of the mechanism of governmentality defined by Foucault as all the practices by which it is possible to constitute, to define, to organize, to instrumentalize strategies that individuals, in their constitutive freedom, could have in relations with others (quoted from Bigo 2002: 86). 24

25 Indeed, in the context of continuing unprecedented securitization of immigration per se as well as immigration policy, as it has been argued by Gibney all the main players (state agencies, NGOs, migrants themselves) have some kind of stake in maintaining the silence on irregular migrants (quoted from Rajaram and Grundy-Warr 2005: 100). I would contest the role ascribed by Gibney to the immigrants themselves; however, I should agree with the general mood of his argument. Securitization of immigration is indirectly manifested in the activity of promigrant organizations, when many of them become reluctant to deal with the problems of irregular immigrants conditioning their assistance by paradoxical demands of any papers (Morris 2002: 73). To explicate such a situation I will refer to reflections of Bigo who claims that in conditions of governmentality of postmodern societies the transformation of security and the consequent focus on immigrants is directly related to [security professionals ] immediate interests (competition for budget and missions) and to the transformation of technologies they use (computerized databanks, profiling and morphing, electronic phone tapping) (2002: 64). A similar situation is, unfortunately, characteristic for the majority of proimmigrant organizations relying (in terms of fundraising for particular projects) on financial flows from the governments which condition their budgeting by criteria restricting the capacities of such organizations to act independently. 12 It is especially the case in recent years, when not only securitization of national immigration policies 12 Usually non-governmental organizations get funding from governmental sources not for their overall activity but for specific projects, the details of which should be presented together with the application for financing. Consequently these projects tend to accommodate desirable measures and end up being very narrowly focused on policy areas currently perceived as important by the governments. 25

26 but also development of common immigration policy of the EU member-states has begun influencing the activity of pro-migrant organizations. Relatedly, some scholars argue that discourse and actual work of pro-migrant organizations are embedded into the integrationist/assimilationist model pushed forward by European nation-states and supranational institutions of the EU. 13 Hence the activity of pro-migrant organizations mainly aims at regular migrants ability to adapt and to integrate into receiving society and not to the problems of irregulars (Geddes 2001; Morris 2002). This trend, however, can be regarded as the result of mutual influence of various actors interacting in the process of negotiations, induced by co-option strategies used by the EU in relations with pro-migrant groups in order to strengthen its legitimacy (Faist 2004). Indeed, in the European context one might easily observe particular kind of interessment (Callon 1986) and involvement of various stakeholders (particularly non-governmental organizations) by the governmental institutions on the level of nation-states and on the EU level through different co-option strategies in the realm of immigration policy elaboration and implementation. So, one can assert that immigration policy-making goes on with a democratic involvement of different actors, including non-governmental organizations having capacities for lobbying, but de facto without immigrants themselves. For these reasons, an optimistic one-sided approach regarding activity of pro-migrant organizations as a condition facilitating the solution of immigrant s problems does not reveal all the complexities of the concept and the practice of immigrant support offered by such organizations, especially in terms of their assessment by immigrants themselves. 13 Comment made by Nina Glick Schiller on the occasion of a public lecture, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, CEU,

27 Irregular immigrants might experience lack of trust to various influential actors in immigration policy field actors, namely to the governmental law enforcement agencies, to the social services 14 as well as to multiple pro-immigrant organizations loosing legitimacy in front of their focus groups. 15 The latter are not only facing reality of neglect but are also deprived of participation in a normal political process, through conventional mechanisms namely, electoral campaigns, elections and lobbying. Consequently they have to refer to other means to reach their (very specific comparing to other immigrants) ends ultimate regularization and consequent obtaining of regular legal and social status Proper Immigrant Organizations The environment in which irregular immigrants have to act making use of these non-conventional means, is not limited by different individual and collective pro -actors. It is also shaped by the activity of different proper immigrant organizations, that is associations created by immigrants themselves. Migration scholars are increasingly realizing the importance of these organizations. Various case studies and comparative research projects, investigating the importance of such organizations for immigrants participation and integration in the receiving society, appear in migration-related literature in Europe. Establishing of immigrant organizations is conventionally regarded first of all as a way of incorporation of legal immigrants into the host society (Jacobs and Tillie 2004). Moreover, it is almost always implied that migrants are already somehow settled and 14 Of which Bigo says that [governmentality] strengthens security services to the detriment of services managing social issues by transforming these very services into security auxiliaries (2002: 83) 15 Problem of trust (or confidence) is widely discussed in sociological and anthropological literature, and in literature on migration issues, in particular (see Caglar 2002; Engbersen 2001); for another important dimension of relations between immigrants and pro-immigrant organizations or volunteers in terms of gift-giving and reciprocity see Cauderlier (2005) 27

28 their organizations have particular limited purposes often linking their host country and their homeland. Unfortunately, very rarely researches try to differentiate between types and forms of migrant political activism (as a good example of such approach, see Ostergaard-Nielsen 2003). Scholars are mostly interested to find out why and how immigrant organizations originate, and how they manage to survive and change over time. For example, Schrover and Vermeulen argue that the important factors in explaining immigrants organizational activity can be categorized in three sets: the migration process, the opportunity structures in the host society, and the characteristics of the immigrant community (2005). Relatedly, Moya discusses the problem of definition of immigrant associations and questions whether it is possible to call an association an immigrant organization because an inspiration for the association originally came from immigrants and when such an organization cannot anymore be classified as an immigrant one (2005). Quite widespread are comparative studies investigating correlation between opportunity structures and other factors (coming from characteristics of particular ethnic groups) facilitating social and political integration of immigrants (see Jacobs, Phalet and Swyngedouw 2004; Vermeulen 2005). An important problem of the relationship between organizational behavior and political participation is considered in the article by Jacobs and Tillie (2004) which addresses the issue of political integration of regular migrants. Regardless of the different approaches to the topic, opinions such as that immigrants set up organizations to create, express and maintain a collective identity and by forming an organization, immigrants fence off their ethnic or national identity from others prevail in these studies (Schrover and Vermeulen 2005: ). 28

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