26 August 2010


Markus Hansson

The institutional environment in the European Union is characterized by a strictly regulated labour market, minimum wages, regulated working hours and standardized demands for a reasonable working environment. These conditions constitutes a fertile breeding ground for so called illegal work. There is a social embedment of social actors surrounding the illegal immigration. It has emerged something that could be called an "immigration market", constituted of actors such as travel agents, recruiters, interpreters and accommodation agents. 
After arriving to the new country of residence, whether temporary or permanent, the irregular immigrants often finds them selves in a vulnerable situation in several ways. Some immigrants are working under very difficult circumstances, and some of them are in complete control of their employers, who may also manage their accommodation. How does the immigrant manage work related issues when neither the law, work regulations or trade unions recognize or act on their needs for protection regarding work hours, safety issues, dangerous or potentially harmful work? Immigrants without legal status may possibly also avoid seeking help outside the work place, perhaps even avoiding going to the hospital in case of an accident or disease. Socio-political rights, as well as other civil rights, are tied to citizenship and do not apply to the irregular immigrant. This may prevent the immigrant worker from reporting crimes, or other ill treatment, to the authorities. 
The aim of the study is to examine the irregular immigrant's situation in Sweden and Denmark. Special interest is paid to the ways in which the immigrant manages his or her illegality, and the ways he or she organizes his/her everyday existence in the welfare society he or she inhabits (and from which he/she is excluded). Which situations are regarded as risky or safe? The experience of living as an irregular immigrant appears to be fairly gender dependant. The division of labour in the market they inhabit seems to follow traditional patterns quite rigorously, possibly even more so than the working environment as experienced by the majority society. For example, a great number of the male irregulars work in the construction industry, while paid household work is a common occupation for irregular immigrant women. This division entails different risks for men and women, and there is reason to believe that these risks are accentuated by their legal status. Which strategies for risk management are used by the irregular immigrants in Sweden and Denmark? Do they differ? Attention is also paid to how knowledge about these risks, and how to avoid them, is gained. 
Methodically, the focus will be on informal, qualitative interviews, but field notes and go¬alongs will also be important elements in the study. In the initial phase we will use our contacts in informal health care establishments for illegal immigrants in Sweden, which are operated by networks constituted by a diverse range of medical representatives; doctors, nurses, dentists and therapists among others. In the next phase we will seek out corresponding organisations in Denmark. We will also use personal contacts to come in contact with irregular immigrants, which we presume is a population that is difficult to approach, due to the fact that they have a lot to lose if detected by the authorities. We will try to circumvent this difficulty by the use of snowball sampling, i.e. we will ask our interviewees if they can refer us to anyone in a similar situation, who in turn could refer us to someone else, and so on.

Status:    Finished
Country:  Sweden
Contact: markushansson77@hotmail.com

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