Irregular migration, the movement of people outside legal regulations, is largely viewed either as a security threat or a moral, humanitarian impetus to help the vulnerable. The lack of data on irregular migration obscures the contribution of migrants without legal residence in the farms and factories of Europe. It also makes invisible their skill levels and labour market potential. A growing body of literature that centres coloniality and racism in contemporary migration policies informs our study on how the category of skill is instrumentalised as an othering tool. Through the lived experiences of 34 non-European migrants who arrived in Belgium through irregular routes, we examine skilled migration and irregular migration as modalities of inclusion and exclusion. What we find is a high degree of heterogeneity of skills among irregular migrants in terms of education levels and aspirations. Skills are dynamic and responsive to migration trajectories as individuals acquire a whole gamut of proficiencies while on the move. At the same time, individuals face a high degree of deskilling when forced into legal limbo, especially those living in camps without pathways to legalisation. Experiences also highlight how the construct of illegality and irregularity leaves migrants vulnerable to labour market exploitation and negative social discourses. The core of our contribution lies in challenging the assumptions of rigid migration categories and their role in reproducing global inequalities and racial hierarchies.

Originele taal-2English
Aantal pagina's8
TijdschriftHumanities and Social Sciences Communications
Nummer van het tijdschrift1
StatusPublished - dec 2023

Bibliografische nota

Funding Information:
Our sincerest gratitude to our respondents who generously shared their time and experiences with us. We also thank our colleagues Shagofah Ghafory, Najeem Zarabi, Abdulai Zibo Issaka and Dr. Morgane Jourdain who helped with reaching out to respondents, collecting and translating the data. This work was supported by the Horizon2020 European Commission project: HumMingBird –Enhanced migration measures from a multidimensional perspective [grant number 870661]. Iterative discussions with all our consortium partners have helped us frame our discussion.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).

Copyright 2023 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


Duik in de onderzoeksthema's van 'Irregular migration is skilled migration: reimagining skill in EU’s migration policies'. Samen vormen ze een unieke vingerafdruk.

Citeer dit