Work in Progress


Mike Slaven, Sara Casella Colombeau, and Elisabeth Badenhoop (2020) ‘What Drives the Immigration-Welfare Policy Link? Comparing Germany, France, and the United Kingdom’. Comparative Political Studies (early online).
[Open-access link in CPS]

Well done to Mike, Sara, and Elisabeth on fitting all our case countries into a single article! This contribution situtates our project findings about the use of social welfare systems to police (suspected) irregular migrants alongside other interpretations of immigration-welfare links.

Abstract: Western European states have increasingly linked immigration and welfare policy. This trend has important implications for European welfare-state trajectories, but accounts of the policy reasoning behind it have diverged. Are policymakers attempting to delimit social citizenship to secure welfare-state legitimacy? Pursuing new, market-oriented welfare-state goals? Symbolically communicating immigration control intentions to voters? Or attempting to instrumentally steer immigration flows? These accounts have rarely been tested empirically against each other. Redressing this, we employ 83 elite interviews in a comparative process-tracing study of policies linking welfare provision and immigration status in Germany, France, and the UK during the 1990s. We find little evidence suggesting welfare-guided policy reasonings. Rather, this policy linkage appears “immigration-guided:” meant to control “unwanted” immigration or resonate symbolically in immigration politics. Differences in exclusions from welfare support for migrants grew from existing national differences in welfare-state design and politicizations of immigration, not from policy intentions, which were largely shared.

Christina Boswell and Elisabeth Badenhoop (2020) ‘”What isn’t in the files, isn’t in the world”: Understanding state ignorance of irregular migration in Germany and the United Kingdom’. Governance (early online).
[Open-access link] [Original link in Governance]

Congratulations to Christina and Elisabeth for the project’s most recent publication, which directly tackles the theme of state ignorance at the core of our project.

Abstract: While there is extensive literature on states and knowledge, there has been little focus on state ignorance: instances where states are identified as lacking knowledge relevant to addressing social problems. We present the first systematic analysis of how states perceive and respond to ignorance, developing a typology of responses (denial, resignation, and elucidation). We test and refine the typology through analyzing state ignorance of unauthorized migration in Germany and the UK, 1990–2006. Public authorities in both countries responded to ignorance through both denial and resignation. However, variations in control infrastructures and bureaucratic cultures meant that “resignation” took distinct forms. In the UK, pragmatism about the limitations of state capacity implied that officials were sanguine about their “ignorance,” with pressure emanating from external political scrutiny. In Germany, by contrast, officials faced an acute conflict between bureaucratic and legal norms of the rule of law, and constraints to enforcement. Both cases reveal profound state ambivalence about elucidating social problems over which they have limited control.

Mike Slaven and Christina Boswell (2019) ‘Why symbolise control? Irregular migration to the UK and symbolic policy-making in the 1960s’. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 45:9, 1477-1495.
[Open-access link] [Original link in JEMS]

Well done to Mike and Christina for being the first to get some of our thoughts out into the academic world.

Abstract: It has frequently been observed that irregular migration is a common object of symbolic policy-making: the use of cosmetic adjustments to signal action, rather than substantive measures that achieve stated goals. Yet there is little research analysing the considerations driving policy actors to adopt such approaches. Drawing on existing literature, we distinguish three theoretical accounts of symbolic policy-making: manipulation, compensation, and adaptation. We explore these accounts through examining the emergence of symbolic policies in UK immigration control in the 1960s. Through detailed archival research, we reconstruct the deliberations leading to a series of Home Office decisions to crack down on irregular entry – decisions which officials felt were not operationally sensible, but which were based on popular political narratives of the problem. We conclude that the UK’s adoption of symbolic policy was a clear case of adaptation: a series of concessions to simplistic notions of control that did not chime with official views of what would work, and which were reluctantly embraced for reasons of political expediency. In conclusion, we suggest the need for more fine-grained analysis of the deliberations underpinning decision making in bureaucracies, in order to produce more nuanced accounts of political rationalities in the area of immigration policy

Conferences and other events

Different members of the project team have presented papers at a wide range of conferences:

  • Sara Casella-Colombeau, “L’association entre travail clandestin et immigration irrégulière dans les années 1970 en France”, Congrès de l’Association Française de Science Politique, Bordeaux, section thématique 83 “Les migrations : objet pour ou au-delà de la science politique?” (2-4 July 2019)
  • Sara Casella-Colombeau, “The 1998 regularisation procedure in France, shedding light on the State sovereignty flaws”, 26th International Conference – Council for European Studies, Madrid, Panel: “Immigration Bureaucracies and Multi-Level Migration Governance in Europe” (20-22 June 2019).
  • Sara Casella-Colombeau, Mike Slaven and Elisabeth Badenhoop, “Explaining the Immigration-Welfare State Policy Linkage in Western Europe”, ECPR Joint session, UCL Mons, Workshop on “Migrants’ Access to Welfare in Times of Crisis: Policy Transformations and Migrants’ Experiences in the EU” (8-12 April 2019)
  • Mike Slaven, “The Home Office’s Approach to Managing Migration in the 1960s”, History & Policy Home Office Presentation Programme, Home Office, Westminster (26 November 2018), see full blog post on this presentation
  • Mike Slaven*, “Explaining the Immigration-Welfare State Policy Linkage in Western Europe” at Crisis of Governability? The Politics of Migration Governance in Latin America and Europe, Buenos Aires, Argentina (4 October 2018)
  • Christina Boswell, “The Invention of Illegal Immigration: Constructing Immigration Control as a Social Problem in France and the UK”, keynote talk at Coimbra workshop (27 September 2018), see the slides here: ‘Coimbra problem construction’
  • Mike Slaven*, “Outsourcing Immigration Control in Western Europe: Why Welfare Regimes?” ECPR General Conference, Hamburg (25 August 2018)
  • Panel ‘Seeing ‘Illegal’ Immigrants: State Monitoring Practices in Europe and Beyond’, at the Council for European Studies in Glasgow (12 July 2017), see full blog post on this event
  • ‘Seeing Illegal Immigrants’ workshop, University of Edinburgh (11 July 2017), see full blog post on this event
  • Mike Slaven, ‘Unaccompanied child migrants from the Commonwealth’ at a Royal Society of Edinburgh workshop on unaccompanied child migrants at Edinburgh Napier University (17 May 2017), see full blog post on this presentation

* = although these talks were given by a single team member, they incorporated comparative work done by all three postdoctoral research fellows on the project

We have also organised our first public engagement events in London and Brussels. For full details, see our public engagement page.

Work in progress

Our team continue to reflect on their findings, even after the end of the project in September 2018. Here are some of the ideas that different team members are developing:

  • Elisabeth has been developing an article about the remarkable database that the German state uses to keep track of and manage foreigners (the Ausländerzentralregister, AZR).
  • For the 1970s, Sara has been gathering a lot of archival data on the emergence of the “trafficking of labour force” issue. She’s working on the relationship between employment and the emergence of “illegal” immigration as a problem in French immigration policy. She is interested in the adoption of the first legislations that draw direct linkage between illegal work and undocumented immigration in the 1970s. She is also interested in the development of administrative means to tackle this issue: the reinforcement of the labour inspection department at the same period and the creation of an interdepartmental taskforce to fight against trafficking of labour force”. She plans to write an article on this issue.
  • For the 1990s, Sara’s empirical data collection is still going on. She is organising interviews with civil servants who were working in the 1990s in relation to immigration issues. The main focus of the research for this period has not been determined yet. Various issues might be further developed, but one event appears already of specific interest: the exceptional regularisation procedure decided in 1997 by Jean-Pierre Chevènement.
  • Mike has been developing ideas about shifts in the UK’s governance of postcolonial migration which occurred in the 1960s, in particular, the transition from an en masse to an individualized focus in immigration control. In particular, he has been working on how this helps to explain the Windrush Scandal.
  • Emile and Christina have been thinking through some of the more conceptual aspects of the project. In particular, they are interested in trying to identify to specific historical contexts and conditions that led to the emergence of “illegal” immigration in France and Britain. The hope is that they will be able to develop one or two articles on this question.

You can also check out our project blog or follow us on Twitter for live updates!