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‘I have too much baggage’: the impacts of legal status on the social worlds of irregular migrants

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Abstract

Drawing on in-depth qualitative interviews with irregular migrants in the UK, this article shows how the condition of ‘illegality’ permeates migrants’ everyday lives, gradually invading their social worlds and social and community networks. The article will focus on three aspects in particular: firstly, the impact of being undocumented on the ways migrants choose who to interact with and how; secondly, the range of social activities undocumented migrants engage in and the places where they socialise; and thirdly, the interaction with community organisations, churches and mainstream support agencies. Overall, by revealing differences as well as commonalities in the ways ‘illegality’ impact on migrants’ social worlds, the paper argues for a conceptualisation of ‘illegality’ that takes into account analytically how this intersects with specific legal and policy arrangements and broader socio-economic context, as well as with migrants’ expectations and histories.

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