Thursday, March 22, 2012

Typology of Migrants

The four migrant spaces shown in the SMIF framework enable a closer analysis of the dynamics of migrant agency in “illegality.”  Skeldon (2009) explains the multiple routes that may result in migrant ““illegality”,” highlighting those processes that can move only with some measure of migrant agency, particularly the contracting of human smugglers.  Similarly, Massey (1999) makes sure to include the importance of the decision-making of migrant actors based on pre-existing plans together with three other structural determinants of international mobility.

Figure 7:  The Sustenance of Migrant Illegality Framework (SMIF)
Thus, migrant “illegality” occurring through intentional (high level), consequential or accidental agency is represented in the SMIF framework (as shown in Figure 7) by which space the arrow originates from and which space the arrow intends to go (as shown by the direction of its arrowhead).   Solid arrow lines indicate migrant regularity/legality.  Non-solid arrow lines represent migrant “illegality.”

Six types of migrants will be discussed in three groupings organized according to their origin within the SC space and their destination in the DC space.

Group 1:  Compliant Migrants

Potential migrants who meet the requirements of the destination state originate from the ‘regular’ (white) portion of the SC space (see arrows a and b in Figure 8 below).

Figure 8: SMIF by Origin/Destination Space and Variation in Agency
They are qualified and can afford the costs of becoming and maintaining themselves as regular migrants, fully intending to stay regular migrants.  There are also migrants who started out as intentional regular migrants and do become regular migrants (b1) but eventually some of them lose their legal status (b2) as a result of administrative procedures (Baldwin-Edwards and Kraler 2009) that they are unable to comply with, a situation which has been called ‘institutional irregularity’ (Abella 2000 cited in Baldwin-Edwards and Kraler 2009).

Group 2:  Non-Compliant Migrants

Not all potential migrants in the SC space meet the quality standards set by destination states, mainly: an education, skills, experience.   Originating from the shaded area in the SC space are potential migrants (see Figure 9 below) who propel themselves into qualified status, acquiring required credentials through any means possible.  

Figure 9: SMIF by Migrant Qualifications and Intended Destination Space
Those who invest what are small fortunes relative to their asset base but employ only legal methods to acquire credentials are determined to stay regular migrants (arrow c), succeed in doing so (c1), but may also fall out of regularity due to administrative factors (c2).

With equal migrant determination though opposite in selection of means and ultimate destination some migrants are fully aware that that they cannot enter destination states legally with their current credentials.  They thus acquire credentials fraudulently, enter into the DC space legally, but with the clear objective of violating the terms of their visa and losing their legal status (d1).  
One compelling question among c2 and d1 migrants is whether they aspire to regain legal status?  Stated differently, was the quality of their lives as migrants with legal status inherently better than their lives without it?  Ultimately, the paths to regain legal status made available by destination states – occurring in the DC space and prompting corresponding responses occurring in other spaces –may play some role in their decision-making to aim for regularisation but are, in fact, far from defining it.  
For example, unlike in Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal where the frequent staging of regularisation programs virtually become the de-facto immigration management tactic (Baldwin-Edwards and Kraler 2009), Japan’s attempts at introducing proactive strategies to lessen its overstayer population has been conflicted, at best.  Overstayers are offered a reduction in the length of the re-entry ban (from five years to one year) or a chance to apply for the ‘Special Permission to Stay’ and regain their legal status(Japan Immigration Bureau, 2004; Japan Immigration Bureau ca.2005).  Yet this applies only to overstayers who voluntarily surrender and only to those where overstaying is the only violation committed.  Considering that many overstayers enter Japan through the d1 route and knowing that their fraudulent entry is another violation, it becomes simpler and more practical to stay without legal status.   

This will be discussed in more detail at later parts of this paper but suffice it to say at this point that the overstayers’ decision not to take the voluntary surrender route to regain legal status does not deter his determination to legalize his stay.  Given sustenance by compatriots in the DS space and buoyed by validation sustenance from significant others in the SS space, some overstayers are able to secure legal status though still thru fraudulently means (d2).  The badly-designed voluntary surrender program aimed at reducing the number of overstayers in Japan now acting in confluence with pre-existing, sustenance inputs in other spaces ends up reinforcing irregularity rather than reducing it.

Group 3:  “Directly Illegal” Migrants

Whereas migrants in Group 1 (a and b) and Group 2 (c and d) had varying origins within the SC space, all reached the destination state passing through its legal entry points though with varying authenticity of documentation.  Group 3 migrants skip legal entry points altogether and enter straight into illegal status (see Figure 10 below).

Figure 10: SMIF by Direct Migrant Illegality Route
When land or sea borders of a destination state allow it, economic migrants (those seeking work) who otherwise would not qualify to receive legal entry permission choose this most direct entry path though often also the most perilous (arrow e).  Some of these migrants are able to gain legal status fraudulently (e2).  Those under some form of persecution at their home country, or under life-threatening situations due to a natural disasters or wars may also enter – by force of circumstance – not through the legal entry points (arrow f).  Their departure impetus defines their goal of achieving regular refugee or asylum-seeking status (f2) though those not granted such may then lose legal status (f1).

Summary of Migrant Topology

Figure 11 below presents the six migrant types (arrows a-f) altogether.  

Figure 11: SMIF Summary by Migrant Origin and Migrant Space
This allows us to theorize two critical points on the dynamics of migrant spaces, that is, the interplay between migrant origin (or migrant eligibility), migrant destination (or migrant goals and aspirations) and migrant entry route, as follows:

1. Migrant origin (i.e. eligibility) alone does not determine migrant destination (i.e. which portion within each migrant space).  

- Ineligible potential migrants (c, d, e, f) may acquire credentials through any means in order to pass through legal entry points, if those are the only possible entry routes given the destination country’s geography, but may still target and achieve both legal status (c1, d2, e2, f2) and illegal status (c2, d1, e1, f1).

- Conversely, eligible potential migrants (a, b) achieve legal status in destination states (a, b1) but may also, inadvertently or consequentially, fall into illegal status (b2, c2).

2. Migrant space alone does not define migrant legal status, or the absence of it.

- There may be irregular migrants fraudulently occupying regular migrant spaces (see trajectory of arrow d).  

- There may also be potential migrants with valid humanitarian reasons yet without valid documentation who enter via the irregular migrant spaces (f) and gain legal status (f2) or fail to secure or are denied legal status (f1).

Migrants with prior fraudulent transactions (d, e) may have no recourse but to reinforce or repeat their administrative infractions in ultimately gaining legal status in regular migrant space (d2, e2).

This section described four migrant spaces – DC, DS, SC and SS – within which “illegality” is theorized to be caused and to be sustained.   We saw that “illegality” is not forced upon the migrant from purely external sources.  Instead, its causation and sustenance involves varying degrees of migrant agency, as seen in the various migrant types discussed above.   The complex nature of “illegality” is seen in the virtual seamlessness and homogeneity of the theorized four migrant spaces as both origin space and destination space are not in themselves co-determinants of the other. 

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