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Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS)

Oxford University

The mission of COMPAS is to conduct high quality research in order to develop theory and knowledge, inform policy-making and public debate, and engage users of research within the field of migration. The mobility of people is now firmly recognised as a key dimension shaping society today, but the relationship between migration and societal change is only partly understood. Research at the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), core funded by the Economic and Social Research Council is geared to deepen the understanding of this relationship.
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Melanie Griffiths, University of Bristol, gives a talk for the COMPAS seminar series. For academics, politicians and NGOs alike, the issues seen to relate to irregular migrants, especially if they are male, tend to revolve around questions of legality, criminality and mobility. Little concern is generally afforded to their emotional lives and wellbeing. Drawing on qualitative research conducted with UK-based precarious male migrants with British or EU citizen partners and children, this talk considers the effect of having family ties in the UK on the men’s experience of the immigration system, as well as the impact of immigration concerns on family life itself. A variety of repercussions are identified in relation to the formation and sustainability of partnerships and families, including in terms of suspicion over motives, the threat of enforced separation and other relationship strains. Particular attention is given to immigration detention and the prohibition of employment as examples of ways in which the immigration system reaches into the heart of family life and produce gendered implications for the men’s ability to be the parents and partners they wish to be. The talk also considers the wellbeing of the British and European women in mixed-citizenship couples, exploring the impacts of the immigration struggles of their loved ones on the women’s sense of security, privilege and belonging as citizens. Considering wellbeing in the context of relationships illuminates the significant and wide-ranging impact of the immigration system on family lives and gender roles. Laying bare the fallacy of migrant/citizen binaries, such impacts not only affect irregular migrants, but also the citizens close to them, who are not themselves subject to immigration control but whose lives are nonetheless shaped by immigration objectives.
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