Articulations of deportability. Changing migration policies in Sweden 2015/2016
Type of text: Vetenskaplig Artikel
Published by: ESPMI network. Refugee Review, Volume 3
Author: Maja Sager & Klara Öberg
Short description of text
The article discusses the changes in Swedish migration policies in 2015/2016 and the interim legislation, and some of the implications of these legal change. They treat these changes in the migration policy as a shift in Swedish migration and asylum regulation, which according to their argument moves towards enforcing the links between migration politics and labour politics, and simultaneously moves away from the human rights perspective.
The topic is approached from the point of view that these policy changes produce deportability by switching from permanent to temporary residence permits, they further the racialisation of service and domestic work low pay sectors; and they can lead to intensification of irregular migrant vulnerability through for example work site controls and other measures to increase deportation practices. The effects of the legal and policy changes are understood through the framework of ‘racialised continuum of deportability’ and the article focuses on how deportability is constructed, experienced and contested in the context of the government responses 2015/2016.
Most important results
The changes in the Swedish migration policies in 2015/2016 illustrate a shift in the Swedish migration and asylum policy away from the human rights perspective on asylum to enforcing the links between migration politics and labour politics. Furthermore some of the policy changes can be understood as leading to increased vulnerability and dependency of migrants’ on the labour market.
– “The interim legislation can be understood as entailing an expansion and institutionalisation of the continuum of deportability in two ways: First, there is a risk that the number of irregularised migrants increases, and second, there is a risk that the mechanisms of deportability expand from shaping the positions of those living in direct risk of deportation, to also shaping the conditions of migrants with other kinds of legal statuses – such as persons with a temporary-residence permit or those in need of family reunification. Second, the interim legislation in combination with Swedish labour market policies creates a sub-category of labourers with segmented access to rights and a specific gendered, racialised low-pay service sector. Both of these two central themes must be understood in a wider EU context which has seen a shift away from refugee migration and protection towards controlled and temporary labour migration since the 1990s.” (9)
– “The content of the government’s responses and the interim legislation can be clearly understood as actively creating and entrenching a division of labour, boosting a specific gendered, racialised low-pay service sector along with a general withdrawal of labour rights for refugees. The understanding of recent events as a “crisis” is thus again mobilised to push through labour-market changes leading to reduced labour rights and more articulated gendering and racialisation in certain sectors of the labour market.” (10)
– “the interim legislation points towards the ways in which border control can organise, shape and categorise migrants and direct them into certain parts of the labour market. The interim legislation can be described as actively stimulating a segmented and racialised labour market where migrant labour mainly is transferred into a subsidised (for the financially strong consumer) low-paid service.” (11)
Deportability: the state or position that the looming threat of deportation produces. The article focuses on how the changes in the policy produce increased deportability ie. how deportability is produced through policies, but also discusses shortly how deportability shapes the labour market, and how deportability shapes migrants subjectivities. The writers emphasise that deportation does not only shape the lives of those who are actually deported but of all those who are threatened with deportation. Deportability therefore should be seen as a tool for differentiation and inner border control rather than a mechanism merely connected to actual deportations – we can talk about a continuum of deportability, where people are differently located. Being deportable does not automatically lead to an actual deportation but still has extremely disruptive effects on people’s lives and in societal structures.
“Crisis production” – the framing of “migration crisis” as a social construction, performance, a production of an idea or a narrative of crisis.
The analysis in the article uses two kinds of material: government documents and press releases regarding the migration political interventions, and ethnographic material from two different studies exploring structures and experiences of irregularity in the Swedish context. The ethnographic data and lived experiences of migrants gathered in those studies are used to understand the following aspects of deportability: temporality; vulnerability and dependency, and conditionality. The study focuses mainly on the interim legislation and it’s content, but broader media statements and comments from the government are also used as material in order to grasp the broader government responses.