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Challenging Rightlessness: On Irregular Migrants and the Contestation of Welfare State Demarcation in Sweden
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political Science.
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis explores the political struggles that followed after the appearance of irregular migrants in Sweden. The analysis starts from the assumption that the group’s precarious circumstances of living disrupted the understanding of Sweden as an inclusive society and shed light on the limits of the welfare state’s inclusionary ambitions. The overarching analytical point of entry is accordingly that the appearance of irregular migrants constitutes an opening for contestation of the demarcation of the welfare state. The analysis draws on two strands of theory to explore this opening. Citizenship theory, first, provides insights about the contradictory logics of the welfare state, i.e. the fact that it rests on norms of equality and inclusion at the same time as it is premised on a fundamental exclusion of non-members. Discourse theory, furthermore, is brought in to make sense of the potential for contestation. The study approaches these struggles over demarcation through an analysis of the debates and claims-making that took place in the Swedish parliament between 1999 and 2014. The focal point of the analysis is the efforts to make sense of and respond to the predicament of the group. The study shows that efforts to secure rights and inclusion for the group revolved around two demands. The first demand, regularisation, aimed to secure rights for irregular migrants through status, i.e. through the granting of residence permits, whereas the second demand, access to social rights, aimed to secure rights through turning the group into right-bearers in the welfare state. The thesis concludes that the debates and claims-making during the 2000s resulted in a small, but significant, shift in policy. In 2013, new legislation was adopted that granted irregular migrants access to schooling and health- and medical care. I argue that this was an effect of successful campaigning that managed to establish these particular rights as human rights, and as such, rights that should be provided to all residents regardless of legal status. Overall, however, I conclude that there has been an absence of more radical contestation of the citizenship order, and of accompanying notions of rights and entitlement, in the debates studied.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Växjö: Linnaeus University Press, 2016. , 199 p.
Linnaeus University Dissertations, 239/2016
Keyword [en]
irregular migrants, undocumented migrants, amnesty, regularisation, social rights, welfare state, citizenship, human rights, discourse theory, Sweden
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
Research subject
Social Sciences, Political Science
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-49015ISBN: 978-91-87925-95-5OAI: diva2:896265
Public defence
2016-02-12, Wicksell, Hus K, Universitetsplatsen 1, 351 95, Växjö, 13:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2016-01-21 Created: 2016-01-19 Last updated: 2016-02-12Bibliographically approved

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Nielsen, Amanda
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