Research Repository

Law and Rights in the Lives of Undocumented Migrant Women in the UK

Nitsche, Stefanie (2018) Law and Rights in the Lives of Undocumented Migrant Women in the UK. PhD thesis, University of Essex.


Download (2MB) | Preview


The British state has introduced increasingly restrictive immigration legislation in recent years, as part of an effort to create a hostile environment for undocumented migrants. For instance, the 2014 and 2016 Immigration Acts further criminalise working without papers, renting property, and driving as an undocumented migrant, in addition to restricting access to health care. Restrictive legislation has not, however, managed to deal with irregular migration, but increases breaches of immigration law. Instead of lowering net immigration, these new restrictions simply limit access to rights, and create vulnerability among undocumented migrants, which is experienced differently by men and women. Women without official immigration status mostly work and live in the domestic sphere, which can offer protection from the state. However, undocumented migrant women often experience domestic violence and work in exploitative settings, which are difficult to challenge, due to the fear of deportation and lack of access to support networks located in the public sphere. The question arises how undocumented migrant women perceive and learn about their rights while being confined to the private sphere. As little is known about the lives of undocumented migrant women in the UK, this thesis explores the role that rights and the law play in their lives. I draw on interview data, participant observation in migrants’ rights organisations, and sample applications to regularise immigration status based on human rights law, in order to investigate how undocumented migrant women perceive and relate to the law, how it structures their everyday lives, and the mechanisms they develop for survival. I analyse how the few existing rights that undocumented migrant women can claim are stratified and thus difficult to access. To claim rights, the women need free legal representation, which they find in community migrant support organisations that play a crucial role in actualising rights.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Sociology, Department of
Depositing User: Stefanie Nitsche
Date Deposited: 07 Sep 2018 13:00
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2020 06:58

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item