Migration Definitions


The European Migration Network (which is part of the European Commission) recently published the third edition of a very large glossary containing over 400 migration-related terms. The EMN state that one of the purposes of the glossary is for legislators and policy-makers at EU and national levels to have “up to date, reliable, factual information” about migration. While such a glossary is helpful in understanding migration more broadly (particularly for students who are interested in migration), some of the terminology used is questionable: for example, the use of “alien” (while probably based on national legislation, is still used several times to refer migrants), “illegal immigrant”, “absconding”, “asylum shopper”, and “mass influx”. This wide-ranging terminology is presented as “reliable” and “factual”, which functions to legitimize any underlying negative connotations inherent within those terms. I have discussed migration terminology several times on this site, and in several academic publications, nevertheless, once again, I must highlight the significance of terminology use, especially by large influential institutions. Although we require definitions for further understanding and clarity, I think that at a very basic level, we can (and should) move beyond referring to people as aliens.

The full document is available here. The EMN Ireland website is available at: http://www.emn.ie/


Publication: Representations of ‘illegal immigration’ in the Irish Newsprint Media


A paper I wrote entitled “Discursive representations of ‘illegal immigration’ in the Irish newsprint media: The domination and multiple facets of the ‘control’ argumentation” has been published in the journal Discourse and Society. It is available here: http://das.sagepub.com/content/early/recent


In the Frame? Public and Political Discourses of Migration Conference

Conference Poster


This week, a conference entitled “In the Frame? Public and Political Discourses of Migration” was held in the University of Limerick. The aim of the conference was to untangle in how migration is represented in public and political forums. It was enlightening to see how migration is constructed in a range of geographical contexts (e.g. Ireland, the UK, Germany, Finland, Greece, Spain, Canada, the US) and the varying issues that stem from these representations.

The conference programme is available here. My paper examined on how “illegal immigration” in Ireland and the “undocumented” Irish in the US are portrayed by Irish Parliamentarians (conference slides are available here).

No Human Being is Illegal

No Human Being is Illegal


This print is produced by Favianna Rodriguez, the US based artist and activist. She produced it in response to the Associated Press’ decision to stop using the word “illegal” and in honour of Elie Wiesel’s famous quote. I think that this print is quite striking, not only do the vibrant colours catch your attention, but it is bold and direct in its message: fundamentally, it questions the category of “illegal migrant”.

Migration in the UK Newsprint Media


The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford has published a report on how migration in represented in twenty British national newspapers (broadsheet and tabloid) for the period between the beginning of 2010 and the end of 2012. A quantitative analysis was undertaken on an extensive data-set – 58,000 newspaper articles of various forms.

The report goes through in detail the language used in conjunction with certain key words, namely: “migrants”, “immigrants”, “refugees”, and “asylum seekers”. One of the key findings is that the most common word to be used in combination with “immigrants” is “illegal”, while “failed” was the most common word to be used when referring to “asylum”. A number of other associations were also identified and these are detailed in the report.

Not only does this very comprehensive report offer an overall insight into how particular discourses of migration are disseminated into the UK public forum during this time-period, but it also offers a template for researching large corpus’ of data. It is far from an easy task to analyse 58,000 articles in a systematic manner. Therefore, this research and the methodologies employed here can inform research projects in other geographical locations.

Irish Government Members Continue to Seek Regularizations for the “Undocumented Irish” in the U.S., yet “Illegal Immigration” in Ireland must be Controlled, Prevented, and Expelled.


In response to a parliamentary written answer and speaking on behalf of the Irish Government, last month the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Eamon Gilmore, reiterated the Irish Governments’ support for the “undocumented Irish” in the U.S. and stated that a resolution for the “undocumented Irish” remained a priority for the Government (full text available here). It is noteworthy that during a debate in the Seanad on the same day (23 October 2013) the Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, spoke about the continued need to control “illegal immigration” into Europe in the context of a discussion on asylum and “direct provision” centers in Ireland (available here). Furthermore, in July 2013 Minister Shatter justified the deportation of 10 migrants, referred to as “failed asylum seekers” and ”illegal immigrants”, by stating that Ireland, like other European countries, deport those that have no legal right to be in the country (available here). The use of language is quite important here, as Irish emigrants with an irregular immigration status in the U.S. are referred to as “undocumented”, yet immigrants with an irregular immigration status in Ireland are referred to as “illegal” (previously discussed here). While the difficult situation that many “undocumented Irish” in the U.S. face is acknowledged here, one imagines that if these Irish emigrants were treated in the same way as “illegal immigrants” in Ireland are and they were deported from the U.S. back to Ireland, these Ministers’ and their colleagues would be quite concerned.

From my research into Irish parliamentary texts produced between 2002 and 2009 (available here), during which time two separate governments were in power, this practice of supporting the “undocumented Irish” and attempting to control and prevent “illegal immigration” in Ireland also occurred. I find it striking that this attitude continues today with the “new” coalition government. Attention must be drawn to this hypocritical attitude of government Ministers. How can those in positions of authority have so much compassion for one group of migrants over another? One obvious answer is that the “undocumented Irish” are seen to be part of the Irish Diaspora, part of “our” wider community, while “illegal immigrants” from outside of Ireland are excluded as they are seen to embody the “other”.

The Influence of Politics and the Media on Public Perceptions of Immigration in the UK


Chitra Nagarajan has written a timely piece about migration on opendemocracy.net. The author discusses the influence that politics and the media can have on peoples’ opinions of immigrants (available here). Broader issues are also discussed including the perpetuation of racism in UK society, the “go home vans” aimed at illegal immigrants that drove through London in July and August of 2013, and the use of terminology such as “illegal”, “bogus” and “criminal”.