Examining Non-EU Migrants and Refugees’ Agency When Navigating the British Labour Markets

Calo, Francesca and Baglioni, Simone (2022). Examining Non-EU Migrants and Refugees’ Agency When Navigating the British Labour Markets. In: Isaakyan, Irina; Triandafyllidou, Anna and Baglioni, Simone eds. Immigrant and Asylum Seekers Labour Market Integration upon Arrival: NowHereLand. A Biographical Perspective. IMISCOE Research Series. Springer, Cham, pp. 55–73.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-14009-9_3


Migrants’ agency is a promising analytical tool and approach in migration and refugee studies as it shifts the focus of analysis (and attention) from the weaknesses or ‘faults’ of the migration experience to the opportunities and capacities it can generate for migrants and the community where they settle. Still, political, institutional, cultural, and economic contexts do keep exerting influence on migrants’ capacities to operate agency. This is particularly the case for migrants seeking humanitarian protection as they experience not only personal challenges and vulnerabilities, but also constraining legal and administrative barriers, preventing them, for example, to have their capacities duly recognised and valued. This chapter discusses how migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers’ agency helps them cope with adverse circumstances such as those promoted by obstructive policies and narratives in the United Kingdom. Eleven biographical interviews explore the life paths of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. The UK context presents a very challenging environment for their integration as legislation so far has been mainly based on increasing border control and decreasing entitlements, with scant attention to strategies of integration and inclusion. This chapter discusses how the political-institutional context influences the unfolding of such agency and how, in turn, agency provokes responses and adaptations from those contexts.

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