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  • 11
    DEC

    'Over-watched and over-here': covert 'Policing' of Roma migrants in the UK through social work interventions and access to welfare regimes in the context of Brexit Britain

    Higher seminar arranged by the Centre for Baltic and East European Studies (CBEES), Södertörn University.

    Speaker: Professor Margaret Greenfields, Buckinghamshire New University (UK)
    Chair: Julieta Rotaru, Södertörn University
    Discussant: Kimmo Granqvist, Södertörn University
     

    Prof. Margaret Greenfields's presentation examines the practice of bordering and policing migration of Roma EU citizens through covert enforcement action against families and households. Findings from 2 recently completed projects have identified an entwined set of circumstances which disproportionately impact vulnerable migrants who have practised 'whole-family migration' (common to Roma households moving to the UK from Czech/Slovak Republics & Romania). Whilst household members typically have no clear idea of the type of work which they will seek on migrating, a relatively high percentage of those interviewed in these two exploratory studies have obtained low-paid, often 'grey-market'/cash in hand work within a few days or weeks of relocating.

    Employment was overwhelmingly achieved through networking with family and friends who formed part of a pattern of chain migration. Precarious, low paid work brings a number of hazards, including a failure to be eligible for certain social protections, and an inability to demonstrate administrative requirements which enable access to passported welfare benefits, i.e. assistance in meeting housing costs or low-pay 'top-up' benefits technically available to EU migrants after a period of working in the UK. Respondents were typically resident in low-quality, severely over-crowded privately rented houses and on migration demonstrated limited awareness of available welfare benefits.

    When unemployment or ill-health (in some cases triggered by housing conditions) prevented work, or attempts were made to apply for 'top-up' welfare benefits, respondents reported that a history of grey-market employment or an inability to meet administrative requirements precluded access to support, pushing poor families into destitution. In turn, leading in a number of cases to eviction from housing and/or social work interventions in relation to children within the household. Social care agencies typically cited wilful 'neglect' evidenced by hunger, homelessness or poor quality accommodation when activating 'safeguarding'/child protection procedures. Advice agencies and welfare benefits advisors confirmed reports from Roma respondents and moreover provided evidence of 'administrative removals' (de facto deportations) of Roma welfare benefits claimants unable to demonstrate work histories or adequate prior earnings in the face of complex social welfare agency requirements.

     Common responses from Roma households to experiencing social work engagement in relation to 'neglect/child protection' issues included voluntary return to their 'home' member state. As such this paper uses emergent evidence to suggest that, contrary to basic EU principles of freedom of movement of people, policing (in the sense of multi-agency intervention) of migration may be occurring through enforcement action and active discouragement of settlement by Roma (and other vulnerable migrant) households who seek to legitimately make use of welfare regimes within the UK.

     Whilst data for these studies was primarily gathered in the period leading up to 'Brexit' - the findings will be contextualised in the light of the enhanced precarity experienced by non-UK citizens, enabling us to consider whether Roma are or will be further disproportionately impacted by the post-Brexit political landscape which pertains in the UK in 2017.

    Time and place

    When: 11/12/17 at 13:00-14:30

    What: Higher seminar

    Where: Room MA 796, CBEES, Södertörn University, Campus Flemingsberg

    Organiser: The Centre for Baltic and East European Studies (CBEES), Södertörn University

    Event language: English