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PhD Research Project

Undocumented migrants and experiences of ‘illegality’ through generations

More Info

Institution Location

School of Social Policy
Dr N Sigona
Applications accepted all year round
Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Defining who is a child and who is an undocumented migrant is not straightforward. To ascertain the biological age of an individual is not always an easy task, not least because not everyone has their birth registered or a document to prove it. In the case of migrant children, this is further complicated because of the policy and practice implications that the recognition as a child may carry in terms of rights and entitlements to the migrant, and obligations for local authorities and public services.

Contrary to popular perception, the definition of who is an undocumented migrant is also only apparently unproblematic. There is no single category of undocumented migrant but differing modes of irregular status resulting from the increasing scope and complexity of international migration that has expanded the conceptual and policy vocabulary dealing with processes and patterns of migration. The meaning of ‘illegality’ as well as the experiences of being undocumented are the products of specific immigration policies which, in turn, are embedded in current political debates on national sovereignty and human rights, security and the politics of belonging as well as in broader processes of restructuring of the labour market and welfare system occurring globally.

Within this framework of analysis, proposals are invited which address the impact of legal immigration status across generations within the close or enlarged family and/or in society more broadly. Because of the nature of the research, ethnographic, qualitative and mixed method approaches are especially welcome. The project will be closely linked to work being carried out by Dr Nando Sigona on legal status, rights and belonging – more information:

To find out more about studying for a PhD at the University of Birmingham, including full details of the research undertaken in each school, the funding opportunities for each subject, and guidance on making your application, you can now order your copy of the new Doctoral Research Prospectus, at:

Funding Notes:

25 Postgraduate Scholarships are available at the University of Birmingham Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Doctoral Training Centre. A full ESRC scholarship comprises research fees, relevant bench fees, and an annual Research Council stipend (£13,863 in 2014/15).

Please visit:
or contact: for details regarding funding and the application procedure.

The deadline for ESRC application is 30 January 2015, 4pm.


Bloch, A., Sigona, N. and Zetter, R. (2009) No right to dream: The social and economic lives of undocumented migrants in Britain, London: PHF

Sigona, N. and Hughes, V. (2012) No way out, no way in: Irregular migrant children and families in the UK, Oxford: COMPAS

Sigona, N. (2012) ”I’ve too much baggage’: The impact of legal status on the social worlds of irregular migrants’, Social Anthropology, 20(1): 50-65.

Sigona, N. (2012) ‘Globalisation, rights and the non-citizen‘, Sociology, 46 (5): 982-988

How good is research at University of Birmingham in Social Work and Social Policy?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 34.50

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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