Talking to irregular migrants Dr. Ilse van Liempt PhD on human smuggling 2007: Navigating Borders. Inside perspectives on the process of human smuggling
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Talking to irregular migrantsDr. Ilse van Liempt
PhD on human smuggling2007: Navigating Borders. Inside perspectives on the process of human smuggling into the Netherlands.
What method to choose when researching human smuggling?ESF project on human smuggling (2002-2006)6 European countries, different methods
Document analysis, police files, court casesExpert interviews with people working in the fieldEthnographic researchInterviewing migrants
An inside perspective and biographical interviewsLack of available data on what smuggling means for migrantsGap between official discourses/policies and narrated experiences of migrantsThe biographical method to understand the decision-making process and smuggling experienceMost respondents had gone through interview processes before talking to me
The interview settingLook for atypical situation with regard to official interview setting, informal, at peoples homeAccept peoples agency and be flexible with regard to what they want to talk about
I had the feeling they wanted to make my story simpler than it was
Working with research assistantsThe issue of translators and research assistants Native speakers and people who have the same experience can take away mistrust. Snowballing does not work when topic is sensitive!Research assistants used their own personal networkDisadvantages of working with research assistants: respondents often remain within one network, assistants may be biased towards topic
Why would smuggled migrants participate in research?
Reasons people have for not participating:- Climate of fear: So you are from immigration?- The researcher is an unknown person- Research in itself can be seen as useless- Participating can be harmful for illegal migrants
Despite this, why did people participate?Desire to raise political awareness by making own story public (either through journalism or research)The social atmosphere during interview: being surprised that an outsider is interested or thinking one might benefit from contact (legal advise/marriage of convenience etc)Smuggling is not seen by all people as a crime56 interviews with smuggled migrants from Horn of Africa, former Soviet Union and Iraq
When to do the interview?Try to avoid moments of extreme stress on the side of the respondents, like when asylum outcomes are soon to be made known.We only interviewed people who were already in the Netherlands for a while
The political context in which the interview takes placeBiographical interviews help to distance oneself from Institutions.
Official stories may be influenced by migration policies, the asylum system
You have to find your way into the system
The political context in which the interview takes place
Official stories may also be influenced by smugglers who instruct migrants on what to tell and what to hide
The success of the fieldwork hinged not so much on a determination to ferret out the facts as on a willingness to leave some stones unturned, to listen to what my informants deemed important, and to demonstrate my trustworthiness by not prying where I was not wantedMalkki, 1995
Revealing secrets on smuggling routes may be unethical
How to deal with sensitive data?Traumas and mental distress can impact the quality of the information people remember/are willing to talk about.Is it ethical to ask a person to recall painful events?Data protection is crucial in this field
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