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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