Who are some famous illegal immigrants




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4. The life situations and worlds of immigrants in illegality - an overview of qualitative field studies

In the following, research results of qualitative studies on the living conditions in illegality with regard to the motives for migration, the housing situation, the social networks, the psychological consequences and working life will be summarized.

4.1 General information about the studies



The investigations received were carried out in the major cities of Berlin, Vienna and Rotterdam. Since these are qualitative field studies with low case numbers and therefore not representative studies, the results can only be generalized to a limited extent. Nevertheless, they can illustrate typical patterns of action and behavior and serve to form further hypotheses. In view of the sensitive and difficult field of investigation (see also 6.) it is almost indispensable to use qualitative methods of empirical social research; representative surveys would not be feasible for reasons of the extremely difficult access to the field and the sampling.

In the German and Dutch language areas, the following studies have been carried out on the topic of illegal migration in recent years:

  • Cyrus (1995a, 1995b) interviewed illegal Polish migrant workers in Berlin between 1992 and 1994; In addition, former migrants who had returned to Poland were interviewed.
  • Vogel's work (1996b) is designed as an explicitly exploratory study that generates hypotheses; 15 qualitative interviews were conducted with Brazilians, most of whom had been in Berlin for several years.
  • The study "Der Arbeitsstrich" by Hofer (1993a, 1993b) extended over three years and dealt with Polish illegal workers in Vienna; Among other things, Hofer referred to the method of concealed participatory observation (disguised as a Romanian illegal worker with faked work in companies); in addition, he interviewed migrants. Polish migrants returning to Poland were also interviewed.
  • A larger study was carried out in Rotterdam (Engbersen / Burgers 1994, Burgers / Engbersen 1996) [A final report on this investigation in English or German is not yet available.] carried out.
    The largest port in the world is considered a special accumulation point for illegality; In around 130 interviews, migrants from Turkey, Morocco, Cap Verden, Surinam, Eastern Europe and Africa in particular were examined.


4.2 Motives for migration



With regard to the reasons why the people came to the respective country, all of the studies cited agree: the respondents entered the country mainly for economic reasons, which is why they also sought to gain gainful employment.

The Brazilians living illegally in Berlin all came from poor backgrounds (Vogel 1996b). Three reasons (argumentation pattern) were named that (partly) triggered the decision to migrate: traveling, learning, working (Vogel 1996b). For the Polish migrant workers examined by Cyrus, too, the decision to migrate was made for economic reasons. But these were not the socially declassed in post-socialist Polish society. Since life in Berlin was expensive, especially at the beginning, and a certain "start-up capital" had to be raised, people were usually found who were not among the economically weakest in Poland (Cyrus 1995a: 35f.).

The Vienna study also underlines the economic motivation of immigrants and emphasizes that immigration was triggered by the ten to twenty times higher wages in Austria than in Poland. The stays abroad were therefore mostly planned for a limited time until those affected were better off economically; The immigrants temporarily returned to Poland and then returned to Vienna. This tended to affect older migrants who wanted only to earn money quickly in Vienna, which they then wanted to invest in their home countries. Some of the younger Poles had firm intentions to immigrate

stay in Austria permanently or move on to another western country (Hofer 1993a, 1993b). [See. also the typology of Polish migrants developed by Hofer (1993a: 152ff.). ]

4.3 Entry and access to illegality



As already mentioned in Chapter 3, there are numerous routes to illegality. The following access routes are described in the investigations considered:

  • visa-free entry for a stay for tourist purposes (Cyrus 1995b, Vogel 1996b, Hofer 1993a and 1993b, [Many of the migrants examined by Hofer (1993a, 1993b) initially had legal residence status. They came as tourists, had a right of residence for three months and, after the visa had expired, went to nearby Hungary to extend their right of residence for a short time. A new date of entry was stamped into the passport when they returned to Austria, which gave them the right to stay in Austria for a further three months. However, they did not have a work permit valid for Austria. When the visa requirement for Poland was introduced in Austria in the meantime, some went to have their travel documents manipulated - for money (Hofer 1993a: 154ff.).] Engbersen / Burgers 1994),
  • moving in with a visa for the purpose of studying (Vogel 1996b),
  • the occurrence of illegal forms of residence and employment in the context of contract and seasonal workers; In some cases also former seasonal and contract workers who no longer receive a work permit but are still employed by their former employer (successive access under illegality) (Cyrus 1995b).


4.4 Housing situation



Due to the fear that illegality will be discovered, it is typical for the housing behavior of the population group (Cyrus 1995a, Hofer 1993a and 1993b, Vogel 1996b):

  • to change the apartment frequently,
  • to sublet in private apartments,
  • to live in the homes of friends and acquaintances as well
  • Spending the night in your own car.

The living conditions of migrants in Berlin can definitely be compared with those of early industrial sleepers. Cyrus (1995a: 31f) names an apartment in which up to 16 people lived and a weekly rent of 70 DM was required from each resident.

Hofer (1993b: 124f) describes the living and accommodation conditions in the study for Vienna as follows: for overcrowded rooms (7 tenants in 25 sqm) with inadequate sanitary facilities, rental prices of up to 2,000 schillings per person (approx. DM 300) were charged . So the high rents eat up a large part of the earnings.

der on - which many migrants do not take into account before entering the country. Often this worsened the income situation if the migrant was unemployed for a longer period of time. Since the people concerned - due to their illegality - are defenseless on the housing market and have little chance of getting an apartment, exorbitant rents can be demanded of them. They often become fatally dependent on the landlord, who can extortionately threaten to reveal his knowledge of the illegality of the tenant, which would result in the expulsion of the person concerned (cf. Hofer 1993a: 157ff.).

4.5 Migrants' social networks



All of the studies examined show that social networks in illegality have a very high priority for access to the labor market and housing brokerage.

The study by Cyrus (1995a) shows that legal Polish seasonal and contract workers present in one place create the conditions for other, illegal immigrants to live and work; the former provide social networks for illegal immigration. In addition, immigrants who previously worked as contract workers in the same place can fall back on their social ties and contacts, including with housing and employers. Social networks - of a commercial, but also of a friendly nature - have the function of compensating for the deficiencies described by migrants. In addition, there were social networks of the most varied kinds between people willing to immigrate in Poland and corresponding contact persons in Berlin. These "migration bridges" had the function of reducing the risks associated with immigration (Cyrus 1995a: 37).

There are also indications that these employment patterns continue intergenerationally - within the family. "Sixteen-year-old Jonathan was in Berlin for the first time during this year's school holidays - to earn money. A neighbor asked him if he would like to help him with the apartment renovation" (Cyrus 1995a: 33).

In the "special case" of Brazilian migrants, too, social and family networks (acquaintances, relatives, employers) were absolutely necessary for survival; when you were unemployed you either had to rely on your savings or on the help of friends and acquaintances. Because of the existence of such networks in particular, the respondents decided in favor of the city of Berlin as a destination (Vogel 1993b).

Hofer's study also shows that many acquaintances in the field of job market placement and the housing market can be of (profitable) advantage. In addition, Poles who have lived for a long time, but also Turks, often act as intermediaries and providers of the goods housing and work. "It turned out that Poles in particular, who immigrated from Poland in the early 1980s, were recognized as refugees here and were granted Austrian citizenship, did good business with the beleaguered stragglers" (Hofer 1993b: 121).

Engbersen / Burgers (1994: 10ff.) Differentiate between illegal migrants in terms of their chances of integrating into the recipient society (integration into the ethnic community, access to the labor market). From this they derive five careers for illegal migrants:

  • Well integrated: they have a secure job as illegal workers, are well integrated into the immigrant community and have lived in Rotterdam for a long time. They have access to the formal labor market and can receive welfare state benefits. Because of these stable living conditions, they even have the chance to have their residence legalized. [Until the beginning of the 1990s, the practice of toleration of migrants without a right of residence prevailed, provided they could provide for themselves. Since 1991, political efforts have been aimed at excluding this group of migrants from access to state services (Burgers / Engbersen 1996: 621).]
  • People who have been illegally staying in the country for less than three years: due to changes in politics, they no longer have access to the formal labor market and welfare state benefits. You work on the illegal labor market under irregular conditions. Because of this unsafe situation, they rely on constant help from friends and family.
  • Marginalized: their situation is comparable to illegally resident persons who have been in the country for less than three years. They typically come from African countries that do not have a migration tradition with Rotterdam. Therefore, they do not have a supportive social network and are only weakly integrated into the immigrant community, which is why they depend on the support of aid organizations in emergencies.
  • People who secure their livelihood in a criminal environment; they often work as drug couriers.
  • The exit option, i.e. the return of the migrants to their homeland, because their ideas relating to emigration have not been fulfilled. Returning is usually expensive and a psychological burden for those affected, as they may be viewed as failures at home. [The authors speak here of the "illegal migration trap" (Engbersen / Burgers 1994: 12). The migrants' expectations are not fulfilled because the legal, social and economic barriers in the destination country turn out to be too high.]


4.6 Psychological coping strategies



There is a climate of fear, insecurity and mistrust among migrants who are illegal; In particular, the fear of government investigative authorities and serious accidents at work lead to enormous psychological stress.

In this context, Cyrus (1995b: 44) reports of a worker who scalded himself with liquid tar and wanted to flee for fear of being registered as the

Doctor arrived. If discovered, the Polish migrant workers will be expelled and given a three-year entry ban.

"One possible strategy for reducing psychological stress is to stay irregularly in the FRG only for a certain period of time and to commute between Poland and the FRG" (Cyrus 1995b: 43).

Hofer (1993a, 1993b) also describes how the Viennese police frequently checked the so-called work line (street, in which work is conveyed every day; see next section); the only option left for the migrants was to flee directly on foot. Hofer (1993b: 115) speaks in this context of a "compulsion to be inconspicuous". In addition, the immigrants can hardly lead a private life due to the living conditions described. In addition to the numerous disappointments and frustrations of gainful employment, there is often homesickness for families, who mostly live in Poland. Due to the temporary introduction of the visa requirement for Poland in Austria, family members could no longer be visited without leaving Austria entirely. The psychological stress on migrants is often expressed in (1993b: 121ff.):

  • Alcoholism,
  • Aggression towards the room neighbors and in
  • Petty crime (illegal trade, stealing from bed neighbor).

Hofer found these behavioral patterns to a greater extent, particularly in times when the people examined were not given a job.

4.7 Labor market



The Polish migrants examined by Cyrus (1995a, 1995b) in Berlin were mainly gainfully employed in the following areas:

  • in private households (cleaning work, care activities, renovations),
  • in construction,
  • in restaurants,
  • in the field of prostitution,
  • in the fairground trade as well
  • in cross-border trade.

It is of particular interest that some of the respondents were employed as so-called contract workers before they became illegal. Often they were illegally employed again after the end of their authorized work - sometimes with short interruptions. As the respondents reported, there were often irregularities in the employment relationship even at the time of regular contract employment. The previous work contracts gave the migrants access to the German labor market. Illegal job placement by Poles, but also by Germans, also played a major role (Cyrus 1995a).

The interviewees in Berlin usually had hourly wages of around 10 DM (Cyrus 1995a: 32f.). However, it was often uncertain whether the (agreed) wages would be paid out. It was also shown here that the immigrants' lack of right of residence as

"Leverage" could be used against them; Although there would be a (civil law) legal claim to wages, many Polish workers forego payment of the (full) wages in the event of the contractor breaking the contract, as otherwise their illegality would be revealed (Cyrus 1995b: 44).

Hofer's results (1993a, 1993b) confirm this structurally determined ability to blackmail illegal workers on the labor market. It turns out that the employees were (legally) largely defenseless against fraud and underpaid by dubious employers. "For example, the previously agreed hourly rates were simply not adhered to, and less is paid out. Because of their dependent employment relationship, which offers few alternatives, they can hardly defend themselves against inaccuracies on the part of employers" (Hofer 1993a: 74). This also explains why workers - as observed several times - went to work despite an illness. In black market conditions, every day absent due to illness carries the risk of losing one's job; In addition, every day of sickness means an immediate loss of income (Hofer 1993a: 148).

The work to be done was generally paid far below the tariff; Hofer mentions the usual hourly wages of 10 to 20 schillings (about 1.50 to 3 DM) for women [Hofer (1993a: 74) cites a woman who worked in a Turkish caf for an hourly wage of 10 shillings.] and 60 to 70 schillings (around 8.50 to 10 DM) for men, and no social security contributions are paid (1993b: 123).Because of the low wages, many Polish workers are anxious to do as much work as possible; the low pay should be compensated for by more working hours. The author reports on cases in which double shifts were worked. "Because they want to make the best possible use of the opportunities to earn money, questions of working time restrictions do not play a role" (Hofer 1993a: 108).

Frequent job changes due to the fact that the job is limited in time from the outset can be seen as just as typical; mostly there were only 1 to 2-day jobs. In Vienna, an illegal job market had established itself on a street - the so-called Arbeitsstrich - on which illegal job seekers offered to work every day. In addition, there were illegal employment agencies who withheld commissions of up to 3,000 schillings (over DM 400) or 20 percent of wages for placement. Commercial temporary employment agencies also played an important role in the placement of jobs, illegally referring immigrants to third parties, mostly larger companies, for excessive fees (Hofer 1993a: 113ff.).

Some of the Polish job seekers included well-trained skilled workers who were more likely to find longer-term and better paid jobs. In addition, Hofer (1993a) repeatedly emphasizes the relevance of knowledge of German as a prerequisite for profitable employment.

The Polish immigrants worked, for example, in the following areas:

  • Cleaning,
  • Gastronomy,
  • Craft (in locksmiths, joiner's shops, bookbinderies),
  • Building trade (as painters, electricians, plumbers),
  • Housing repairs (painting) and
  • Field work.

"Undeclared workers offer companies many advantages. They can be far more flexible than any other other personnel are used. Employee protection regulations can opposite Undeclared workers are disregarded. Because both employers and immigrants benefit from each other and thus one hand washes the other, so to speak, usually spread both sides put the cloak of silence about their working relationship "(Hofer 1993a: 108f.).

In addition, some employers try to circumvent possible penalties by subcontracting the employment of illegal workers.

In Vogel's (1996b) study, the 15 examined were Brazilians - with two exceptions [One of the interviewees worked as a dance teacher, another as an animation lady (Vogel 1996b: 11).] - employed in private households; the lack of knowledge of German is named as the reason for this. Due to the small number of cases and the restriction to one nationality, this study, which is intended as a preliminary study, is not very representative of the illegal employment of foreigners (in Berlin).

The results from Rotterdam show that the migrants were employed in areas such as the clothing industry (sweat shops), cleaning services, restaurants, the port, night clubs and brothels. Some people in Rotterdam also showed a closeness to the criminal milieu. Burgers and Engbersen (1996: 628) also frequently report unemployment, as there is a limited number of jobs in the rather old industrial city of Rotterdam (structural change).


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