Provision of welfare to 'irregular migrants'

The primary objective of this study is to investigate the complex relationship between law, institutional practice, and migrants' experiences by providing a combined judicial and social science approach to the provision of welfare to irregular migrants.

Responsible institution:

Uni Research AS, Rokkansenteret

Project leader:

Senior Researcher Christine M. Jacobsen

Time period:



Secondary objectives:

Utilise national and international laws and empirical material in order to answer:

  1. How are welfare provisions to irregular migrants regulated within the Norwegian legal system? How do various regimes of international law interplay with, constrain, or contradict national regulations?
  2. What are the institutional practices and attitudes towards this population? How do institutional employees maintain the accountability towards human rights?
  3. How are legal and actual practices forming the migrant's (gendered) experiences, agency and bodily expressions? What roles do ethnic and religious communities play in offering alternative health care? How are children affected by legal and social conditions?

Project Summary: 

An increasing number of 'irregular migrants' poses major challenges for welfare states. While they are defined as outside of society, human rights ideologies still require that certain measures be taken by authorities to secure a minimum standard of living. The project will investigate the Norwegian welfare system's assessment of irregular migrant's rights and their actual social and health situation from a combined legal and social science approach, examining the complex relationship between law, institutional practice, and migrants' lived experience.

Senior researchers and research recruits from law, sociology, social anthropology and political science, will collaborate in this interdisciplinary project. Methods include law analysis, ethnographic fieldwork and qualitative interviews (Oslo and Bergen). The theoretical framework is defined by traditional and critical legal perspectives and by anthropological theories of law and of the body.

The project consists of two separate, yet interwoven parts:

1) A legal study of national and international rules applying to welfare provisions to irregular migrants

2) A social scientific study of irregular migrant's access to, use and trust of social welfare institutions and how they experience being in an irregular situation. Focus will be on welfare provisions in the areas of health and school/education and on how irregularity affects the lives of children. The component projects relate to the overarching research questions as stated in the primary and secondary objectives, working on:

a) international and national legal norms 
b) institutional practices and attitudes 
c) informal social networks 
d) migrants' experiences, agency and embodiment 
e) children's particular situation.

Overall, the project's investigation of how 'irregularity' is legally, institutionally, socially, and culturally constructed and experienced will offer much needed research-based knowledge of the consequences of present welfare policies and practices.

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