Challenging Rightlessness by Amanda Nielsen

Amanda Nielsen’s dissertation ‘Challenging Rightlessness – On Irregular Migrants and the Contestation of Welfare State Demarcation in Sweden’ (2016) is one of several that is associated to our research project. Nielsen investigates the boundaries of the welfare state in relation to irregular migrants’ rights claims. By following the struggles in Swedish politics from 1999 to 2014 for the protection of irregular migrants’ social and political rights, in terms of demands for permanent residency, schooling and health care, the author identifies that the interlinkage between citizenship and welfare access has somewhat disrupted. Nielsen identifies a small, however significant, shift in social policy as a result of the demands. The extension of welfare, in terms of the new school and health care policies adopted in 2013, to individuals without regular status contests the idea of citizenship as basis for inclusion. The general restrictions on welfare access for irregular migrants constitutes what Nielsen and others see as forms of internal borders. She reflects that the changes in policy might imply a removal of such borders, that might lead to long term inclusionary effects. The adoption of the 2013 reform was a result of a successful political campaign arguing that these social entitlements are human rights that should be applied to everyone regardless of status. Paradoxically, Nielsen observes that this type of argumentation, and the policymaking resulting from it, might potentially lead to a negative development where full protection of rights become out of reach. Since the recognition of rights for this group were strictly limited to two specific social rights, i.e. schooling and medical care, and no opening for the regularisation of their stay became topical, the change in policy could be a starting point for the development of a second class structure. Hence, the author concludes that further contestations of the “citizenship order” are absent in the debates studied and requests a more subversive discourse around political entitlements in relation to status.

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Emma Ley

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