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Engaging with the State. Illegalized migrants, welfare institutions and the law in French-Speaking Belgium

by Sophie Andreetta

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Submission summary

Authors (as registered SciPost users): Sophie Andreetta
Submission information
Preprint Link: scipost_202110_00016v2  (pdf)
Date accepted: 2022-02-28
Date submitted: 2022-01-31 10:34
Submitted by: Andreetta, Sophie
Submitted to: Migration Politics
Ontological classification
Academic field: Political Science
  • Migration Politics


By highlighting informal strategies and solidarities on the one hand, and protests on the other, current studies of citizenship and illegalized migration describe two main forms of political subjectivities among illegalized migrants: ‘without’ the state or ‘against’ it. In contrast, this article unpacks how migrants make use of state laws and institutions, voice expectations, and pursue their claims using official venues – in short, how they act ‘with’ the state. It builds on ethnographic fieldwork on illegalized migrants’ welfare requests in French-speaking Belgium and the various sets of actors involved in assessing or furthering their cases. Migrants’ discourses and expectations of the welfare office provide insights into their understandings of the state, highlight the crucial role of immigration lawyers in brokering cases, and ultimately allow for a more nuanced reading of the idea that welfare dependency leads to deportability. On a theoretical level, this article contributes to ongoing debates both in the study of statehood and in migration studies, showing how procedural fairness can be a central aspect of – in this case – migrants’ relationship to and expectations of the state, and how migrants’ strategies and practices of inclusion can also be formal ones, based on existing state laws and institutions.

Author comments upon resubmission

Dear editor,
Dear Sebastien (if I may),

Many thanks for your very helpful comments and feedback.
I hope that you’ll find the revised version of the article acceptable.
You'll find a list of the changes I made below.

Kind regards,

List of changes

1. Although instances of working "with the state" are well emphasized, this risks giving the impression that article's informants can be reduced to this strategy: I nuanced one of the sentences in the introduction, and added a few more hints towards the fact that migrants use a mix of “with, without and against” the state strategies throughout the paper (on page 7 and on page 12).
2. The last section (n.6) could be expanded a bit (so as not to read as a side point or an afterthought) as the argument is original. I’ve used some of the literature suggestions (particularly Ticktin and Fassin’s texts) in order to thicken the argument in this section. I have also referred back to some of the case studies mention elsewhere in the text.
3. Perhaps the article does not engage enough yet with the existing literatures on health-related deservingness, especially that related to legally precarious migrants. I’ve added a few sentences in the literature review section (page 4) – mainly pointing out what seemed relevant to my overall argument about migrants’ relationship to the state. I have also used some of the references throughout (on welfare deservingness especially) including in section 6.
4. Smaller comments
• 4. p.2, in the first sentence of the first paragraph, not sure placing the sentence part "Mainly focused ... legal status" ahead of the main proposition is colloquial in English : The sentence has been modified.
• p.2, in the last but one paragraph, the term "administrative guidelines" is ambiguous: does this refer to formal guidelines or to an administrative decision in a given case? I have included a footnote on administrative guidelines, and some precisions in the text.
• p.7, 1st paragraph, not clear if "The first type of exceptions" refers to previously mentioned "constitutional guarantees" or starts a new list not related to the two "bases" mentioned above. The paragraph has been clarified.
• p.13, the word "emergent" should be replaced with "urgent", I believe. Done.
• p.14 in the last paragraph of the conclusion, the author mentions "a more nuanced reading of two ideas" but it was not entirely clear to me what these two ideas were. The sentence has been clarified.
• Finally, in the same paragraph, I wasn't entirely convinced by the division between "laws" and the "state", where the authors argue that laws can be deployed against the state. The second part of the sentence clarifies this: “using state courts against immigration desks”.

Published as Mig. Pol. 1, 001 (2022)

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