Call for Papers: Precarious citizenship: Young people who are undocumented, separated and settled in the UK

Birkbeck University of London & Migrant and Refugee Children’s Legal Unit. 

Call for Papers Precarious citizenship: Young people who are undocumented, separated and settled in the UK

 A one-day conference at Birkbeck, University of London to be held on June 1st 2015 for academics, practitioners and activists interested in how precarious citizenship impacts on separated youth as they live and transition to adulthood in the UK. Organised by the Department of Geography, Environment and Development Studies and Pears Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism at Birkbeck, and Migrant and Refugee Children’s Legal Unit.

Please submit a title and abstract (150 words) and a brief bio (150 words) to by 5 pm on March 15th 2016.

We welcome papers that: 

  • Focus on young people who were not aware of their precarious citizenship until State intervention in their lives (going into LA Care; family proceedings; removal/detention of family; police involvement/checks) or when they attempt to access post-school opportunities and services (housing, employment, benefits, higher education etc.) and who were/are Looked After Children by the Local Authority or whose families do not have high levels of economic and/or social capital with which to secure their immigration status and/or who are estranged from their family
  • Focus on the political mobilisation of young people around citizenship and immigration rights (we are particularly interested in papers from activists and/or those young people)
  • We welcome papers from academics, campaigners, activists and practitioners.


Significant numbers of young people who are settled in the UK (some 120,000) do not have British citizenship. Many have no ‘lawful’ status to remain in the UK whilst cuts to legal aid and fast-paced changes to immigration laws fuelled by a hostile anti-immigrant climate mean that this trend may indeed get worse with numbers rising. Many of these young people may have lived in the UK for many years and consider themselves to be British. Indeed, they may not be aware of their precarious citizenship until they leave school and try to apply for bank accounts, jobs, benefits or university or when they are leaving care or following a family breakdown. Their precarious status arises from the combination of their transition out of childhood, which gave them a degree of protection or insulation from immigration laws, and the discriminatory character of immigration law that means for many of these young people, despite being settled in the UK for many years, once they reach adulthood they cannot secure their British citizenship.

The purpose of this conference is to increase awareness of the precarious citizenship of this group of young people in the UK; to share empirical and theoretical knowledge about contemporary and historical forms of precarious citizenship at the intersection of youth and immigration; to develop a network of academics and practitioners who can take forward the study of precarious citizenship in young people’s lives, and to contribute to theoretical and policy development focused on this group; to engage with activists on effective political mobilisation of youth.

The conference is financially supported by Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, and Migrant and Refugee Children’s Legal Unit.

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