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The Migration Initiative: Maja Sager on the Importance of Pursuing the Research Work Already Underway

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In preparation for the upcoming migration seminar on 27 November at the Pufendorf IAS, we asked lecturer Maja Sager, from the Department of Gender Studies at Lund University, which issues she thinks are important to study within migration research, and which challenges and opportunities of migration and integration she has identified.

You and your colleagues will talk about ‘From citizenship to mobile commons: reflections on the local struggles of migrants in the city of Malmö, Sweden’ – what will you address?
All three of us, in different projects, have performed studies that in various ways concern undocumentedness and the situation and organisation of undocumented persons in Malmö. In the current paper, we discuss possible perspectives on resistance and opportunities for progressive change for undocumented persons and asylum-seekers. How can the types of strategies, which we have identified locally in Malmö, be interpreted and understood? 

Which migration issues are the most important for researchers to continue to study?

To continue the already ongoing work – within research and in migration rights movements – of mapping and documenting the consequences of different migration regimes. Because the everyday practices of migration control tend to dehumanise migrants, another important issue is to create knowledge that counteracts and questions this process.

Another point of significance is that we need to understand migration as a specific (yet pluralistic) field in which migrants are exposed to specific forms of vulnerability and exploitation, but also as something that is linked to other societal processes that span across the division between migrants and citizens. 

In your opinion, what are Sweden’s biggest challenges today when it comes to migration and integration?

Increased support for racist and fascist parties and movements. Structural racism and new liberalism that create an uneven distribution of resources and reinforces class divisions as well as the racialisation of these divisions. Formulations of issues in which migration is pitted against welfare in different ways, and the interests of marginalised groups are presented as being in direct conflict with each other. The Paradise Papers have once again revealed how the resources of welfare states are siphoned off into private fortunes through offshore tax havens, yet the welfare state’s problem continues to be described as benefits recipients and refugees. It’s crazy!

In your opinion, what are Sweden’s greatest opportunities today when it comes to migration and integration?

Sweden has long enjoyed the opportunities provided by migration: from the role migration has played in the establishment of the Swedish welfare state in the form of labour market investments since the post-war era, to the explosion of creativity, competencies, language expertise and new perspectives which have contributed to Swedish society through decades of migration, as well as the interactions and combinations of experiences that it has entailed. 

Although it may seem somewhat difficult to attain given the current political situation, every day there is an opportunity to change and develop a migration policy (in a broad sense, from border control to public policy concerning the treatment of asylum seekers and undocumented persons) that can make a difference – for displaced individuals as well as by setting an international example that it is possible to create new paths, away from securitisation and demonisation of migration and migrants. 

If you were to predict the future, what would Sweden be like in 2030 in terms of migration and integration – specifically, from a gender perspective?

If I were to base my prediction on my insight into Swedish movements, I would say the future is bright! There are so many migrants, activists, teachers, social workers, foster families, and many others who are continuing to fight for better living conditions for newly arrived migrants, and to change the current developments, stop deportations and secure social rights for everyone in the country. Women are particularly active in this regard – I see them as taking a clear stand against the racist perceptions that migration is a threat to “Swedish” women and to “Swedish” gender equality.

More about the seminar Politics of Migration: Institutions and Political Movements in Scandinavia, 27 November.

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