When poverty meets affluence: Migrant street workers in Scandinavia
Since Romania became an EU member in 2007, a steady stream of Romanians have come to Scandinavia for begging, selling magazines, casual work, playing street music, bottle recycling and petty crime. Most beggars identify as Roma or Gypsies, the most marginalized group of people in Europe. This new type of migration has been an unintended - and politically highly unwanted - side effect of European free movement of labour, and the beggars? visible presence in public has spurred heated debate. Fafo has studied this migration flow based on a comprehensive survey among Romanian migrants in Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen, qualitative interviews with migrants and officials, several rounds of fieldwork in key sending regions in Romania, and analyzes of political documents. Key questions have been: What are the underlying driving forces for migration for begging? To what extent are beggars victims of exploitation and human trafficking? How have the Scandinavian countries responded to this migration? What are the particular methodological challenges of researching marginalized groups such as beggars?
International migration requires substantial resources, yet highly marginalized groups have established routes between Romania and Norway, outside the formal labor market and without access to the welfare system. The analyzes show that migration for begging is a purposeful economic adaptation, embedded in three distinct sets of social phenomena. First, the social and economic processes of marginalization of Roma communities in post-socialist Romania can help explain the motive for migration in terms of poverty and lack of alternative options. Second, the structure of social capital within Roma households and communities can help explain why they are able to engage in transnational migration under extremely difficult conditions despite lacking economic and educational resources. Third, ?oppositional? Roma identities can help to explain why some are willing to engage in "transgressional" activities that others perceive as shameful, thus allowing the exploitation of marginal economic resources in times of economic hardship.
Poverty and marginalization increase vulnerability to exploitation, and Roma are overrepresented among victims of human trafficking. Based on Norwegian human trafficking legislation, we have analyzed power and vulnerability relationships in the form of control over and dependence on resources that beggars need, such as information, loans and transport services, begging spots and safe places to sleep, as well as emotional and social protection and support. The findings show how the resources that the beggars need are difficult to monopolize, while close family networks and the will / ability to endure harsh conditions reduce the dependence on external actors. Dependency on closed informal networks can however increase vulnerability to exploitation within family and kinship networks. Many are in an extremely vulnerable situation, but the majority of beggars are not victims of human trafficking.
Politically, begging migration has been a particularly fraught issue in the Scandinavian welfare states, where an institutional logic of clear boundaries between insiders and outsiders and comprehensive social policy rights conflict with the EU regulations on free movement without social rights. In all three countries, political discourses on migration for begging has historically been conceptualized in a tension between a social frame and a criminal frame. Despite institutional similarities, however, the three countries differ in their responses, following established patterns of the general immigration discourse and different constraints from the status of old vagrancy laws at the time when the issue appeared on the national scenes. Our study indicates that the different policy environments in the three countries may have affected the selection of migrants and their adaptation in unintended ways, potentially reinforcing pre-existing differences in public discourse and policy, through a form of positive feedback.
Studies in marginalized migrant populations raise methodological challenges, both in terms of survey sample frames and representativeness, and in terms of trust and access and credibility in interviews. The project has contributed new knowledge about both the use of respondent-driven sampling in marginalized populations and about the challenges of interview-based research in low-trust populations.
Prosjektet har generert solid forskningsbasert kunnskap om et felt med mye offentlig oppmerksomhet, og hvor debatten i stor grad har vært basert på myter og ubegrunnet synsing.
Det er likevel verdt å bemerke at sammenliknet med andre kunnskapsfelt (hvor vi opplever stor pågang fra brukere) så har det vært påfallende lite interesse for denne kunnskapen fra myndigheter og offentlighet.
Prosjektet har forøvrig resultert i produktivt samarbeid med svenske og rumenske forskningsmiljøer, som har resultert i nye prosjekter.
This is a study of migration for street work in Scandinavia, focusing on the reasons for and the organisation and consequences of migration, as well as the variation in policy responses in the three countries.
The analysis will build on an existing, unique survey of 1,269 Romanian street workers in the three Scandinavian capitals, drawing on Respondent-driven sampling, a sampling method that provides representative estimates for hard-to-reach populations. The survey data will be complemented with existing and planned qualitative interviews conducted in Romania and the Scandinavian capitals.
Our study is the first large-scale, comparative, mixed-methods project in its field, describing what happens when ethnically and socio-economically marginalized populations from new EU member states meet the social policies of affluent Scandinavian welfare states. In addition to producing highly policy-relevant knowledge about migration practices and outcomes for Roma and other Romanian street workers, the study will contribute to the literature on migration and integration. As an example of mobility out of and into severe marginalization, it represents an extreme case that may challenge or strengthen existing theories in the field. The study draws on three main approaches; first, we will approach the mobility of street workers from the perspective of the country of origin, mapping how migration decisions are made, in light of dominating cultural repertoires and normative evaluations of mobility. Second, we will investigate the economic sociology of street work, including its social organisation and the migrants' adaptations to existing policies and institutional contexts. Third, we will approach the development of policy and institutional responses to migrant street workers, by investigating how this mobility is presented as a problem in public discourses, and how this is reflected in policies in each country.