Migration infrastructures and the production of migrants' irregularity in Japan and the United Kingdom

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The article examines the migration infrastructures and pathways through which migrants move into, through and out of irregular status in Japan and the UK and how these infrastructures uniquely shape their migrant experiences of irregularity at key stages of their migration projects.
Our analysis brings together two bodies of migration scholarship, namely critical work on the social and legal production of illegality and the impact of legal violence on the lives of immigrants with precarious legal status, and on the role of migration infrastructures in shaping mobility pathways.
Drawing upon in-depth qualitative interviews with irregular and precarious migrants in Japan and the UK collected over a ten-year period, this article develops a threepronged analysis of the infrastructures of irregularity, focusing on infrastructures of entry, settlement and exit, casting a comparative light on the mechanisms that produce precarious and expendable migrant lives in relation to access to labour and labour conditions, access and quality of housing and law enforcement, and how migrants adapt, cope, resist or eventually are overpowered by them.
Original languageEnglish
Article number31
Number of pages19
JournalComparative Migration Studies
Issue number1
Early online date2 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This paper has been prepared with the support of the ESRC grant: ES/S013245/1 and the Japan Foundation Grant for Intellectual Exchanges and Conferences. Authors would like to thank Prof Gracia Liu-Farrer, Dr. Amy Burge and three anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on the manuscript. Nando Sigona would like to thank Dr. Vanessa Hughes who collaborated to Undocumented Children and Families in the UK, and professors Alice Bloch and Roger Zetter who were respectively PI and Co-I for Young Undocumented Migrants in Britain.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • migration infrastructure
  • Japan
  • United Kingdom
  • irregular migration
  • immigration enforcement
  • informal labour
  • migration policy


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