Maggie Chiang

Undocumented People are a particularly vulnerable group. They are not part of the system in the country they are living at, don’t enjoy the same rights as the common citizen, and are at the mercy of being exploited in a number of ways. Also, the risk of deportation or being detained by the authorities, creates fear, preventing this group from seeking help.

Undocumented or irregular migrants live in Europe’s shadows. They are some of the most vulnerable people in society, often exploited by others but also the least likely to seek help.

Horizon, The EU Research and Innovation Magazine

Paperless People have no legal right to work. Nevertheless, the will to be productive and the need for income, can lead them to the so-called grey labour market, or illegal work. Besides this type of work not being considered in the applications for residence based on employment, it presents a great danger of exploitation and clear violations of the human rights of these people, like underpaid wages, excessive working hours and psychological abuse, to name a few.

Imagine the power an employer can exert over an individual in these circumstances just by threatening to file a report to the authorities about this person!

These people can be also at the mercy of criminals, be forced to engage in criminal activity, and/or being subject to indiscriminated acts of violence, since reporting it to the police is out of option given the risk of detention or deportation.

One interviewee likened their life to living in an airport departure hall: airplanes take off and land, people come and go, but the interviewee’s own flight never gets called. When will life change? When will it start?

Inka Kaakinen, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Tampere

In her research on undocumented people, Inka Kaakinen observed that, and paraphrasing, “What the interviewees have in common is a crippling sense of insecurity and impermanence.”. By not being able to make plans for the future, not knowing when you will be detained by the authorities, not knowing if your appeal in the higher court will have a positive decision, not knowing if it will ever be possible to integrate and have a normal life in the country, not being able to return to the home country empty handed and face the family who has sold the little they had to sponsor this person’s trip to Europe, among many other scenarios of uncertainty and fear, will unsuprisingly lead to dispair.

My group mate Petra used the word “limbo” in her latest post for our blog, and I think it characterises very well undocumented people’s life situation.

I would love to know your opinion about this matter, and happy to answer any questions you might have! 🙂


Suurin osa Showcasen blogeista on toteutettu osana Laurean opintojaksoja. Koko koulutustarjontaamme voi tutustua nettisivuillamme. Tarjoamme kymmenien tutkintoon johtavien koulutuksien lisäksi myös paljon täydennys- ja erikoistumiskoulutuksia sekä yksittäisiä opintojaksoja avoimen AMK:n kautta!

5 ajatusta aiheesta “Vulnerability”

  1. It’s a difficult matter. However, I personally think these individuals as well as our society would benefit, if more resources would be directed to integration into the society than other measures, that have been taken. Another issue is the fact, that many organizations and private persons, that try to help these people also encounter resistance by authorities and hate groups. It seems like, no-one is on their side. Nevertheless, I don’t think many of us can honestly claim, that we wouldn’t try to improve our own and the life of our family, in any way possible, if we would live in similar kind of circumstances as these people come from. We need to promote more understanding and compassion. Thank you for this post!

  2. Thank you, Rui. For writing about what it is like to live a life that is full of uncertainty, vulnerability, exploitation and insecurity. None of us would want to live like that. And it might be easy to say that possibly these people are responsible for their paperless life but the truth is not that simple. Being paperless is not anybody´s choice or wish and the journey is different also to each of these persons. I still need to familiarise myself more on the matter to understand the complexity of it.

  3. Thanks for this post. I understand what it means to be at the mercy of the immigration authorities, employers or a partner who made the application for their spouse. Sometimes, it create a power struggle or fear between these party where the minority feel helpless and needs to be at receiving hands of the giver.
    As an immigrant who came to study in Finland, I understand the anxiety that comes with renewing one’s resident permit or awaiting the decision of an application until I obtained the nationality. In a way, it ended the stress of proving my documentation to live in the country.
    In the case of an undocumented individual, I recently read in Yle Uutiset about the exploitation they risk with working with no-document. Some risk being underpaid or not paid at all because they are at the mercy of their employer who they think may assist in obtaining their work permit. It is always a difficult and sad situation which the undocumented never wished to befall them but sometimes life put one through a journey that as individuals we cannot change with one’s strengths