Destabilising Citizenship Practices? : Social work and undocumented migrants in Sweden

Sammanfattning: Globalisation of the economy, as well as movement of people and increasing securitisation of borders, have challenged and to different degrees destabilised forms of national belonging and solidarity. Such developments produce new borders and boundaries, separate citizens from non-citizens and create hierarchies of “deservingness”. This dissertation contributes to the analysis of these developments by investigating the role of social work in relation to undocumented migrants in Sweden. The dissertation rests upon two case studies where social work is performed in support of undocumented migrants, a group most often excluded from the social services. The first case focuses on the guidelines on social assistance in Malmö municipality and the second case focuses on social workers working with unaccompanied minors in different parts of Sweden. The analysis rests on interviews, document analysis, news media material and previous experiences of the researcher. Critical citizenship theory is used to analyse if and how social work practice contributes to destabilisations as well as reinforcements of the present citizenship regime.The cases are analysed in terms of actions (within the present order) and acts (that go beyond or against the status quo). In the Malmö case, three forms of actions are identified: codification of the law, confirmation of existing practices and disregard of the issue of undocumented migrants in political debates. In the second case, three forms of acts are identified: acts of ”professionalism”, acts of ”compassion” and acts of ”activism”. The acts analysed are not described as straight forward forms of change, but rather as destabilisations. The presence of undocumented migrants at a local level in Malmö and in front of the social workers (face to face) in the case of unaccompanied minors sometimes could lead to that social workers experienced a responsibility, albeit conditioned, beyond what was formally expected of them. In the analysis it is also highlighted that the understanding of the support practices studied changes with context and time perspective.