Citizenship, rights and mobility at the margins: Irregular migration and informal street work among homeless West-African migrants in Copenhagen

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearch


Copenhagen increasingly receives the visit of poor but resourceful jobseekers of West African origin. Although often associated with the so-called migration crisis in the Mediterranean, the presence of these men is first and foremost a result of the economic recession in Southern Europe, where many have lived and worked for many years. Driven by current unemployment, they move North in search of job and income opportunities. As jobs prove unavailable, many end on the streets surviving on charities and incomes gained from can and bottle collection.
Taking upon themselves the label of homeless has not meant that migrants have lost hope of being able to improve their situation. When jobs failed to materialise, they created their own job-marked through bottle and can-collection just as they have found creative ways of surviving as homeless on the streets. As non-taxpayers, their rights are nonetheless limited just as their livelihoods imply acquiring an undesirable or even illegitimate status. Recently, the municipality and the State have launched new policies which criminalize previously legal practices such as begging and ‘encampment’ in public spaces. Also adjustments of the bottle-refunding system have been proposed. The paper will look at the (sliding) practices of public and private authorities vis a vis this new type of migrants. Through interviews with street lawyers, social workers and homeless migrants, it will highlight how rights, privileges and obligations are being reformulated in the attempt to exclude this group of mobile EU residents.
Translated title of the contributionmedborgerskab, rettigheder og mobilitet på samfundets kant, : overlevelsesstrategier og uformel gadeaktivitet blandt hjemløse migranter i København
Original languageEnglish
Publication date23 May 2018
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 23 May 2018
EventAPAD conference 2018. International Conference: Migrations, Development and Citizenship - Roskilde University, Roskilde, Denmark
Duration: 23 May 201825 May 2018


ConferenceAPAD conference 2018. International Conference
LocationRoskilde University
Internet address


  • citizenship, homeless migrants , Copenhagen

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