Next GRITIM-UPF Research Seminar by Sarah Spencer on May 2: City responses to migrants with irregular status

Next GRITIM-UPF Research Seminar by Sarah Spencer on May 2: City responses to migrants with irregular status


Sarah Spencer (CBE Director, Global Exchange on Migration and Diversity, Oxford, Compas, UK)

Date: 2nd May 2018

Time: 18:00

Place: at IEMed (Carrer Girona, 20, Barcelona)

Title: City responses to migrants with irregular status: reflections on drivers, framing and the implications for multi-level governance in Europe

Abstract: Drawing on her study of national and sub-state approaches towards  migrants with irregular status, and on a peer learning initiative between 10 European cities launched in 2017, Sarah Spencer will explore the constraints on city responses imposed by restrictive  (but evolving) national legal frameworks; the legal, ethical and pragmatic drivers that are leading some cities to allow greater  access to services and official documentation; and the implications for vertical and horizontal multi-level governance to which this can give rise. She will expand on the concept in the multi-level governance literature of ‘decoupling’, contrasting vertical relationships of overt conflict with low visibility strategies of conflict avoidance; demonstrating the differing forms this ‘shadow politics’ of migrants’ rights and shadow provision of services can take, including arms-length provision through NGOs. Thus the dynamic of multi-level governance is itself one part of explaining the nature of local responses to the challenges for cities that migrants with irregular status can pose.

BIO: Dr Sarah Spencer ( is a Senior Fellow at the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), University of Oxford, and Director of its learning-exchange arm, the Global Exchange on Migration and Diversity ( ). Her research interests focus on integration theory and policy, on migrants with irregular status, and on the policy-making process. A recent study with Katherine Charsley on marriage migration and integration led to publication in Ethnicities (DOI: 10.1177/1468796816677329) and Comparative Migration Studies (2016 4(18)). Earlier work with Colin Harvey on National Human Rights Institutions led to publication in Policy & Politics, (2014 42(1)) and the Fordham International Law Journal (2012, 35(6)).  In 2012-2014 she held an Open Society Fellowship to study national and local authority responses to migrants with irregular status in Europe. That work led to the first formal engagement between European cities on this issue, at a roundtable organised with the City of Barcelona, and subsequently to a two- year city working group which she facilitates. Prior to appointment at Oxford (2003), she was Chair of the network of national equality organisations, the Equality and Diversity Forum; Deputy Chair of the Commission for Racial Equality; and Director of Liberty, Britain’s  human rights NGO. She represents COMPAS on the Board of IMISCOE.

Recommended readings:

Spencer, S. (2017 forthcoming). ‘Multi-level governance of an intractable policy problem: migrants with irregular status in Europe’. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.  DOI:10.1080/1369183X.2017.1341708

Spencer, S.  (2016). ‘Postcode Lottery for Europe’s Undocumented Children: Unravelling an Uneven Geography of Entitlements in the European Union’. American Behavioral Scientist  60 (13) 1613-1628.

Spencer, S. and Hughes, V. (2015). ‘Fundamental rights for irregular migrants: legal entitlements to healthcare and school education across the EU28’. European Human Rights Law Review (6), 604-616).