The Minority Among the Minorities: Multifaceted Vulnerabilities at the Intersection of Migration and Citizenship

Title: 1203 | The Minority Among the Minorities: Multifaceted Vulnerabilities at the Intersection of Migration and Citizenship
Area: Border Crossing and Inter-Area
Stream: Sociology
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Sin Chi Lo, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (organizer, presenter)
Tuen Yi Chiu, Lingnan University, Hong Kong, Hong Kong (chair, presenter)
Lamea Momen, University of Sussex, United Kingdom, United Kingdom (presenter)
Chi Long Javier Pang, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (presenter)


Using the intersectionality approach, this panel focuses on how some migrants became“the minority among the minorities” due to their intersecting racial/ethnic, legal, marital, and socioeconomic identities. Compared with other migrants, those who have multiple disadvantaged identities experience multi-layered and interlocking social exclusion, marginalization, stigmatization, and uncertainty in citizenship acquisition when they move across borders. Drawing on four case studies in Asia, the largest source of immigrants in the world, this panel illuminates how different statuses intersect to construct the multifaceted vulnerabilities of the “minority among the minorities”. First, Momen analyses the self-identification and belongingness of Bangladeshi businessmen who migrated to South Africa through unauthorized channels. Lo investigates the decision-making process of Pakistanis’ acquisition of citizenship in Hong Kong. Chiu examines how widowed, divorced and separated marriage migrants were compelled to live in the shadow of legal uncertainty, as they lost eligibility to apply for Hong Kong residency upon the dissolution of their marriage with Hong Kong men. Lastly, Pang explores the role of NGOs in transforming the stigmatized status of “Double-not children” in Hong Kong whose parents are not Hong Kong permanent residents when they themselves were born in Hong Kong and have the right of abode. Together, these papers address how some migrants become the “minority among the minorities” and experience double or even triple marginalization, and how they, in turn, exercise their situated agency in maneuvering the multiple oppressive systems that are imposed on them. The roles of states and non-governmental organizations will also be discussed.

Panel Abstracts:
To Be or Not to Be: Pakistanis' Citizenship Acquisition in the Post-colonial Hong Kong
Ethnic minorities of Hong Kong, unlike their ethnic Chinese counterparts, could not automatically acquire Chinese citizenship after the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong and the application of the Chinese Nationality Law since 1 July 1997. Some of them even experienced confusion in citizenship acquisition. Although the British government and the Hong Kong SAR government open the opportunities for ethnic minorities, who fulfil the requirements, to apply for their citizenship, not all of them apply for it even they are eligible to do so. The aim of this study is to contribute to the debates on citizenship acquisition by analyzing the factors influencing non-citizens’ decision-making on whether or not to acquire citizenship. Previous studies suggest that migrants acquire citizenship strategically in order to get access to benefits that are not available in their country of origin. But to understand ethnic minority migrants and their descendants' motivations for citizenship acquisition, the context of the host society, I propose, should also be considered. This article focuses on the Pakistanis' responses to the opened structural opportunities by drawing on 30 in-depth interviews with Pakistanis Hong Kong permanent residents who are eligible for the citizenship application. I argue that the acquisition and non-acquisition of citizenship are closely related to the migrants and their descendants’ identity and belonging; and acquiring new citizenship or not are both strategies to manage the actual and perceived risks not only in the home country but also in the host society.

Legal Uncertainty and the Road to Maternal Citizenship: Single Migrant Mothers in Hong Kong Cross-border Families
Most extant studies on cross-border marriages focused on female marriage migrants in intact families, the experiences of non-normative families such as those led by a widowed, divorced, and separated marriage migrants have rarely been put under the spotlight. Given their non-normative marital status, these marriage migrants experienced multifaceted vulnerabilities and disadvantages. While female marriage migrants generally experience legal precarity due to their dependence on their husbands to petition for their resident and immigrant status to remain in the host country, non-citizen female marriage migrants in non-normative families are trapped in the state of “legal nonexistence” (Countin, 2000), as their rights to reside in or immigrate into the host country are forfeited when their marriage with a local citizen is dissolved. The situation further complicates when these women possess a different legal or citizenship status from their children. Drawing on interview data with 25 single migrant mothers in non-normative cross-border families between mainland China and Hong Kong, this paper first explains how these single migrant mothers can be considered as “the minority among the minorities” and elucidates how these women were compelled to live in the shadow of legal uncertainty. It then illustrates the women’s situated agency in coping with their “legal nonexistence” by highlighting the ways they strived for maternal citizenship in the society where their children legally belong through applying for discretions from the authority. Lastly, the intensified inequalities between citizens and non-citizens as well as among non-citizen migrant mothers with diverse family and socioeconomic backgrounds will be discussed.

Walking A Tightrope: Migration, Precarity, and Identity of Bangladeshi Migrant Men in South Africa
In this research, I take the case of Bangladeshi shopkeepers, traders, and petty entrepreneurs in South Africa who migrated there through unauthorised channels. They experience risk and uncertainty at different junctures of the migration process, starting from the journey to living and working in South Africa, where, as Alfaro-Velcamp & Shaw (2016) assert, a trend of linking immigration, governance, and criminalisation is currently on the rise. Furthermore, like other Asian migrant groups, Bangladeshi migrants in South Africa are becoming increasingly susceptible to violent xenophobic attacks in recent years (Park and Rugunanan 2010). Thus, this paper seeks to investigate Bangladeshi migrants’ lived experiences, to uncover how their experiences of precarity influence their self-identification process and their understanding of belongingness. I begin by exploring how the experience of hostility from the local South Africans has reinforced their identity as ‘South Asian’ in general and ‘Bangladeshi’ in particular and to what extent it has strengthened their belongingness to the respective ethnic groups. I then review the role of ethnicity, culture, and religion in Bangladeshi migrants’ self-identification process and the meanings they attribute to these concepts. This paper draws on empirical data collected in conversation with three (03) young Bangladeshi men in Johannesburg, South Africa and aims to provide a more culturally-informed insight to the literature of home, identity, and mobility studies.

Bargaining the Citizenship – NGOs Experience in Hong Kong
Doubly non-permanent resident children and families differ from other migrants in Hong Kong. As the parents do not have Hong Kong residency, many of them arranged their children to attend schools in Hong Kong while spending most of their leisure time in mainland China. This group of migrant children, despite having the right of abode in Hong Kong, have difficulties in developing a sense of belonging to Hong Kong society. They are also often criticized by the general public due to their fluid movements between mainland China and Hong Kong and their ambiguous identities and belonging to the two places. In this paper, focusing on the experience of the local NGOs in Hong Kong, I examine how these NGOs tried to intervene in this group of migrant children by helping them develop a sense of Hong Kong citizenship and clarifying some of the conflicting values, norms and ideologies that existed between mainland China and Hong Kong. Drawing on the in-depth interviews with the NGO staff and participant observation in three NGOs, I demonstrate the mechanisms in which the NGOs transformed the stigmatization internalized by the migrant children into a resource that mobilized their social participation advocating different social issues. This transformation process usually takes the form of social welfare services. This paper further delineates how the citizenship building work can be designed and merged with the NGOs services, and how these can build the knowledge base of the children regarding citizenship and frame the importance of citizenship to the migrants

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