Undocumented migration and development

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter focuses on migration that is undertaken without the identity papers and permissions required by states to allow migrants to move between jurisdictions and settle in new places. It briefly outlines the debates on the definition of ‘undocumented migration’ and the associated challenges of assessing its scale. Whatever definition is applied, there is a broad consensus that undocumented migration is a problem. For states, it represents a risk to sovereignty and security, which they address with more stringent controls. The concern for many civil society organisations is the human rights violations faced by those without documentation. The chapter sets out to unsettle this consensus by looking at undocumented migration in some of the poorest parts of the world, making particular reference to two African case studies. It argues that undocumented border crossing can play a critical role in securing some people’s lives and livelihoods. This movement may not be documented but it is both regular – in the sense of routine and unexceptional – and regulated by locally negotiated conventions rather than the state. The chapter concludes that inhibiting this regular undocumented migration may act against development by disrupting valuable economic exchanges, reducing people’s opportunities, and increasing their costs.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoutledge Handbook of Migration and Development
EditorsTanja Bastia, Ronald Skeldon
Place of PublicationAbingdon, Oxfordshire
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781315276908
ISBN (Print)9781138244450
Publication statusPublished - 24 Feb 2020

Publication series

NameRoutledge Handbook of Migration and Development

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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