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Abstract
For various reasons, irregular migration has become a more frequent phenomenon during the last decades. Until recently, there was only a limited amount of scientific research on this topic. But these days, humanitarian and social problems related to this fast growing group of people give a boost to political discussion and subsequently to scientific research. Both politicians and scientists want to ‘grab’ the situation and to acquire an overview of what is happening. Major questions have predominantly a quantitative character. Estimating the number of irregular migrants in a country is in most cases the base to deal with emerging problems. For these estimations, a large number of different methods is brought into action. Unfortunately, these bring forth rather feeble results partially as a consequence of a large margin of error. Nevertheless, the latter does not seem to be an objection to base policy on these with far-reaching implications. More in particular, I will focus on a methodological question concerning estimations of irregular migrant numbers, i.e. the problematic character of conceptualizations. This problem will be treated in two different ways. First, different definitions of people without legal residence (irregular/illegal/unauthorized/undocumented migrants, refugees,…) lead to specific ways of conceptualizing the problem. The latter is problematic as both applying different concepts and using these concepts differently can influence the statistical outcomes to a large extent. This will finally lead to different conclusions and recommendations. The target group ‘irregular migrants’ is exemplary to underline the importance of conceptual demarcation; furthermore, definitions frequently have emotive connotations, they are often unclear and they are used in various ways. The insight that it is impossible to derive concepts from empirical data implies the incomparability of a lot of research data and outcomes. Secondly, there is the danger that is intrinsic to reducing (the complexity of) a large amount of data to a limited number of differences. Restricting the degrees of freedom to obtain more accurate data takes away the possibility of making distinctions that are often desirable. It unavoidably implies a tendency towards homogenization. In the case of irregular migrants, their ‘irregularity’ or illegal residence is the benchmark of categorization. How diverse the particular circumstances of these people may be, is often ignored (cf. e.g. nationality, religion, culture but as well personal experiences or reasons for taking refuge) and policy treats them as a monolithic group of people. To conclude, not only the adequateness of the adapted methods will be questioned. Moreover, we have to wonder to what extent the questions put forward by policy makers and researchers ‘make sense’ to deal with the experienced problems at stake. Why are these questions so attractive and apparently self-evident to deal with the situation we come across with?
Keywords
estimations, Irregular migration, illegal migrants

Citation

Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:

MLA
Hemelsoet, Elias. “To Frame the Unframable: Quantifying Irregular Migrants’ Presence.” Proceedings of the 2009 Conference of the Research Community Philosophy and History of the Discipline of Education, Faces and Spaces of Educational Research. The Ethics and Aesthetics of Statistics. Ed. Paulus Smeyers & Marc Depaepe. Leuven: K.U. Leuven, 2009. 87–99. Print.
APA
Hemelsoet, E. (2009). To frame the unframable: quantifying irregular migrants’ presence. In Paulus Smeyers & M. Depaepe (Eds.), Proceedings of the 2009 Conference of the Research Community Philosophy and History of the Discipline of Education, Faces and Spaces of Educational Research. The Ethics and Aesthetics of Statistics (pp. 87–99). Presented at the Philosophy and History of the discipline of education. Faces and spaces of educational Research: the ethics and aesthetics of statistics, Leuven: K.U. Leuven.
Chicago author-date
Hemelsoet, Elias. 2009. “To Frame the Unframable: Quantifying Irregular Migrants’ Presence.” In Proceedings of the 2009 Conference of the Research Community Philosophy and History of the Discipline of Education, Faces and Spaces of Educational Research. The Ethics and Aesthetics of Statistics, ed. Paulus Smeyers and Marc Depaepe, 87–99. Leuven: K.U. Leuven.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Hemelsoet, Elias. 2009. “To Frame the Unframable: Quantifying Irregular Migrants’ Presence.” In Proceedings of the 2009 Conference of the Research Community Philosophy and History of the Discipline of Education, Faces and Spaces of Educational Research. The Ethics and Aesthetics of Statistics, ed. Paulus Smeyers and Marc Depaepe, 87–99. Leuven: K.U. Leuven.
Vancouver
1.
Hemelsoet E. To frame the unframable: quantifying irregular migrants’ presence. In: Smeyers P, Depaepe M, editors. Proceedings of the 2009 Conference of the Research Community Philosophy and History of the Discipline of Education, Faces and Spaces of Educational Research. The Ethics and Aesthetics of Statistics. Leuven: K.U. Leuven; 2009. p. 87–99.
IEEE
[1]
E. Hemelsoet, “To frame the unframable: quantifying irregular migrants’ presence,” in Proceedings of the 2009 Conference of the Research Community Philosophy and History of the Discipline of Education, Faces and Spaces of Educational Research. The Ethics and Aesthetics of Statistics, Leuven, 2009, pp. 87–99.
@inproceedings{779013,
  abstract     = {For various reasons, irregular migration has become a more frequent phenomenon during the last decades. Until recently, there was only a limited amount of scientific research on this topic. But these days, humanitarian and social problems related to this fast growing group of people give a boost to political discussion and subsequently to scientific research. Both politicians and scientists want to ‘grab’ the situation and to acquire an overview of what is happening. Major questions have predominantly a quantitative character. Estimating the number of irregular migrants in a country is in most cases the base to deal with emerging problems. For these estimations, a large number of different methods is brought into action. Unfortunately, these bring forth rather feeble results partially as a consequence of a  large margin of error. Nevertheless, the latter does not seem to be an objection to base policy on these with far-reaching implications. 
More in particular, I will focus on a methodological question concerning estimations of irregular migrant numbers, i.e. the problematic character of conceptualizations. This problem will be treated in two different ways. First, different definitions of people without legal residence (irregular/illegal/unauthorized/undocumented migrants, refugees,…) lead to specific ways of conceptualizing the problem. The latter is problematic as both applying different concepts and using these concepts differently can influence the statistical outcomes to a large extent. This will finally lead to different conclusions and recommendations. The target group ‘irregular migrants’ is exemplary to underline the importance of conceptual demarcation; furthermore, definitions frequently have emotive connotations, they are often unclear and they are used in various ways. The insight that it is impossible to derive concepts from empirical data implies the incomparability of a lot of research data and outcomes. Secondly, there is the danger that is intrinsic to reducing (the complexity of) a large amount of data to a limited number of differences. Restricting the degrees of freedom to obtain more accurate data takes away the possibility of making distinctions that are often desirable. It unavoidably implies a tendency towards homogenization. In the case of irregular migrants, their ‘irregularity’ or illegal residence is the benchmark of categorization. How diverse the particular circumstances of these people may be, is often ignored (cf. e.g. nationality, religion, culture but as well personal experiences or reasons for taking refuge) and policy treats them as a monolithic group of people.
To conclude, not only the adequateness of the adapted methods will be questioned. Moreover, we have to wonder to what extent the questions put forward by policy makers and researchers ‘make sense’ to deal with the experienced problems at stake. Why are these questions so attractive and apparently self-evident to deal with the situation we come across with?},
  author       = {Hemelsoet, Elias},
  booktitle    = {Proceedings of the 2009 Conference of the Research Community Philosophy and History of the Discipline of Education, Faces and Spaces of Educational Research. The Ethics and Aesthetics of Statistics},
  editor       = {Smeyers, Paulus and Depaepe, Marc},
  keywords     = {estimations,Irregular migration,illegal migrants},
  language     = {eng},
  location     = {Leuven},
  pages        = {87--99},
  publisher    = {K.U. Leuven},
  title        = {To frame the unframable: quantifying irregular migrants' presence},
  year         = {2009},
}