Chapter 3: How to research "irregular" migration: approaches and perspectives from the field
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This chapter discusses approaches to field research on ‘irregular’ migration in disparate geographical locations, including the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Australia, and North America. ‘Irregular’ migration occurs outside of legal frameworks and as such, research on this topic raises many questions about vulnerability and ethics. We begin by discussing why this work is both important and problematic. We then outline key challenges and dilemmas that research in difficult, politicized fields poses: unreliable data, dehumanizing discourses, hidden enforcement practices, and access. We offer a four-step process to conducting research: re-framing ‘irregularity’, engaging with existing frameworks and approaches, pursuing creative strategies, and proceeding carefully and ethically. In a politicized research area that evolves unpredictably, it is crucial to constantly re-evaluate methods and maintain conversations with others in the field. These insights offer practical yet powerful ways to engage with ‘irregular’ migration research and to open new and more secure approaches in the field.

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