© 2018

Irregular Immigration in Southern Europe

Actors, Dynamics and Governance

  • Provides a timely contribution to our understanding of the current refugee crisis in Europe

  • Sheds light on the fine line that separates legal and irregular migration

  • Offers significant policy insights for a Europe that lacks a common approach to immigration

  • Provides an illuminating case study for comparative research on migration regimes in the global North


Part of the Migration, Diasporas and Citizenship book series (MDC)

Table of contents

About this book


Focusing on the dynamics of irregular immigration in Southern EU Member States, this book analyses how the phenomenon is managed at national and local levels in different legal and political systems. In doing so, it answers vital policy questions regarding the continued existence of irregular migration, pathways to legality, and relations between unauthorized migrants and receiving societies. 

The author argues that while the economic crisis and migrant flows coming from the South and East of the Mediterranean Sea have called this regime into question, it is the needs of labour markets in Southern Europe and compliance with European Union rules that has had a more dominant effect. The particular manner in which labour markets, political actors, social institutions, and migrants’ networks intersect are shown to be distinctive features of the migration regime in this region. 

Describing bordering and debordering practices, from the island of Lampedusa to local communities in distant regions, this book brings fresh insights to urgent areas of debate within the field. It analyses why many irregular immigrants are socially accepted, such as women who perform domestic and care activities, whereas others are rejected and marginalized, as is often the case for asylum seekers, despite having permission to reside.

Drawing together twenty years of research and addressing the current crisis, it will appeal to policy-makers, students and scholars of migration.


Social Policy Border controls Human rights Legal status NGOs European Union irregular immigration asylum refugees Southern Europe Italy Greece Migration policy ethnic networks ethnic brokers hidden economy border management integration debordering and rebordering intermediaries

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Social and Political SciencesUniversity of MilanMilanItaly

About the authors

Maurizio Ambrosini is Professor of Sociology of Migration at the University of Milan and chargé d’enseignement at the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis, France. In addition to writing several books in Italian and articles in various languages, he is the author of Irregular Immigration and Invisible Welfare (Palgrave 2013) and edited Europe: No Migrants land? (ISPI, 2016).

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Irregular Immigration in Southern Europe
  • Book Subtitle Actors, Dynamics and Governance
  • Authors Maurizio Ambrosini
  • Series Title Migration, Diasporas and Citizenship
  • Series Abbreviated Title Migration, Diasporas and Citizenship
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2018
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
  • eBook Packages Social Sciences Social Sciences (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-3-319-70517-0
  • Softcover ISBN 978-3-319-88953-5
  • eBook ISBN 978-3-319-70518-7
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages IX, 164
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 5 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Migration
    Social Policy
    Social Structure, Social Inequality
    European Union Politics
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


“Irregular migrants are reviled to placate the xenophobes, yet tolerated when they provide care for the elderly and children. Their movement is sustained by a large cast of actors –– traffickers and smugglers, as well as NGOs, employers and ethnic networks. In his compelling and subtle book, Maurizio Ambrosini penetrates the semi-legal world of irregular migration.” (Robin Cohen, Emeritus Professor, and Former Director of the International Migration Institute, University of Oxford, UK)

“Focused on how ‘illegals’ reconstruct their social world, Maurizio Ambrosini’s insightful new book challenges the prevailing discourse on Europe’s borderland and main political and public preoccupation with irregular migration and how to control it. Providing much needed empirical evidence, Ambrosini showing how, despite their legal marginality and stigmatisation, irregular migrants introduce new and positive social and economic dynamics where they have settled in the ‘battleground’ of Italy.” (Roger Zetter Emeritus Professor and Former Director of the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford, UK)

“The challenges raised by irregular migration to Europe have been discussed numerous times. There are formidable puzzles: inclusive democracy versus exclusivist nationalism, human and social rights against exploitation, diversity as opposed to cultural homogeneity. But these tensions call for a clear and lucid synthesis. Here it is. With ‘Irregular Immigration in Southern Europe: Actors, Dynamics and Governance’ Maurizio Ambrosini combines rigorous scholarship with engaging analysis and high readability.” (Thomas Faist, Professor of Transitional and Development studies in the Department of Sociology, Bielefeld University, Germany)