'Only the People Outside Know What It's Like' - A discourse analysis on migrant illegality and how rejected asylum seekers assign meaning to their experiences in the Netherlands
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This study constitutes a discourse analysis on migrant illegality as well as an ethnographic study of the meanings rejected asylum seekers assign to their everyday experiences. It provides an angle to larger questions of migration in the European Union from the point of view of rejected asylum seekers residing in the Netherlands. This study argues that there are three intersecting discourses that define the discursive as well as material conditions for the experiences of the researched group. The dominant discourse to which the researched group is assigned to in Dutch society is that on migrant illegality. It interpellates the researched group as cultural as well as ethnic Others rather than rights-holding subjects. This dominant discourse is contested by a discourse of compassion on a societal level as well as by a discourse of deserving refugees that the research participants themselves produce. This study shows that the political statelessness of the research participants translates into de facto homelessness in their everyday lives. The situation of homelessness provokes an intensification of the precariousness of the research participants' lives and also demonstrates how the political and social are necessarily intertwined in contemporary Europe. This study argues that an enforcement of the discourse of compassion is needed. However, this enforcement should not revolve around the figure of the victim, a figure that is highly gendered as women are especially assigned to the position of a victim in the discourses examined in this study. Rather, it should promote a compassionate encounter in which all parties are considered as legitimate interlocutors of their own situation.