Skip to main content
Rebordering Britain & Britons after Brexit

Do I deserve to belong? Migrants' perspectives on the debate of deservingness and belonging


The notion of belonging, prominent in social sciences, has been recently used extensively in relation to Central Eastern European migrants in the UK. Whereas the Brexit debates on migration have spotlighted the macro-politics of belonging and the judgments on who deserves to stay and under which conditions, the question of how these discourses of `deservingness' surrounding Brexit may influence the everyday and intimate aspects of belonging among migrants warrants further exploration. Drawing on the interviews with 77 young Polish and Lithuanian migrants in the UK conducted from 2019 to 2020, this article examines how migrants position themselves in relation to the discourses of deservingness and hierarchies of desirability. The focus is also placed on how they negotiate their strategies of (un)belonging to the British society. We argue that the prominence of the deservingness discourse - which has gained momentum in Brexit Britain - entraps migrants in the constant process of boundary making and may prevent them from ever feeling part of the `community of value'.

You might also be interested in :

The ambiguous lives of 'the other whites': Class and racialisation of Eastern European migrants in the UK
A body of recent literature has examined how migrants from Eastern European countries have been racialised in the UK both pre- and post-Brexit, and has explored the limits of their earlier assumed 'invisibility' owing to their perceived whiteness.
Bees & butterflies: Polish migrants' social anchoring, mobility and risks post-Brexit
The result of the Brexit referendum and subsequent uncertainty regarding its actual consequences, particularly for the EU citizens living in the UK, constitutes a major point of reference and a social risk for many Polish migrants.
Inclusion through irregularisation? Exploring the politics and realities of internal bordering in managing post-crisis labour migration in the EU
The technologies and practices of migration management are changing profoundly. They have been extended beyond territorial borders, immigration policies and assigned legal identities and downshifted to `inside' spaces across state and non-state `ordinary institutions'.
Turning citizens into immigrants: state practices of welfare `cancellations' and document retention among EU nationals living in Glasgow
This article examines the everyday experiences of welfare provision among EU migrants living in Glasgow, demonstrating how the process of restricting the rights of EU citizens has occurred well before Brexit.


Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies

Article meta

Country / region covered

Populations studied

Year of Publication

Source type