Portugal has often been referred to as an exception in the European Union (EU) regarding its open and welcoming attitude to immigrants even after the financial crisis and refugee crisis, two events that have led to a negative shift in immigration policy and public attitudes in Europe towards immigrants over the last decade. However, while Portugal has experienced a liberalisation of its immigration policy overall, and a positive shift in welfare deservingness perceptions towards immigrants, the reality is more complex and sometimes contradictory, specifically in relation to the political economy of immigration that although has led to increased tolerance of irregular immigration to serve the Portuguese economy — and in the course offered many the chance to secure a legal status — has also pushed thousands of irregular immigrants into low-wage jobs and precarious working conditions, rendering them “essential” yet invisible and forgotten in the mainstream public and policy discourse. Using the case of South Asian immigrants in Portugal I elucidate this complexity and its role in engendering three distinct types of deservingness frames that have helped South Asian immigrants become more welfare “deserving” immigrants — either by proving their worth for “deserving” legal status and hence equal access to social rights and entitlements, or by managing and countering everyday bordering practices, a process mediated by their intersectional social positionalities, in the Portuguese society. The case also illustrates how broader structural factors, such as the economic and social context, along with the social location(s) of immigrants within the immigrant group and the host society, work together to produce deservingness frames that mediate the degree to which the immigrant penalty can be overcome and countered to narrow the deservingness gap between native and immigrant claimants of social welfare benefits.

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Fischer, Andrew
Social Policy for Development (SPD)
International Institute of Social Studies

Srivastava, Surabhi. (2021, December 17). The good, the bad , and the immigrant: social construction(s) of a welfare "deserving' immigrant: case of South-Asian immigrants in Portugal. Social Policy for Development (SPD). Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/2105/61067