The focus of this conference is on ‘undocumented and precarious migrant workers’. This definition is left intentionally undefined in the call. To be undocumented means to have no migration status or citizenship from the country in which one resides. We do not use the term ‘illegal’ to refer to undocumented migrants or irregular crossing because of the stigma associated with the term (PICUM 2023; Düvell, Triandafyllidou, Vollmer 2009). But ‘undocumented’ is an extremely flexible, temporary and undefined category that often exists outside of the law’s categorization. We do not impose strict boundaries on who is considered undocumented at this conference. The ultimate choice to use the word ‘undocumented’ over ‘irregular’ is because this is how undocumented migrant organizers in the Netherlands often refer to themselves over the past few years (or in Dutch ‘ongedocumeteerd’). The term is still imperfect and open to contestation at the conference.
The human rights issues faced by undocumented migrants are not definitionally unique to the undocumented, but may also apply to other migrants with a precarious migration status or who live and world in precarious conditions. One can think of statelessness, being an asylum seeker with a failed application (or a Dublin claimant), a victim of trafficking, on a residence permit tied to an exploitative employer, a DACA or duldung recipient, or a migrant about to fall out of status. Migrants may also move between status and non-status. The central inquiry of the conference is not only the unique human rights position of definitionally undocumented migrants, but making rights a reality for migrant workers whose rights-position does not benefit from durable migration status.