Overview

The numbers of women migrating irregularly may be on the rise (Fan, 2008; Jimenez, 2009; DIMIA, 2000). It is increasingly suggested that the proportion and numbers of pregnant women undertaking irregular migration journeys is also rising (AI, 2010; Carling, 2007; Gerard & Pickering, 2012). Pregnancy can by a motivating factor to leave violent or dangerous situations both in regards to migration and domestic violence situations (Crawley, 2005; Lasinski, 2004).

Anecdotally, pregnant women who have undertaken dangerous journeys have been featured in the media in recent months. In the  October 2013 tragedy where a boat sank off the shore of Lampedusa, of the recovered victims, at least two pregnant women were numbered among them and one of the women, who was seven months pregnant, had gone into spontaneous birth during drowning and her body was recovered with her child attached by the umbilical cord (Mail Online, 10 October 2013; Sky News HD, 4 October 2013). This story mirrors that of the SIEV X tragedy in 2001 where a survivor reporting witnessing a similar scene (SIEVX.com, n.d.). In Australia in November 2013, an asylum seeker who was pregnant and being held in a detention centre in Nauru, where conditions are considered not adequate for maternal health, was flown to Brisbane for a cesarean section.  This was despite Immigration Minister Scott Morrison’s claims that there were not pregnant women in Australia’s immigration detention centres (Sydney Morning Herald, 16 November 2013).

There has been a progression over time to set irregular migration in a broader context of globalization and human rights (See for example Jones-Correa, 1998; Pessar & Mahler, 2003; Sassen, 2003). Although gender is considered to be a standard part of migration literature, it is still slowly emerging within the literature around irregular migration. This paucity of study indicates a need to delve deeper to look at the journey of illegalized travelers, especially from the perspective of their own gendered experiences and challenges. Focusing more closely on the experience of women and irregular migration in the extant literature, found that not only are women at a survival disadvantage during tragedies (Chandra, et al. 2009; Doocy et al., 2007; Linnan, 2011; Pickering & Cochrane, 2013), but trauma, stress, and lack of food during these journeys and detentions may affect not only the health of the woman who take the journey, but also could influence pregnancy outcomes (Gasseer, et al, 2004; Holliday, 2006; Pickering & Barry, 2013 Forthcoming; Welch &Schuster, 2005). My work will delve into these experiences from the narrations of women who have experienced them firsthand.