Global Cities & Illegality – Overview

In this era of globalization, Saskia Sassen has argued that structural changes in labour market dynamics have resulted in the creation of an array of ancillary occupations, subcontracting and part-time in global cities, whereby small enterprises at the lower end of the income distribution resort to informal modes of production to make a profit, hence ensuring their business remains sustainable. Further, the movement of wealthy and highly skilled individuals has been paralleled by the migration of undesirable others, who allegedly cater for the privileged people for whose sake the city primarily exists. Widening social polarization and tight border control mechanisms have consequently impacted society and the opportunity structure of migrant populations.

Completed by Dr Francesco Vecchio as his Doctoral Research, this project provides understanding of the structural and individual agency factors that explain ‘unskilled’, illegal and forced migration in global cities. Using Hong Kong as a case study, it examines the lived experiences of asylum seekers to understand their involvement in the local informal economy, the motivation and expectations explaining their movement and the coping strategies that are devised to make a living in a place where comprehensive asylum legislation is lacking and distinctions between asylum seekers and economic migrants are blurred.

This research considers contentious assumptions regarding both increasing social polarization and rising phony asylum claims in Hong Kong, and argues that, because asylum seekers are institutionally marginalized and portrayed as abusive illegal economic migrants, asylum seekers create significant economic opportunities for certain strata of the legal resident population whose social status appears impacted by the polarizing consequences of neoliberal globalization.