Divided and United Across Borders

A global overview of family migration

Authored by: Jacqueline Bhabha

Routledge Handbook of Family Law and Policy

Print publication date:  July  2020
Online publication date:  July  2020

Print ISBN: 9780367195526
eBook ISBN: 9781003058519
Adobe ISBN:


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In her chapter for the First Edition of this Handbook, Helen Stalford notes that UK family migration ‘epitomizes the complex challenges associated with asserting personal rights in a public law context’. 1 This statement does not just apply to the UK. With international migration now at nearly 272 million, or 3.5 percent of the global population, very large numbers of families and states across the globe are affected by cross-border mobility, its many social and economic consequences and the legal challenges it presents. 2 And because migration is inherently relational – it impacts the social environment of the person moving, not just his or her individual status – its consequences have repercussions that spill over to relatives who may never have moved, or who moved at very different times from the migrant under consideration. What is more, the consequences of an individual’s migration for family are both direct – the impact on the enjoyment of the right to family life – and mediated – the impact on the health or well-being of relatives left behind, the legal and citizenship status of future offspring, the organization of economies of caring and intimacy, the exposure to risk and trauma for family members seeking reunification. It follows that deciding what to include in an overview of family migration requires the exercise of a somewhat arbitrary selection process.

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