The University of Manchester




Press release – immediate release - 16 December 2011

Researchers at two British universities are researching the labour market experiences and aspirations of London’s undocumented migrants from three minority ethnic communities. The research, which focuses on Chinese, Bangladeshi and Turkish (including Kurdish) migrants, explores the social networks which undocumented migrants utilise and their decisions to use or not to use co-ethnic networks in their search for work in and out of ethnic enclaves. An important aspect of the research is that it will also look at the motivations of employers in ethnic enclave employment, in relation to the employment of undocumented migrants. The researchers are keen to get in touch with undocumented migrants and with employers who would be prepared to tell their stories, in complete anonymity.

The size of the undocumented migrant population in the UK is estimated at anywhere between 500,000 and 800,000, with London being a major destination for undocumented migrants. The research aims to explore the routes through which they access work and to examine the reasons why some use co-ethnic networks while others do not, exploring whether these choices change over time. Researchers will also investigate the circumstances where network building might either overcome disadvantage or alternatively weaken an ability to fight for additional advantage. London is also the location of many ethnically owned businesses that provide lifelines to the city’s most marginalised and deprived communities. Here the researchers will explore, from the perspectives of these employers, the value of social networks as a mechanism for recruitment and the ways they may or may not differentiate between workers, based on their immigration status.

A Project Advisory Group (PAG) has already been established with representation from employers, trade unions, NGOs, community based organisations, academics and statutory bodies. The PAG is working closely with the researchers, in assisting them in accessing research participants for the interviews which will take place through the first half of 2012.

The research, which is funded by the Economic and Social Science Research Council, is led by Professor Alice Bloch from Manchester University and Professor Sonia McKay from the Working Lives Research Institute (WLRI), London Metropolitan University. Two researchers, Dr LeenaKumarappan and JawadBotmeh, both based at WLRI, are also working on the project, which in due course will also be employing three fieldworkers to carry out the interviews. The project welcomes community level participation and further information on its aims and objectives can be obtained from:

For further details about the research contact Dr LeenaKumarappan: Tel: 020 7320 3013; email: