Belonging on a Continuum: Legal Status Journeys and Social Membership

Ulrike Bialas

Legal statuses are an essential part of social stratification—at once a reflection and a driver of diversity and inequality. Most asylum applications in Germany are rejected, resulting in a large population of migrants living with legal statuses that are temporary but indefinite and often come with diminished opportunities, freedoms, and stability. Conversely, even migrants who would be likely to receive protection may opt not to pursue asylum and instead seek an alternative legal status. Both circumstances result in a legally highly diverse migrant population in Germany, complicating the relationship between migration drivers and aspirations, migration routes, legal pathways and statuses, and the personal experience of migration.


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