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Accepted Paper:

The Making of 'Left Behind' Women: The Impact of Debates about Abandoned Migrant Muslim Women's Right to Parent in The Netherlands  
Jessica Carlisle (London)

Paper short abstract:

Flexible rules for visa applications from 'left behind' mothers bucked a trend in the 2000s towards increasing restrictions on low-skilled immigration to The Netherlands. This paper analyses the negative gender outcomes of awarding exceptional status to migrant Muslim mothers of Dutch children.

Paper long abstract:

Throughout the 2000s, the Dutch government increasingly restricted opportunities for low-skilled immigration. These restrictions included the introduction of higher bars on eligibility for marriage migrants to move to The Netherlands in order to settle with Dutch residents or citizens.

This policy emerged from political and public debates focused on the perceived failure of (particularly Moroccan, Turkish and other Muslim) migrants to adjust to life in The Netherlands. These debates have frequently characterised Muslim migrant men as having both agency to resist integration and power to prevent their wives from integrating by isolating them from Dutch society.

The cause of 'left behind' mothers became a symbol of this alleged gender dynamic in the mid-2000s. Women in this situation migrate to settle with Dutch citizen or resident spouses. Their husbands subsequently abandon them with their natal families after seizing their Dutch visas. They have subsequently had difficulty gaining immigration status to re-enter The Netherlands.

Although their cause was first championed by migrant rights' groups, it became swept up in an ideological project to save migrant women from abusive, Muslim husbands. The result was a new rule technically simplifying the processing of 'left behind' women's visa applications.

This paper discusses how the category of 'left behind' women was constructed in a climate of hostility to immigration, the related issuing of flexible rules for granting them re-entry visas, and the impact on three migrant women's cases. The 'left behind' policy's gender outcomes have not only disadvantaged men, they have not significantly aided women.

Panel P066
The impact of law on transnational families' staying, moving and settling
  Session 1 Wednesday 15 August, 2018, -