Publication type: Journal Article
A not-so ‘natural’ decision: impact of bureaucratic trajectories on forced migrants’ intention and ability to naturalise
For forced migrants who lack unqualified state protection, citizenship acquisition serves as the only secure way to graduate from legally precarious conditions. However, despite the seemingly obvious upside, the decision to naturalise is not necessarily automatic and for those who do choose to move forward, the process is rarely straightforward. Based on 30 interviews with Syrian forced migrants in Berlin, we address why some applicants who are eligible to naturalise choose not to apply and why eligibility ‘on paper’ does not necessarily translate to ability to naturalise ‘in practice’. By combining literature on migrants’ experiences with street-level bureaucracy and individual-level determinants of naturalisation, the primary objective of this article is to advance our understanding of how citizenship and non-citizenship decisions are made. In order to do so, we build upon the two-step intention-ability framework and in particular introduce ‘bureaucratic trajectory’ as a significant determinant of one’s intention to apply and practical ability to acquire citizenship beyond eligibility. We demonstrate how perceived discretionary implementation and red tape not only constrain but also entice migrants to develop strategies to ‘enable’ access to citizenship.