‘We want to build a life’: Europe’s paperless young people speak out

5000 (1)

A generation of undocumented Europeans – inspired by the ‘Dreamers’ in the US – are fighting for residency rights. 

Europe has its own dreamer generation, but unlike the US Dreamers, their stories are largely unknown. It is only when someone like the Glasgow-born singer Bumi Thomas is ordered to leave the UK that the immigration rules stopping people from staying in the countries they were born or grew up in stir public outrage. Millions of young people across Europe have, like Thomas, been born on the wrong side of little-known laws – in her case a 1981 restriction on automatic citizenship at birth. They grew up feeling British or French or Italian or European, but are now trapped in a state of limbo. The threat of deportation hangs over them because, like the US Dreamers, they lack the right piece of paper.

The US Dreamers have evolved into an influential campaign movement, and have changed how most Americans see undocumented people: as families, as strivers, as patriots. In Europe, populist politicians and rightwing press still fuel the perception that the undocumented population is a faceless mass of opportunists. It is not well understood that the majority of people without papers are young people, many of whom arrived in Europe as small children, and some were even born here.


Black European lives matter, read more.