Positioning for their Future: Timorese Migrant Workers in the UK
In Timor-Leste, the national economy offers few work opportunities. As a result, temporary migration overseas has become a significant source of support for family livelihoods. The largest source of migrant work for Timorese is the UK. A small study of Timorese migrants who have worked in the UK was undertaken in 2016, including interviews in Timor-Leste with workers from UK who had returned, and with current workers in Northern Ireland. A follow up visit was made in 2018. Timorese migrants enter UK on Portuguese passports and, unlike the two official migrant worker programs to South Korea and Australia, the UK migrants lack any official support.
Migration to the UK offers opportunities and hardships. Positioning theory is used to analyse different migrant motivations and experiences of living in the UK. The diverse ways in which migrant workers position themselves and others in the host community is analysed. Strong ties with their home country carry a sense of obligation to their families which remains a driving rationale for Timorese workers’ presence in the UK. Yet a range of positioning becomes apparent in that while most workers stay only to contribute to the needs of their families at home, other workers have started to see UK as a more permanent opportunity for a better future.