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Turbulent Trajectories: African Migrants on Their Way to the European Union

International Development Studies, Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, Heidelberglaan 2, 3508 TC, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Societies 2012, 2(2), 27-41;
Received: 15 December 2011 / Revised: 10 April 2012 / Accepted: 12 April 2012 / Published: 17 April 2012
(This article belongs to the Special Issue On the Move: Human Migration Past, Present and Future)
PDF [227 KB, uploaded 17 April 2012]


Sub-Saharan African migration towards the European Union (EU) belongs to one of the most stigmatized forms of migration of the 21st century. It is strongly characterized by EU’s restrictive migration policies. As a consequence, migrants who are aspiring to reach the EU often undertake fragmented and dangerous journeys to the North. This contribution attempts to gain more empirical insights into these migratory journeys. It is based on a ‘trajectory ethnography’ that combines in-depth interviews with sub-Saharan Africans, who are waiting in Morocco and Turkey to enter the EU, with a longitudinal strategy to follow some of these respondents over longer periods of time. With this longitudinal element I was in particular able to grasp expected steps and unexpected turns in individual migration trajectories. By discussing three main components (the motivation, facilitation and velocity) of journeys, this contribution puts into perspective the unidirectional and often frictionless metaphors of migration—as if migrants move like ‘flows’ and ‘waves’. View Full-Text
Keywords: migration trajectories; sub-Saharan Africa; EU; transit migration; borders migration trajectories; sub-Saharan Africa; EU; transit migration; borders
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Schapendonk, J. Turbulent Trajectories: African Migrants on Their Way to the European Union. Societies 2012, 2, 27-41.

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