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


  • Joris Schapendonk

    () (International Development Studies, Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, Heidelberglaan 2, 3508 TC, Utrecht, The Netherlands)


Sub-Saharan African migration towards the European Union (EU) belongs to one of the most stigmatized forms of migration of the 21 st 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’.

Suggested Citation

  • Joris Schapendonk, 2012. "Turbulent Trajectories: African Migrants on Their Way to the European Union," Societies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 2(2), pages 1-15, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsoctx:v:2:y:2012:i:2:p:27-41:d:17230

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    More about this item


    migration trajectories; sub-Saharan Africa; EU; transit migration; borders;

    JEL classification:

    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values
    • A14 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Sociology of Economics
    • P - Economic Systems
    • P0 - Economic Systems - - General
    • P1 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems
    • P2 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies
    • P3 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Institutions and Their Transitions
    • P4 - Economic Systems - - Other Economic Systems
    • P5 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics


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