Tekalign Ayalew, PhD student, Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University

Struggle for Mobility. Diasporic practices and High-risk Migration pathways of Refugees from the Horn of Africa

The current ‘migration and refugee crisis’ across the Mediterranean region, particularly as represented via images of human suffering and African migrants’ boat tragedies, has attracted media, public, academic and political attention. However, less is known about the conditions that shape overland migration from the Horn of Africa and migrants’ experiences before, during and after they arrive in northern European destinations. Long journeys across countries in political crises (for instance Libya), vast deserts and high seas are dangerous and fatal. But migrants’ vulnerability levels vary according to individual profile: age, gender, religion and access to finance – in the diaspora or countries of origin – needed in case of kidnapping for ransom or imprisonment en route. Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Sweden, Italy, Sudan and Ethiopia, 2013-2015, this study examines migrants’ subjective energy and collective practices in producing and appropriating networks and infrastructures that help them survive vulnerability and perpetuate overland migration, despite Europe’s creation and fortification of internal and external borders. Ethnographic accounts reveal complex factors and dynamic conditions behind the journey. This dissertation depicts how Ethiopian and Eritrean migrants negotiate and navigate impeding and facilitating institutions and actors while organizing various stages of their mobility: departures, transit, and arrival in Sweden. I attempt to explore community, historical and cultural dimensions and social forms of organizing ‘irregular migration’ and practices of human smuggling. The study tries to unpack new insights into how the facilitation of such irregular mobility creates, expands and sustains a collective system and community of knowledge – embedded in transnational social spaces, reciprocal exchange and diasporic practices – that strive to bring refugees and migrants to ‘safety and security in Europe’.

Examiner: Nauja Kleist, Senior Researcher, Danish Institute for International Studies

All seminars in the series.