Tekalign Ayalew Mengiste, Assistant Professor, College of Social Sciences, Addis Ababa University and affiliated researcher, Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University

Forced displacement and infrastructures of Eritrean refugee mobility to Europe

This presentation deals with structural conditions, social expectations and human smuggling organizations that shape Eritrean refugee flights and risky transitions en route. In the face of volatile politics, precarious economic conditions and limited opportunities for legal migration paths, a vast majority of Eritrean young men and women opt for overland exits through dangerous and long trails across the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea before they arrive in Europe. This risky migratory mobility has become morally accepted and an institutionalized practice in Eritrea and is emerging in young peoples’ struggle when balancing risks related to staying and the hopes of better conditions coming with migration. The irregular departures and transitions of refugees are facilitated and conditioned by the engagement and interactions of the market (smuggling networks), the state and diasporic actors in multiple locations, which could be termed tentatively as infrastructures of refugee mobility. It is further shaped by EU externalization of migration policies and border controls as well the criminalization and securitization of migration. Refugees on move are vulnerable due to structural conditions and environmental challenges en route. However, the types and intensities of vulnerability vary according to age, gender and class. In this talk I will highlight how refugees and their communities navigate and negotiate risks and hopes related to forced displacement and migratory mobility by taking into account the social, economic, political and cultural underpinnings of refugee departures.

Dr. Tekalign Ayalew Mengiste obtained his PhD in Social Anthropology from Stockholm University, Sweden in 2017. Currently he is an Assistant Professor at the College of Social Sciences at Addis Ababa University and affiliated researcher at the Department of Social Anthropology, Stockholm University. His research interests include refugee mobility, diaspora, migration industry, transnationalism, human smuggling, youth, health & wellbeing. His PhD dissertation entitled “Struggle for Mobility: Risk, hope and community of knowledge in Eritrean and Ethiopian migration pathways towards Sweden” has won Högskoleföreningen’s prize award for outstanding scientific achievement in dissertation work.

Program för Forum för forskning om transnationell migration och CEIFO-seminarier höstterminen 2018.