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Forced migration trajectories: an analysis of journey- and decision-making among Eritrean and Syrian arrivals to Europe


Written by Jessica Hagen-Zanker, Richard Mallett

In 2015, Europe’s so-called ‘migration crisis’ hit the headlines. In one of the first pieces of research-based examination into the journeys of refugee arrivals around that time, this article explores the decision-making processes of (mainly) Syrians and Eritreans recently arrived in Germany, Spain and the UK.

The article investigates the dynamics underpinning trajectories towards Europe, placing particular emphasis on the factors that shape the ‘where’ and ‘how’ of journeys. A number of factors, already established within the broader literature, feature strongly in the decisions made by refugees: financial capital, social networks and the role of smugglers. But so too do refugees’ and other migrants’ own perceptions and feelings about where to go, when to do it and how.

Ultimately – and for the sample in this research – the authors find that refugees’ journeys are on the one hand the product of a profoundly contextual and subjective decision-making process, and on the other deeply transformative phenomena, guiding as they do perceptions and choices regarding destination and trajectories.

Jessica Hagen-Zanker and Richard Mallett