Transit to nowhere: how Sub-Saharan African migrants in Morocco confront life in forced immobility

Stock, Inka (2013) Transit to nowhere: how Sub-Saharan African migrants in Morocco confront life in forced immobility. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This thesis is based on an ethnographic study of the lives of Sub-Saharan African migrants residing in Morocco. Over the past two decades, an increasing number of these migrants live in the urban centres of the country, mostly without migration status and with very limited access to formal employment, social services and legal protection. While many of these migrants wish to move on to another country, return to their home countries or, in some cases, settle permanently in Morocco, most are unable to do so and are 'stuck' in a situation of 'forced immobility' for indeterminate periods of time.

The study describes how migrants narrate their particular migratory trajectories to Morocco, their arrival in the country, their dealings with fellow migrants and their efforts to survive. It analyses the processes by which they become alienated in space and time from their existential quest for a better life. While in Morocco, migrants' lives are focused on the present and their social relations are often marked by hierarchical and exploitative structures of dependence. These circumstances make them question their feelings of belonging, their values and their ideas about themselves and the meaning of migration as an existential quest. Drawing on Albert Camus' idea of the absurd, migrants' feelings of alienation are compared with an absurd situation, in which old values lose their meanings in an apparently senseless world.

Rather than approaching migrants as passive victims or hopeless individuals, the study seeks to explore how migrants' lives in liminal times and spaces are shaped by the various strategies they employ in an attempt to take control of their own destiny. Social theories of waiting and time are used in this context to highlight how migrants' action - or inaction - can be understood as purposeful from their own perspective. From an existential point of view, waiting for onward migration constitutes a kind of revolt against the absurd conditions they are facing in forced immobility and gives at least some meaning to their lives.

The thesis is framed against conventional discourses of transit migration, which conceive of migrants in Morocco as criminal trespassers of borders or else as victims who have little choice over their actions. This discourse often serves as a justification for increasingly restrictive migration policies and measures to control and prevent migrants from settling or moving through countries bordering the European Union. The thesis argues that the 'transit migrant' is a normative and political construct that does not reflect the reality of migrants coming to Morocco. Furthermore, policies designed to control migrants' movement and stay do nothing to improve their situation in Morocco but rather contribute to their increasing marginalisation. The thesis also draws attention to problems with the relief-based nature of much short-term humanitarian aid granted to migrants in Morocco, showing how these type of activities do not address or take into account migrants' complicated relation to the present.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: O'Connell Davidson, J.N.
Zontini, E.
Keywords: Aliens, Morocco, Africa, Sub-Saharan, social conditions, 1960-
Subjects: H Social sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Sociology and Social Policy
Item ID: 28525
Depositing User: Airey, Ms Valerie
Date Deposited: 13 Mar 2015 09:01
Last Modified: 13 Sep 2016 15:09

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