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New African Migrations to Europe

Jacqueline Andall

My research is centrally concerned with African migration to Europe and the formation of African diasporas within Europe. My current research project examines the new configurations of migration flows to Europe. The research investigates how contemporary African labour migrants select their country of destination and settlement in Europe. It additionally examines their mobility within Europe and their incorporation into European labour markets.

My qualitative research project concentrates specifically on Ghanaian migration, as, during the 1990s, Ghanaians emerged as one of the largest groups of sub-saharan Africans in European Union (EU) countries. I am investigating the ways in which the presence of Ghanaian communities dispersed across several European countries and knowledge sharing within this European diasporic space plays a role in determining in which European country migrants will settle. Set against the demise of established colonial routes, I focus specifically on how Ghanaians choose to migrate to Italy and examine their living and working conditions in a country which still has not fully acknowledged its slow transition into a multi-cultural society. I am developing the concept of ‘migration mobility’ to characterise the new types of movement taking place by Africans within EU borders. EU citizens’ current low rates of mobility within the EU are attributable in part to a lack of information about living and working conditions in individual European countries and mobility enhancing programmes such as Socrates and Erasmus have been implemented to remedy this. By contrast, African migrants are able to draw on the information and ‘current knowledge’ circulating within European diasporic space and this can lead to sequential mobility within Europe.

These European diasporic networks of Africans have been understudied and are a consequence of the proliferation of new destination choices for contemporary migrants. In a period of restricted access to labour migration in Europe, the
research project seeks to examine the strategies African labour migrants adopt to physically enter Europe and to analyse the implications of these choices in relation to their initial status as undocumented migrants. Thus, the project explores the manner in which they are incorporated into European labour markets, distinguishing between the informal and formal economy.

In relation to Italy, it examines Ghanaians’ informal employment in the agricultural sector and their formal employment n Italy’s dynamic leather industry. I highlight the continuing need for migrant labour in European labour markets, despite a political and social climate hostile to primary migration.

This research project in being undertaken to explore my larger research interests in relation to African migration to Europe. One such interest is the gendered dimension of contemporary immigration to Europe. I have previously examined the significance of female single-sex migration for African women, focusing primarily on Cape Verdeans and Eritreans in Italy. I have additionally explored African female mobility within Europe by investigating Cape Verdean women’s mobility between Portugal, Italy and the Netherlands. My current project with Ghanaians is examining male patterns of mobility and the findings will be utilised to compare previous research findings based on female patterns of mobility. A second wider research interest concerns the impact of African migrants on specific employment sectors. I have previously considered the social and cultural implications of Black women’s mode of incorporation into the Italian domestic work sector, while my current project investigates the impact of African migrants in relation to an industrial sector. Finally, I am generally interested in migrations in the post-colonial era and the new issues posed by the presence of a Black and European second generation.

Potential questions for workshop on Representing Black European History

  1. How are Black people being represented in contemporary discourses of Europeanisation?

  2. How do different colonial legacies shape the experiences of Black people in individual European countries?

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