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A paradise without people
Ambivalence in representations of migration and its outcomes when Syrian refugees talk about secondary migration to Europe

Guri Tyldum

Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 2021

Open access

Forskere på Fafo: Guri Tyldum

This article investigates perceptions of secondary migration to Europe and North America among Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon. Building on Ann Swidler's (1986) theory of cultural repertoires, I approach migration as one of several strategies that refugees may choose from, and ask which kinds of life goals they link to a strategy of secondary migration. The refugees' narratives reflect ambivalence in their perceptions of what secondary migration to Europe may entail; the economic security of refuge in Europe is tempting for many, but migration to Europe is also negatively associated with aid dependence. Although some think access to education and European labour markets can secure the future for their children, many talk of Western individualism as a negative influence that may lead to family dissolution. While some thirst for the liberal rights available in Western democracies, there is also fear that moving to Europe will limit their opportunities to practise their Muslim faith. The article demonstrates that secondary migration is not only associated with positive outcomes and suggests that there may be self-selection effects in what subgroups of refugees seek migration to Europe. The article draws on qualitative interviews among Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon conducted in 2019.

A paradise without people