Beyond “kamikaze migrants”: Risk taking in West African boat migration to Europe

pub_ho_153x200In recent years, tens of thousands of young Africans have left the shores of Senegal and other West African countries in small boats headed for Spain’s Canary Islands. Most have spent a week or more at sea, and unknown numbers have died in the attempt. Given the danger of the journey, we ask how it could become a large-scale social phenomenon. The analysis focuses on how prospective migrants assess and relate to the risks of migration. We show that risk taking is shaped by context-specific interaction of disparate factors. These include economic obstacles to reaching social adulthood, notions of masculinity, pride and honor, and religion, in the form of sufi Islam.

Hernández-Carretero, María and Carling, Jørgen (2012) ‘Beyond “kamikaze migrants”: Risk taking in West African boat migration to Europe.’ Human Organization, 71(4): 407–416.

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