Accepted paper:

"The quest for a life more bearable": movement and stasis amongst irregular, sub-Saharan migrants in Morocco

Authors:

Sebastien Bachelet (University of Manchester)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores issues of uncertainty and hope amongst irregular, sub-Saharan migrants in Morocco where crossing into Europe has become almost impossible. I examine how migrants navigate the multiple powers influencing their ‘quest for a life more bearable.’

Paper long abstract:

Drawing on fieldwork amongst irregular, sub-Saharan migrants living in Morocco, this paper focuses on issues of uncertainty and hope. Self-identifying as 'adventurers', sub-Saharan migrants describe their contrived mobility as the need 'to exit' (sortir) in order to reach 'the objective' (l'objectif): a shifting epithet for the realization of their life aspirations. In this paper, I am concerned with how sub-Saharan migrants make sense of failure and success when they attempt to cross the border into Spain - what they call 'the shock' (le choc) in reference to the violent encounter with the 'migration apparatus' set to prevent crossing into Europe. Firstly, this paper explores the notion of 'the right mentality' - what adventurers need in order 'to find one's self' (se chercher). When attempting to cross the border, migrants simultaneously assert their own power ('strength' and 'courage') in overcoming obstacles and acknowledge its limits ('chance') ultimately set by God. Yet, such balance is fragile - migrants on a 'quest for a life more bearable' risk 'becoming mad'. Having 'the right mentality' is also the basis of trust and solidarity (e.g. to embark together on pneumatic dinghies). This paper examines how other migrants and distant kin shape adventurers' journeys and sometimes lead to conflicting influences and moral conundrums. Whilst it is morally wrong to thwart travelling companions' opportunities, migrants may leave others behind as they cannot miss the prospect of reaching the objective for themselves and their distant kin.

panel P144
Navigating migration and asylum regimes