Immobility and crisis: Sub-Saharan migrants' journeys in Libya
(University of Oxford)
Paper short abstract:
Focusing on lived experiences of sub-Saharan migrants in Libya, this paper argues that a focus on the complex dynamics between mobility and immobility on unauthorised journeys is vital to understanding forces connecting people's mobility experiences and reconfiguring static categories of migration.
Paper long abstract:
Focusing on the lived mobility experiences of sub-Saharan migrants and refugees in Libya, this paper examines the complex relationship between mobility and immobility on unauthorised journeys and its bearings upon static migrant categories. The label of 'crisis', often linked to the migration situation in Libya and the Mediterranean, tends to impose a linear understanding of movement and to fixate migrants as static legal-political bodies aiming for Europe. Through a multi-sited ethnography of migrants' unauthorised journeys through the Sahara desert and Libya by boat to Europe, the paper shows that migrants' mobilities are far from linear, reconfiguring typologized understandings of migrants as legal/illegal, forced/voluntary, refugee and asylum seeker in non-binary and fluid ways. Central to this argument is that the precaritisation of these journeys emerges from a dynamic between mobility and immobility that is often linked to commodification and social relations between a range of actors. I show how spaces of immobility in Libya, shaped by different criminal and state actors and the payment of money to move on, characterise migrants' precarious journeys: informal confinement, imprisonment in government-run detention centres, and waiting in private houses. The paper concludes by arguing that a focus on the dynamics between mobility and immobility, and taking journeys seriously as a topic of anthropological study, is vital to understanding forces connecting people's mobility experiences and reconfiguring static categories of migration.
De-exceptionalising displacement in times of crisis