Coloring Europe as an area of freedom, security and justice. A multi-sited study on changing migrant imaginaries en route in/to Europe

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In the context of the European Union’s Area of Freedom, Security and Justice, this thesis gains insights into the emergence and development of non-European, ‘unwanted’ migrants’ imaginaries of freedom, security and justice in Europe. A qualitative, multi-sited research has been conducted in five European countries. From the obtained data, an inductively developed model was created, called ‘the cycle of changing imaginaries’, which structures the empirical chapters. Within this thesis, the elements within ‘the cycle of changing imaginaries’ are examined as migrants move through im/mobility in/to Europe. The thesis shows the vivid dynamics between autonomy of migration, social networks, and information power and precarity along migratory journeys. By use of the ‘cycle of changing imaginaries’, it uncovers three dimensions in which migrants continuously and temporarily reposition themselves. First, there is a tension between trust and mobility-dependency, as migrants often depend on smugglers in order to move but generally regard them as untrustworthy actors. Second, migrants continuously need to (re-)position themselves between trust and truth when searching for credible information about the journey ahead and when sharing information with their networks. Third, migrants move on a spectrum between forced and voluntary movements during their fragmented journeys, based on current circumstances and imagined opportunities in other places. The non-linearity of migration journeys with respect to both geography and imaginaries becomes utterly clear. This study shows how migrant imaginaries of Europe are constantly being recolored along migration routes. Migrant imaginaries are intrinsically mobile and appear resilient as they adapt to clashing realities, which allows people to move again. Hopes to find better opportunities elsewhere fuel migratory motivations, and horizons of what Europe is move. This makes migrant imaginaries uncontrollable by mobility regimes. Keywords: Area of Freedom, Security and Justice (AFSJ), autonomy of migration, Europe, migration, im/mobility, imaginaries, information, infrastructures, social networks, trust, truth, platforms
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