Migration, Transit and the Informal: Homeless West-African Migrants in Copenhagen

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Abstract

In the last couple of years, Copenhagen has been receiving new types of visitors: strong, resourceful men from southern Europe in search of job opportunities. Many are of West African origin, and have lived for many years in Spain and Italy. As a result of the economic recession, they are now moving northwards. Being Schengen residents, their entry is legal, but obtaining a work permit remains almost impossible. Instead, a wide range of geographical areas are being considered as alternative places to make a living. Therefore, these men lapse into the position of modern ‘hunter-gatherers’ surviving through a mix of private charity, bottle and recycling collection, informal odd jobs, etc, while moving between the Nordic capitals as opportunities for income generation arise. The emergence of such a hyper mobile and flexible proletariat challenges many of our perceptions of migration. Also, our conceptions of integration, citizenship, minimum wages and living standards may need reconsideration, just as the self-image of private charities may need to adjust to a new group of beneficiaries, who are usually transient. This paper investigates the motivations of these new migrants, their survival strategies, and the strategies put forward to avoid the potential downward spiral of surviving as a homeless migrant in Copenhagen.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Homelessness
Volume11
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)131-151
Number of pages17
ISSN2030-2762
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2017

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