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When Do Social Networks Fail to Explain Migration? Accounting for the Movement of Algerian Asylum-Seekers to the UK

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This paper examines the diversity of destinations of asylum-seekers in Europe, focusing on the particular situation of asylum-seekers who claim asylum in countries with no significant co-national population, such as the growing Algerian community in the UK. This movement challenges existing social network approaches to migration. It is clear that many Algerians have family links in France and that the majority continue to travel there, so there can be no suggestion that social networks are no longer relevant, or do not apply to refugee movement. However, it is apparent that most Algerians coming to Britain also have family links to France but that strict migration controls reduce the possibility of mobilising the social capital inherent in these social networks. I conclude therefore that, as a result of migration restrictions, undocumented migrants use social networks differently, focusing on weaker ties rather than strong family networks. Political and economic factors also influence location decisions, especially in the absence of strong social imperatives towards particular locations.

Keywords: Algeria; Britain; France; Migration Policy; Refugees; Social Capital

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 1, 2005

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