Decision-making in Migrants’ Journeys through Europe: The Role of Social Networks, Human Smugglers, and Institutional Actors
Brug, I. van de
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Recent developments have caused a high influx of migrants to Europe and to the Netherlands since April 2015, in a situational context that is rapidly changing due to the unprecedented nature of this flow of migrants. In light of these developments, it is important for the Migration Policy Department of the Ministry of Security and Justice to know how this migrant flow can be regulated, while at the same time ensuring the safety of these migrants. Whereas migrants’ attempts to reach European soil are well-documented in academic research, just as their integration process after arrival in a country of destination, much less is known on the process in between. This thesis therefore aims at explaining migrants’ decision-making process during their journey from European border countries to the Netherlands. In order to answer this question, the role of three potentially important factors in this journey is assessed: the role of social networks (and social media as part of them), the role of human smugglers, and the role of institutional sources. This has been done by conducting qualitative interviews with sixteen migrants who recently (over the past three years) migrated to the Netherlands. The results suggest that indeed, these three sources turn out to be the most important factors in explaining migrants’ decision-making process, but sometimes in unexpected ways. Whereas previous research suggests that social media become increasingly important in the smuggling process, this could not be substantiated by the findings of this research. On the contrary, all migrants were said to have used ear-to-ear advertising in order to arrange the smuggling process, whereas many of them did have smartphones and access to social media. Another main finding of this research is that the Dublin rules appear to play a main role in all migrant journeys. Whereas migrants valued being physically safe, they seemed to be more anxious of putting their desired future at risk by getting fingerprinted in a country where they did not want to request asylum. Based on additional interviews with representatives of the Migration Policy Department, the International Organisation for Migration and the Dutch Police, the final recommendation of this research is to take these differences between physical safety and perceptions of security into account in designing policies aimed at a more effective and fair European asylum system.