Mobility, Family Life and European Citizenship: Marriages Between Legally Precarious African Migrants and Peripheral Europeans

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 8:30 AM
Room: 313+314
Oral Presentation
Apostolos ANDRIKOPOULOS , University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

Transnational marriage has become a door opener to international mobility and migrant legality and, as is well documented, aspiring migrants can achieve geographic mobility through marriage by claiming their right in family life. This paper examines the marriages between West African migrants and EU citizens in the Netherlands and analyses a reverse strategy in which international mobility is the means to secure family life and legality. The Netherlands, as many other countries, has imposed many restrictions on family migration (provisions for family reunification/formation) making this process more selective, difficult and costly. Of course, these regulations apply only at the national level. At the same time, EU citizens and in extension their family members can exercise their rights to intra-European mobility, residence and employment. On that basis, legally unauthorized African migrants can legalise their stay in Europe either by getting married in the Netherlands to a non-Duch EU citizen, commonly Eastern or Southern Europeans, or moving with their Dutch spouses to another EU country (often known as ‘the Belgian route’). In this pattern, marriage and family is not a condition that precedes international mobility but the opposite: citizens must move to another EU country in order to claim not as national but as EU citizens their right to stay and work in another EU country along with their family members. In this instance, European citizenship is valorized higher than national citizenship but in order for Europeans to make use of their rights as EU citizens they have to move out of their home country to another EU country. This paper examines ethnographic material collected in multi-sited fieldwork in the Netherlands, Ghana, and Greece and engages into a theoretical discussion over mobility, citizenship and marriage in the EU context.