Academic journal article International Journal of Population Research

Transnationalism of Burundian Refugees in the Netherlands: The Importance of Migration Motives

Academic journal article International Journal of Population Research

Transnationalism of Burundian Refugees in the Netherlands: The Importance of Migration Motives

Article excerpt

Peter Mascini 1 and Alfons Fermin 2 and Hilde Snick 3

Recommended by Shirlena Huang

1, Faculty of Social Sciences, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Room M6-06, P.O. Box 1738, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands 2, Erasmus University Rotterdam, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands 3, University Asylum Fund, 3508 SK Utrecht, The Netherlands

Received 21 February 2012; Accepted 11 June 2012

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

1. Introduction

Transnationalism has become an important field of research within migration studies since the 1990s. However, soon after the initial enthusiasm, skepticism followed: phenomena gathered under the denominator of transnationalism appeared to be anything but new, and the spread of these phenomena seemed largely overestimated. According to Portes [1, page 182] this overestimation was due to the fact that researchers investigated transnationalism in contexts renowned for it; in other words, the abundance of transnationalism was a direct consequence of how the dependent variable was selected. This bias emerged in at least three ways in studies on transnationalism.

Firstly, research was mainly carried out on transnationalism among settled migrant groups , first in the United States, and later also in other Western countries. Examples are Mexican migrants in the United States, Kurdish migrants in Sweden, and Indian migrants in the United Kingdom [2, 3], [4, pages 130-131]. Members of settled migrant groups can more or less automatically utilize networks of family, acquaintances, and transnational institutions for the arrangement of their voyage and stay in the country of destination, for developing transnational activities, and for arranging the eventual (temporary) return to the country of origin. Hence, transnationalism is easily available for members of settled migrant groups. However, this is not the case for members of "new" migrant groups and for dispersed migrant groups [5, page 880].

Secondly, much of the research on transnationalism selected respondents among members of associations and clubs in settlement countries with a clear predilection for the country of origin [3]. According to Jansen [6, page 185], this selective attention given by researchers to transnational institutions could explain why he did not find intensive transnationalism among Bosnian refugees, while other researchers did. Jansen came into contact with his respondents via personal networks, and not--as other researchers did--via refugee associations or clubs with strong ties to the country of origin.

Thirdly, most research on transnationalism addresses labor and family migrants . The question whether transnationalism takes on different shapes for these kinds of migrants in comparison with refugees who emigrated for political reasons has only sporadically drawn attention and has not yet been answered unequivocally. On one hand, some researchers state that refugees are less involved with transnationalism than labor and family migrants because migrants who have fled large-scale violence attempt to avoid involvement with the country of origin [5, page 879] or will limit their transnational activities to political resistance against the system from which they have fled [7, pages 150-154]. On the other hand, others maintain that refugees do not differ as remarkably from labor and family migrants regarding their social, cultural, and economic transnational activities as is generally assumed [8, 9], although Bloch [9] also finds that refugees are politically more active transnationally than other types of migrants. Hence, it is disputed whether or not transnationalism of refugees differs fundamentally from that of labor and family migrants.

Our aim is to examine the significance of migration motive for the transnationalism of Burundian asylum seekers who have not had much time to settle as a migrant community in The Netherlands. …

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