Better Off at Home? Rethinking Responses to Trafficked West African Footballers in Europe

Esson, James: Better Off at Home? Rethinking Responses to Trafficked West African Footballers in Europe, in: Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 0 (0), 0, S. 1–19.

The association between the football industry and the trafficking of West African youth has captivated academic, media and political interest. This article uses football trafficking as a case study to think through the broader conception of mobile African male bodies in football migration and trafficking discourses. I contribute to and move beyond existing literature on African football migration by stepping away from structural approaches currently used to conceptualise this migratory process. This is achieved by bringing migrants’ subjectivities to the fore, and in doing so I also provide a novel critique of policy responses to irregular football migration. The article draws on data obtained from migrants who left West Africa for Europe, exploring the journeys these would-be footballers took, and their trajectories and circumstances after arrival. The central argument is that existing policy responses frame irregular football migrants as being ‘better off at home’. Problematically this creates a tension as for many of these migrants their country of origin is precisely where they do not want to be. Consequently, many remain in destination countries illegally without any means of subsistence.

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