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Disrupted migration projects: the moral economy of involuntary return to Ghana from Libya

Abstract
Abstract

This article contributes to the theorization of involuntary return and moral economies in the context of economic crisis and vulnerability prompted by restrictive migration regimes and conflicts. Drawing on fieldwork in a rural town in Ghana where international labour migration is an established livelihood, it analyses deportations from North Africa, Israel and Europe and emergency return from Libya following the civil war in 2011. The article argues that return to the home town, rather than being detained or stuck en route, constitutes a particular context precisely because migrants face family and community expectations upon their return. Involuntary return constitutes a disruption of migration projects when migrants return empty-handed, going from being remitters to burdens for their families. This creates conflicts and disappointments within family and the local community, especially in relation to norms of provision and gender ideals. The paper highlights three effects of the moral economy of involuntary return. First, that involuntary return does not constitute a priori termination of migration, as many involuntary return migrants migrate again, often in high-risk ways. Second, it discusses the ambivalence of reciprocity and interdependency in families. And third, it shows how involuntary return challenges dominant ideals of masculinity.

Résumé

Cet article contribue à la théorisation du retour forcé et des économies morales dans le contexte de crise économique et de vulnérabilité entraîné par des régimes de migration restrictifs et des conflits. S'appuyant sur des travaux menés dans une ville rurale du Ghana où la migration de main-d’œuvre internationale est une économie établie, il analyse des expulsions d'Afrique du Nord, d'Israël et d'Europe, et le retour d'urgence de Libye à la suite de la guerre civile en 2011. L'article soutient que le retour à la ville d'origine, plutôt que d’être détenu ou bloqué en chemin, constitue un contexte particulier qui tient précisément au fait que les migrants sont confrontés aux attentes de la famille et de la communauté à leur retour. Le retour forcé constitue une perturbation dans les projets de migration lorsque les migrants retournent dépourvus, passant du statut de soutien de famille à celui de personne à charge. Ceci crée des conflits et des déceptions au sein de la famille et de la communauté locale, notamment concernant les normes d'apport et les idéaux de genre. L'article souligne trois effets de l’économie morale du retour forcé. Premièrement, que le retour forcé ne met pas un terme à la migration a priori, puisque de nombreux migrants forcés au retour migrent de nouveau, souvent dans des conditions à haut risque. Deuxièmement, il traite de l'ambivalence de la réciprocité et de l'interdépendance dans les familles. Et troisièmement, il montre comment le retour forcé remet en cause des idéaux dominants de masculinité.

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