Cross-state mobility of European naturalised third-country nationals

David Sarpong, Mairi Maclean, Joseph Ebot Ewong

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Drawing on a framework that integrates discursive practices and relationalism, we explore the relevance of relational ties for the cross-state mobility of naturalised third-country nationals (NTCNs) within the European Union (EU); examining how relational ties facilitate their mobility to the United Kingdom. Our data derive from in-depth interviews with NTCNs of West-African origin living and working in the UK. Emphasising how co-ethnic diaspora-based networks produce (un)planned cross-state mobility outcomes, we identify five stages in the mobility process: sensemaking of an imperfect structural incorporation in the naturalised country, co-ethnic diaspora conversations, squaring circles, reconnaissance visits, and taking the plunge. Our study reveals how shared collective identities are replicated in transnational networks to inform mobility decisions. Although West-African NTCNs may lack the social and cultural capital needed to exploit opportunities in industrialized societies, relationally they are well endowed. The geographically extended relational capital they bring with them, and the access to opportunities this affords, we suggest, helps compensate for deficits in situated social capital and constitutes a primary determinant of success in cross-state mobility.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5
Pages (from-to)50-69
Number of pages20
JournalEuropean Urban and Regional Studies
Issue number1
Early online date2 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • Cross-state mobility
  • Sustainability
  • European Union
  • Naturalised third-country nationals
  • Relationalism, social practice, West African migrants
  • Social practice
  • West African migrants


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