Tahrib – "A shortcut through hell". A mobile view on risk taking on the journey north from the Horn of Africa
‘Illegalised travellers’ from the Horn of Africa often only become visible after they enter the territory of the European Union. The experience of migrants ‘en-route’ and the fact that before seeking their way to the European Union some have lived for years in refugee camps or neighbouring countries in the Global South, often remains in the dark. This research looks at the journeys of travellers from the Horn of Africa. The Somali respondent referred to this journey as, Tahrib. They described it as becoming mobile and navigating thereby through dangerous pastures, to be able to create a better future.
The focus of this project, therefore, was put on the question of, what mobile and immobile externalities and what risks are shaping the journey north from the Horn of Africa towards the ‘better life’ and how do those (from the Horn of Africa) affected by these movements assess the risks connected to the journeys. To answer this question, a qualitative empirical study was conducted in Nakivale Refugee Settlement and Kampala (Uganda) with prospective travellers and their communities, as well as in Germany and Switzerland with former travellers and activists from the Horn of Africa.
The experience and knowledge of the participants were thereby put into the centre of the research. With the help of three narrations guiding through the different phases of the journey, I could carve out the interconnected risks, mobilities and immobilities shaping each other as well as the journey as it unfolds. This way, the highly complex and extremely violent journey could be analysed. By that, it became evident that many do not leave their countries of origin with the intention of going to Europe. This decision is often made afterwards, influenced by other mobilities and the disappointment over the conditions in neighbouring countries and the global refugee protection system. The decisions are usually taken despite the knowledge of the risks of the journeys. Risk is here recognised in terms of dangers as well as in possibilities (Bastide 2015). This way, risk-taking could be understood as taking your chance in life. Becoming-mobile has then an instrumental value (Carling 2014). It functions to improve the living situation and to take an active role in once own life, trying to reach the ‘better situation’ waiting at the end of ‘the shortcut through hell'.