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Visiting friends and relatives and its links with international migration: a three-way comparison of migrants in the UK

posted on 2023-06-09, 06:15 authored by Russell King, Aija Lulle, Dorothea Mueller, Zana Vathi
Our purpose in this paper is to explore the various types of interrelationship between two mobility forms – migration on the one hand, and visiting friends and relatives ‘back home’ (and maybe elsewhere) on the other. The link between visiting friends and relatives (VFR) and migration has until recently been overlooked by migration scholars. It was essentially the 1990s ‘transnational turn’ in migration studies which highlighted more explicitly the to-and-fro mobilities that migrants engaged in with their homelands. Fast and cheap air travel has facilitated this intense VFR mobility. Taking a wider view, we argue that VFR travel is not a marginal aspect of migrants’ lives but is in fact constitutive of contemporary migration and diaspora dynamics. The first part of the paper maps out a typology of the multiple linkages between VFR travel and international migration; this is a complex task given the variety both of forms of migration and of types of VFR mobility. From this we aim to reconceptualise VFR travel as an essential element of most migration, and to draw out some of the economic and personal power geometries implicated in diverse forms of VFR travel and capability. We then examine three contrasting case-studies of VFR patterns amongst three different migrant groups in the United Kingdom: young Germans who are back-and-forth ‘free movers’ traversing shallow cultural and economic barriers to enjoy what they perceive as an exciting and cosmopolitan life in London; Kosovan refugees whose return visits were initially constrained by their exile status but whose VFR travels have since taken on a touristic aspect; and Latvian labour migrants in Guernsey whose to-and-fro mobility is partly driven by family ties and partly constrained by economic factors and the residence and housing restrictions on this Channel Island.


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Malmö University

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  • Geography Publications


Willy Brandt Working Papers in International Migration and Ethnic Relations No. 4/13


Malmö University

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