Relational interdependencies and the intra-EU mobility of African European Citizens

David Sarpong*, Mairi Maclean, Charles Harvey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How can we better understand the puzzle of low-skilled migrants who have acquired citizenship in a European Union country, often with generous social security provision, choosing to relocate to the United Kingdom? Drawing on Elias’s figurational theory as a lens, we explore how relational interdependencies foster the mobility of low-skilled African European Citizens from European Union states to the United Kingdom. We found that African European Citizens rely on ‘piblings networks’, loose affiliations of putative relatives, to compensate for deficits in their situated social capital, facilitating relocation. The temporary stability afforded by impermanent bonds and transient associations, in constant flux in migrant communities, does not preclude integration but paradoxically promotes it by enabling an ease of connection and disconnection. Our study elucidates how these relational networks offer African European Citizens opportunities to achieve labour market integration, exercise self-efficacy, and realize desired futures; anchoring individuals in existing communities even when they are perpetually transforming.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)200-232
Number of pages33
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number2
Early online date7 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

Copyright © The Author(s), 2023. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Lficense ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (


  • African European Citizens
  • Elias
  • inclusion
  • interdependencies
  • migration
  • relational networks
  • self-efficacy


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