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This paper addresses the subject of immobility, an often-neglected dimension in migration studies. It begins with a critical exploration of how the migration literature theorises non-migrants and organises the explanations for immobility offered therein. The concept of ‘acquiescent immobility’ is introduced to highlight the existence of non-migration preferences regardless of capability constraints. This paper argues that exploring the preference to stay, especially among poorer populations who stand much to gain economically from migrating, reveals the non-economic motivations that influence migration decision-making processes. Drawing on quantitative and qualitative data from the EUMAGINE project in Senegal, the demographic characteristics of young adults who do not aspire to migrate are examined, followed by an exploration of their perceptions of migration and motivations for staying. This paper finds that the preference to stay is generally positively related to being married and having children and negatively related to having only primary level education, while gender, age, household financial situation and rural/urban settings are not in themselves significant predictors of the preference to stay for young adults. In-depth interviews reveal the motivations behind these preferences. These include ‘retaining’ factors like the desire to be among family and loved ones, to live in a religious environment with spiritual values, the love of Senegal and the desire to contribute to its development, as well as ‘repelling’ narratives about the difficulties of life for migrants, especially undocumented, in Europe.



Working paper


International Migration Institute

Publication Date




Total pages



migration, aspirations, immobility, decision-making, Senegal