Volume 34 - Article 21 | Pages 587–614  

Transnational relationships and reunification: Ghanaian couples between Ghana and Europe

By Kim Caarls, Valentina Mazzucato


Background: The ability of couples to migrate together or to reunify in the destination country is increasingly limited because family reunification laws are becoming more stringent, especially for those moving from the Global South to the North. However, little is known regarding migrants’ reunification behavior.

Objective: We examine the prevalence of couples living-apart-together-across-borders (LATAB), the duration of their separation, and under which conditions they remain transnational or reunify in the destination country.

Methods: Using data from the MAFE-Ghana project, we focus on LATAB couples among Ghanaian migrants living in the Netherlands and the UK (n=291). Event history analyses are used to examine the probability of reunification. We consider characteristics of the migrant, the left-behind spouse, their relationship, and the receiving country context.

Results: Couples remain separated for extended periods of time. Just over half of the couples in the Netherlands and the UK reunified: approximately half did not. Reunification is less likely in the Netherlands than the U.K. and is less likely since 2004, when reunification policies became stricter. Spouse’s education is a significant factor in explaining reunification, but, surprisingly, legal status is not. Being able to maintain transnational ties through short return visits increases the likelihood of LATAB.

Conclusions: Findings reveal that LATAB relationships are a common, long-term arrangement among Ghanaian migrants.

Comments: These results emphasize the relevance of including partner characteristics at both origin and destination. Furthermore, comparing two destination countries shows that destination country context is important in understanding migrants’ decisions to live transnationally or reunify.

Author's Affiliation

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