Chasing the European Dream: Unaccompanied African Youths’ Educational Experience in a Canary Islands’ Reception Centre and Beyond


  • Valérie Auger-Voyer University of Amsterdam
  • Martha Montero-Sieburth University of Amsterdam
  • Lidia Cabrera Perez Universidad de La Laguna



youth, immigration, migration, intercultural education


In the last two decades, Spain’s Canary Islands have received thousands of undocumented migrants arriving by boat from the coasts of North and West Africa. The sharp increase of unaccompanied minors has presented a particular challenge, as these minors fall under the State’s protection system and are entitled to an education and other rights, once in Spain. What economic and socio-cultural factors push these youth to seek a better life whilst endangering their own? What educational opportunities are available to them in Spain and how can these propel them into secure living situations? What can be said about their integration prospects?

This ethnographic study, based on field research carried out in a reception centre for unaccompanied minors in Tenerife, focuses on the youth’s migration trajectories, and on the extent to which the education and support they receive in Spain relates to their socio-economic integration into European society and beyond. The findings reveal that although the centre provides the youth with a window of opportunity to be in Spain and gain an education, the ambiguousness of their legal situation brought about by immigration policies once they have left the centre, is not conducive to their leading a stable and productive life in the current context.


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Author Biographies

Valérie Auger-Voyer, University of Amsterdam

Valérie Auger-Voyer holds a graduate degree from the University of Amsterdam, with a specialization in Sociology of Migration and Ethnic Studies. Her research interests include unaccompanied migrant children, asylum seekers and migrant workers. Her academic work has been presented at the American Educational Research Association, the International Association for Intercultural Education and the University of Amsterdam. Having lived in several countries and worked in International development and humanitarian aid, she continues to assist vulnerable populations through her work in the community sector in Canada.

Martha Montero-Sieburth, University of Amsterdam

Martha Montero-Sieburth is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences and a lecturer at the Graduate School of Social Sciences of the University of Amsterdam and at Amsterdam University College. She is a multicultural, international, and intercultural educator, whose research and publications in the U. S. have been on Latinos including Mexicans in New England. In Latin America, she has worked closely with indigenous populations and with issues of bilingualism, and in Europe, she has studied Latin Americans in Spain, second generation Dutch Turkish high school students in the Netherlands and Mexicans in the Netherlands. She has published articles in these fields in English and Spanish and has co-edited  Latinos in a Changing Society (with Edwin Melendez, Greenwood Publishers, 2007), Making Invisible Latino Adolescents Visible: A Critical Approach to Latino Diversity (with Francisco Villarruel, Routledge, 1999), and The Struggle of a New Paradigm: Qualitative Research in Latin America (with Gary L. Anderson, Garland Press, 1998). 

Lidia Cabrera Perez, Universidad de La Laguna

Lidia Cabrera Perez holds a PhD in Educational Science. She is a permanent lecturer of research methods and diagnostics in education at the University of La Laguna, Spain. She teaches psycho-pedagogy, assessment and evaluation in education at the graduate level, and she is the director of teachers’ training at the master’s level. She is a researcher of the University of La Laguna’s education faculty’s doctoral program. Her research and publications focus on higher education underperformance and dropouts, and intercultural education. She has collaborated with many universities, among which the University of Lisbon, Portugal, the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, the University of Massachusetts, USA, and the Instituto Politécnico, Costa Rica. 




How to Cite

Auger-Voyer, V., Montero-Sieburth, M., & Cabrera Perez, L. (2014). Chasing the European Dream: Unaccompanied African Youths’ Educational Experience in a Canary Islands’ Reception Centre and Beyond. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 22, 76.