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Altrogge, M.A. Judith

judith.altrogge [at]
+49 (0)170 – 9035908
Areas of research:
migration, return migration, migration policy, migration development nexus
Regional focus:
West Africa, esp. The Gambia
Professional experience:
Researcher, Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies (IMIS), University of Osnabrück
Researcher, Arnold-Bergstraesser-Institute, Freiburg
Assistant to the Executive, Arnold-Bergstraesser-Institute, Freiburg
Project assistant, "African Good Governance Network" (AGGN) of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Arnold-Bergstraesser-Institute, Freiburg
Research Assistant, BMBF-Nachwuchsforschungsprojekt "Universality and Acceptance Potential of Social Science Knowledges: On the Circulation of Knowledge between Europe and the Global South", University of Freiburg
since 2017
PhD candidate, University of Basel (until 2020)/ University of Osnabrück (since 2020)
MA Sociology and Cultural Anthropology, University of Freiburg

“Remigration aspirations after state-induced return: Which differentiations can we (not) make out?”. DeZIM Conference, Berlin, 7 October 2022.

“’The government would become an enemy of the people’: The Gambian government’s refusal to accept deportation from Europe and the role of transnational social activism”. Point Sud Workshop “Struggles for ‘democracy’ in Africa before and during the pandemic - Encounters from the Global North and South”, Dakar/online, 19 November 2021.

“West African Women in Intercontinental Migration: Gendered agency of female Gambian ‘backway’ migrants” (with Sait Jaw and Helen Schwenken). DeZIM Workshop “Intersektionale Perspektiven in der Migrations- und Integrationsforschung”, 11 November 2021.

“Gambian and Senegalese associations in Germany: Integration and transnationalism in times of growing migrant communities” (mit Julia Stier und Hamza Safouane). 18th Annual IMISCOE Conference, 09 July 2021.

“Bringing AVRR-(in)voluntariness into deportation studies through a longitudinal multi-sited comparative research approach”, 18th Annual IMISCOE Conference, 08 July 2021.

“Reinterpretation of a Moratorium: The Gambian Ban on Deportations and the question of State Sovereignty”, wth Zanker, F., 18th Annual IMISCOE Conference, 08 July 2021.

“Deportation to Development. Exploring linkages between forced return and development cooperation in the Gambia”, 3rd Annual Conference of the German Network for Forced Migration Studies, 18 August 2020.



Ph.D. Thesis
Working title:
Structure and Agency in Return Migration. Assisted return to the Gambia and its socio-political effects.

Judith examines the relationship of migration regime structures and socio-political consequences of ‘assisted voluntary return’ from Germany to the Gambia. In particular, she is interested in how far the interplay of return program implementation and migrant experiences trigger political positionings and participation among returnees.

‘Assisted voluntary return’ programmes have significantly gained in importance as an alternative, potentially more humane and effective tool to deportation for unwanted migrants. Voluntary return is also increasingly linked to tackling ‘root causes of irregular migration’. In the best case, the returnee and even the origin country profit from the return support programme. However, little research exists on the actual outcomes of ‘assisted voluntary return’ initiatives. In her work, Judith empirically challenges the assumption of a ‘trilpe-win’ solution, by looking at how aware migrants actually are of the political concepts, and how their experiences influence their perceptions of, relations to and positionings towards the political sphere with regard to national and transnational political actors.

The Gambia is a unique opportunity to study the interlinkage of return migration and development efforts. The smallest and least populous state on the African mainland, the Gambia faces major political and social transformations. A democratic election led the country out of a 22-year long dictatorship in the beginning of 2017. International actors are re-establishing support mechanisms and offer wide-ranging assistance to the new government. Simultaneously, due to resolved political asylum claims, pressure increases on the Gambian asylum seekers in Europe which had left the continent irregularly in high numbers during the last five years. However, in the Gambia, prospects have not significantly changed, and societal pressure is high for them to remain in Europe, creating tension and carrying conflict potential for return migrants.

First supervisor: Prof. Dr. Helen Schwenken (University of Osnabrück), second supervisor: Prof. Dr. Andreas Mehler (University of Freiburg)

Selected Publications

2022. with Zanker, F. Protective Exclusion as a Postcolonial Strategy: Rethinking Deportations and Sovereignty in The Gambia. In: Security Dialogue 53(5).

2020. with Auer, D. Zurück ins Herkunftsland? Warum eine 'geringe Bleibeperspektive' für Asylsuchende aus Gambia kein Grund zur Rückkehr ist. DeZIMinutes Nr. 2.

2019. with Zanker, F. The Political Economy of Migration Governance in the Gambia. Freiburg: Arnold-Bergstraesser-Institut.

2019. with Zanker, F., Arhin-Sam, K., and Jegen, L. Challenges in EU-African Migration Cooperation: West African Perspectives on Forced Return. MEDAM Policy Brief 2019/5, December 2019.

2019. mit Zanker, F. „Political Stakes of Return: From Diaspora to Libyan Transit Returnees”, in: International Migration57(4).

2018. Gambische Diaspora in Deutschland. Eschborn: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

2017. mit Zanker, F. "The politics of migration governance. ABI Pilote Study"  Freiburg: Arnold-Bergstraesser-Institut.