‘The library is like a mother’: Arrival infrastructures and migrant newcomers in East London

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Abstract It is often assumed that migrants settle into contexts populated by national majorities or co-ethnics. Yet, new migrants often move into ‘arrival areas’, sites settled by earlier migrants of various backgrounds. Such arrival areas can typically be found at the margins of ‘arrival cities’ which have seen immigration (and emigration) over many decades. Past movements bequeath a wealth of ‘arrival infrastructures’, consisting of institutions, organisations, social spaces, and actors which specifically facilitate arrival. These include, for example, shops as information hubs, religious sites, language classes, and hairdressers established by people with migration backgrounds. This article looks at the interactions and transfer of knowledge and resources between long-established migrants and more recent newcomers through arrival infrastructures and within a marginalised urban area. By drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in East London (UK) and using the example of two recently arrived female migrants, it investigates how newcomers access settlement information and the role played by arrival infrastructures in this process. It specifically focuses on newcomers who arrive with few social contacts and for whom physically visible arrival infrastructures like libraries and shops are particularly relevant. The article aims to open up debate about arrival infrastructures, their manifestation in different urban contexts, and their relation to both new forms of solidarity and new and ongoing forms of exploitation between long-established residents and newcomers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172–189
Number of pages18
JournalMigration Studies
Issue number2
Early online date5 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This work was supported by the International Inequalities Institute (III), London School of Economics and Political Sciences. Part of the writing-up period was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council [Grant Ref. ES/T015810/1].


  • migration
  • arrival infrastructures
  • integration
  • newcomers
  • inclusion
  • exclusion

Institute themes

  • Migration, Displacement and Belonging
  • Equality and Inclusion


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