Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Exploring children's experiences of migration

Focusing on the experiences of child migrants is relatively new. Our most recent research briefing, written by Dr Samantha Punch, Dr Philomena de Lima and Prof Ann Whitehead explores the impact of children's migration on family relationships.

The briefing highlights the main themes which emerged from the CRFR seminar, 'Exploring Children's Relationships across Majority and Minority Worlds'. It is evident that children do experience migration in very unique ways. How child migrants are labelled, for example, can have a profound impact on the services and legal protections they are entitled to receive, as well as how their migration experiences are reflected in research and policy agendas. Consider the differences in support offered to child refugees and 'looked after' children for instance.

Children do have a role in the decision-making process that affects their migration, but it is a complex process, and their ability to make independent choices may be constrained by a number of factors. Parents and family members will play a part for many, but societal factors such as labour markets, poverty rates, educational opportunities as well as peers and other social networks may influence decisions in various ways.

And similarly, the context of why the migration is taking place and the status of the people involved continues to shape experiences for children after they have arrived in their destination communities. Staying within communities with friends or relatives from origin communities can provide a protective element for children, helping them to settle into unknown environments . Such social networks can be closed to other child migrants, however, so that institutional links play a much more prominent part in their early experiences. Young separated asylum seekers for example, whose status is contingent on fleeing conflict have to demonstrate 'family absence' so that any social relations remain in the imaginary. Arriving in more homogenous communities, such as the Scottish Highlands, can be equally as difficult for children, particularly when their accents, language and appearance can make them more visible.

The seminar highlighted the need for further research to fully explore the impact of migration on the relationships children have with their families. In particular cross-cultural comparative studies and reserach capturing longer time spacs will be key to understanding the emotional impacts of separation and the changing experiences for both children and families.

Read the full  briefing on our website: Exploring children's experiences of migration: movement and family relationships.

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