‘Belonging Beyond Borders’ research

Jessica Muir, CAMHS Practitioner has been presenting her research on ‘Belonging Beyond Borders: an exploration of young refugees relationships to spaces and places‘ at various forums including the Tavistock Centre Refugee Workshop and University Campus Suffolk 

A review of existing literature found a paucity of research regarding the role of place and space on the psychological experiences of young separated refugees. This is despite the fact that young refugees are exiled from places that are familiar to them and upon seeking asylum are likely to encounter new alienating places.

Given the lack of research, the present study aimed to explore young separated refugees’ relationships to the spaces that they inhabit and the consequences of these. The study used a social constructionist critical realist epistemological framework to thematically analyse transcripts of six semi-structured interviews carried out with young male separated refugees. The participants are between the ages of 19 and 23 and arrived in London no less than five years ago.

Through the analysis, which was grounded in participants’ own accounts of their relationships to space, four main themes emerged. These themes revealed that young refugees feel frustrated and bound in bureaucratic settings. However, they also revealed the rich range of therapeutic support that certain community spaces can offer. The importance of micro-spaces of belonging and embodied processes of exploration in the wider community was also shown to be psychologically beneficial. The themes illustrated the fluid, interlocking system of relations between the mind, body, environment and societal forces.

Overall, the research findings suggested that considerations of young separated refugees’ relations to place may provide alternative psychological understandings of their experiences. The findings are discussed in relation to existing literature that relates to the affect of location on young separated refugees.  Implications for policy, practice and further research are made.

For more information please e-mail Jessica@dostcentre.org


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