Refugee and asylum-seeking children and their families: exploring processes of ‘integration’ within a dispersal area

Stobbart, George (2022) Refugee and asylum-seeking children and their families: exploring processes of ‘integration’ within a dispersal area. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

Text (Doctoral thesis)
stobbart.george_phd(97800975).pdf - Submitted Version

Download (2MB) | Preview


The dispersal of asylum seekers to locations outside of the South East of England was an outcome of the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act. This thesis examines the barriers and opportunities for refugee and asylum seeker children aged 6- 10 years and their families to achieve social, cultural, and economic inclusion into a North East town. The starting point of this thesis was to focus upon children, but this was expanded to include the experiences and perceptions of their parents who influence and can shape how children experience of settlement into the locality.
There is a volume of research on refugees and asylum seekers ‘integration’ into the UK, however, these tend to be in located in multicultural spaces. This study presents an original contribution to research as it focuses upon children’s and their family’s experiences of ‘settlement’ in a socially disadvantaged and predominantly white working-class town within the North of England.
This research coincided with an emerging political and policy landscape of an anti-immigration and hostile environment that was reflected in the results of the EU referendum. This research captures some of these tensions that impact upon recent patterns of forms of interactions. However, this study deconstructs the vague concept of ‘integration’ from the experiences of the refugees and asylum seekers in this study and offers an alternative notion of ‘settlement’ as a process of ‘home making’ and the beginning of new life in a new country.
The processes of settlement are interrogated through use of the theoretical tools of Bourdieu’s habitus, fields, and capitals, together with Putnam’s notions of social capital and Goffman’s ‘presentation of self’.
The fieldwork was carried out between 2015 and 2018. This included semi structured interviews with children using the medium of their own drawings to prompt discussion. Parents were also interviewed separately or alongside their children. Data was also gathered through the researcher’s observer/participant role at a Refugee and Asylum Seeker Drop-In Service.
A reflexive approach to research was applied so to be responsive to the ethical challenges of research with children, and their families. This was needed to negotiate the complex cultural and family practices that shaped opportunities and barriers to forms of a sense of belonging and settlement.
The study found that refugee and asylum seeker families have educational values and aspirations that are reflective of other British middle-class families. This was explored in the biographical aspects of cultural capital that they brought from their country of origin. For examples interviewees adopted a long-term, strategic approach to their children’s education despite their temporal status as non-UK citizens.
Refugee and Asylum seeker children developed relationships exclusively with local working-class children through school settings. Whilst parents were more likely to develop friendships and contacts with middle class volunteers of mostly Christian denomination. This study found that refugee and asylum seeker adult’s contact and interactions with working class adult neighbours was complex including examples of individual acts of support and care, but also examples of racially motivated symbolic and physical violence.
The work concludes that despite the traumatic experiences of forced migration the refugee and asylum seeker families maintained high aspirations and optimism for their children’s future in the UK. Furthermore, the study found that children are adaptable and perform and develop multiple identities to gain acceptance from their peers. The middle class orientated cultural capital and optimism of refugees and asylum seekers families should be of interest to policy makers, however, the hostile anti-immigration policy environment, both within the locality and wider society, remains a stubborn barrier to social, cultural, and economic forms of belonging and settlement.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Settlement, Friendship, Education, Identity, Policy
Subjects: L300 Sociology
L900 Others in Social studies
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Social Sciences
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: Rachel Branson
Date Deposited: 21 Jul 2022 10:24
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2022 10:30

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics