Refugee integration and family reunification: The impact of 'the deserving mother' in the context of the UK and Denmark

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Social Science


In 2016, an EU proposal to better protect refugees stated that there is a direct link between family reunification, mental health and successful integration. According to UNCHR, when families are separated, they find it more difficult to learn the local language, find employment and create local networks. Despite numerous European governments acknowledging the importance of family reunification in integration processes, little is known about how these reunified families negotiate access to welfare support, and by extension to integration, in a migration milieu that is structurally configured to exclude them. Migration research often views mothers as transmitting traditional, ethnically specific values and cultural resources to their children, and their role as either hindering or aiding their children's integration is usually the key focus of policy-makers. The aim of this project is to examine and understand, through a comparative analysis of the UK and Denmark - two welfare regimes with converging immigration policies - the integration processes of reunified families through the lens of the refugee mother. Drawing on anthropological and interdisciplinary approaches
in the field of migration and gender studies, this study will examine how refugee mothers negotiate deservingness to welfare services and how they may challenge, change and impact on the integration processes through new forms of community and everyday practices of belonging. By taking the refugee mothers as the ethnographic point of departure, I will explore how interrelated understandings of motherhood, mothering and family are negotiated in 'welfare micropublics' (Berg et al. 2019) with advocates and street-level bureaucrats, and within the refugee families. The bringing together of the motherhood and family reunification scholarships will provide a unique insight into not only the experiences of refugee women but also the kind of policies that might better support an inclusive integration.


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