When the Dust Settles: Exploring the Lived Experience of Refugee Families after Reunion


Project status: Current

Funded by: British Academy Innovation Fellowships Scheme

When the Dust Settles aims at understanding the lived experience of refugee families one or more years after the arrival of relatives through the process of family reunion in the UK. Increasing knowledge in this area will fill a gap in the refugee studies literature and simultaneously address some of the limitations faced by organisations that wish to provide support in this important but less understood life stage of refugee families, subsequent to the better documented period that immediately follows reunion. We use participatory audio-visual and narrative methods to co-create spaces of trust where in-depth knowledge of diverse and complex realities that often lies unarticulated can be uncovered. With this approach, we recognise that forced migration, as a pressing global concern, requires an ethical and creative way of holistically exploring and understanding people’s needs, focusing on their capacity as knowledge holders and sharers. It requires, too, the production of a powerful counternarrative to the current political focus on reinforcing border control. By combining oral narratives with audio-visual methods, we will therefore be able to co-create a space for transformative possibilities and social justice, in a research context that will ultimately be more accessible, impactful, and have a broader reach.

Project Team:

Maria Abranches (PI)

Nihaya Jaber

Project Partner – Together Now

When the Dust Settles Film

The Project

There are currently 8,000 refugees in the UK waiting for decisions on their family reunion applications. Forced migration and the traumatic consequences of separation, as well as of the obstacles to the reunification process, are well documented, as are the most immediate needs of families, once reunited. The longer-term lived experience of reunited refugee families, in contrast, is poorly understood, despite recognition that family reunion is not the end of a journey, but the beginning of another long road for families to be able to settle and build their lives in the UK, free from persecution. When the Dust Settles is a participatory, mixed media research project that addresses this research gap, by examining the ongoing challenges reunited refugee families face after their first year together in their new home.

Created by Dr Maria Abranches (School of International Development, UEA) and Amy Lythgoe (Together Now), and supported by a British Academy Innovation Fellowship, When the Dust Settles recognises the families’ key role in the project as knowledge-holders and sharers. The project therefore adopted a participatory ethnographic approach and used narrative interviews and participant-led photography to understand people’s post-reunion lived experience. The documentary was co-written with the participant families in order to give voice to the concerns and themes they wanted to share.

While the stories that were shared reveal incredible resilience and the strategies adopted to make sense of the changes that occur in life away from persecution, they also demonstrate that many of the challenges faced after arrival still persist and that new ones are encountered along the way.

Find out more about the project at https://www.ueasanctuary.org/when-the-dust-settles-research-project/ 

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