‘Step by step’: the role of social connections in reunited refugee families’ navigation of statutory systems
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Baillot, H., Kerlaff, L., Dakessian, A. and Strang, A. (2023) ‘“Step by step”: the role of social connections in reunited refugee families’ navigation of statutory systems’, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, pp. 1–20. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/1369183X.2023.2168633.
For asylum route refugees, the existence and persistence of structural barriers to navigating statutory systems are well-documented. Even when initial barriers are overcome, further transitions may disrupt refugees’ lives. One such is the arrival in the UK of family members from whom they had been separated during their flight from persecution. This paper draws upon data gathered using a Social Connections Mapping Tool methodology with reunited refugee families to make three contributions to the field of refugee studies. Firstly, families’ accounts of navigating statutory systems confirm the multi-directionality of integration. Refugees’ efforts to build and leverage social links proceed differentially across key statutory domains and cannot alone overcome systems barriers that require adaptation on the part of public services. Secondly, our findings contribute to scholarship that critiques the division of social relationships into categories of bonds, bridges and links, and the distinctions made between these based on ethnicity or nationality. Rather, refugees’ social relationships are more appropriately understood as a fluid continuum, with their nature and purpose subject to change. Finally, refugee families’ descriptions of settling in the UK highlight the influence of time on integration and the importance to refugees of re-building independence in a new country context.