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Refugees often find themselves in a protracted situation of temporariness, as applications for asylum are processed, deportations negotiated and possible extensions of temporary protection status considered within the context of increasingly restrictive governmental policies across Europe. Through the case of a young Sri Lankan woman who arrived in Denmark as an ‘unaccompanied asylum-seeking minor’ and spent five years within the Danish asylum system, this article explores how she experienced moving through different legal categories and the institutional settings associated with them. I argue that, by engaging in social relations in the localities where she was situated, she developed places of belonging that could serve as ‘anchoring points’ providing some measure of stability in her otherwise unpredictable and precarious life situation. This case suggests that, even under conditions of protracted temporariness and legal uncertainty, individuals are able to create important anchoring points and develop communities of belonging that can serve them in a difficult process of belonging to Denmark.
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Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
ISSN: 1369-183X (Print) 1469-9451 (Online) Journal homepage:
Communities of belonging in the temporariness
of the Danish Asylum System: Shalini’s anchoring
Andrea Verdasco
To cite this article: Andrea Verdasco (2018): Communities of belonging in the temporariness of
the Danish Asylum System: Shalini’s anchoring points, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies,
DOI: 10.1080/1369183X.2018.1443393
To link to this article:
Published online: 27 Feb 2018.
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Communities of belonging in the temporariness of the Danish
Asylum System: Shalinis anchoring points
Andrea Verdasco
Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
Refugees often find themselves in a protracted situation of
temporariness, as applications for asylum are processed,
deportations negotiated and possible extensions of temporary
protection status considered within the context of increasingly
restrictive governmental policies across Europe. Through the case
of a young Sri Lankan woman who arrived in Denmark as an
unaccompanied asylum-seeking minorand spent five years
within the Danish asylum system, this article explores how she
experienced moving through different legal categories and the
institutional settings associated with them. I argue that, by
engaging in social relations in the localities where she was
situated, she developed places of belonging that could serve as
anchoring pointsproviding some measure of stability in her
otherwise unpredictable and precarious life situation. This case
suggests that, even under conditions of protracted temporariness
and legal uncertainty, individuals are able to create important
anchoring points and develop communities of belonging that can
serve them in a difficult process of belonging to Denmark.
Received 27 September 2017
Accepted 18 February 2018
Unaccompanied minor;
asylum; belonging;
community; anchoring point
Sandholm asylum centre, November 2015: Shalini and I greet each other at the Red Cross
office for the legal guardians of unaccompanied minors. Located in the largest asylum
centre in Denmark, it is less than an hours commute to Copenhagen and a few yards
from the Immigration Servicesoffice where unaccompanied asylum-seeking minorsare
interviewed. We are having tea while waiting for Thomas, Shalinis former legal guardian,
to pick her up to take her to the interview, which will be her last chance to be granted the
right to stay in Denmark. Shalini has long thick dark hair that goes all the way down to
her waist. She normally covers it under a hijab when in public spaces, but today this is
not the case. Thomas told me it would be better if I dont wear it for the interview, she clari-
fies after I enquire. We wait chatting as different young unaccompaniedboys and girls are
being called to their interviews or to be transported back to their asylum centres.
a young Sri Lankan woman, arrived in Denmark alone at the age of 16. Being
under age and without her parents, she entered the Danish asylum system through the
legal category of unaccompanied asylum-seeking minor. At the time of her last interview
she had been living in Denmark for over ve years, initially as an unaccompanied minor,
and later as a rejected asylum-seeker. The interview she was waiting for would determine
© 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
CONTACT Andrea Verdasco
whether she would be granted the right to stay in Denmark. This new chance was not
based on her asylum claim, as the Danish authorities had rejected her case on the basis
that she could safely return to Sri Lanka, but on the possibility that, after several years
in Denmark, she might have developed a stronger attachment to Denmark than to her
home country.
For the Danish authorities, the notion of attachmentis measured using a set of criteria
that focus on whether the young applicant has become well-integrated into Danish society.
As an immigration officer responsible for deciding such cases explained when comment-
ing on the general rules and procedures of how to assess attachmentin individual cases:
What we are looking for is, among other things, the childs attachment to Denmark com-
pared to the childs attachment to their home country. This could include how long they
have been in Denmark, if they developed close ties to people here, if they have been going
to school, learning Danish, studying, working, and how active they have been in the
Danish community. This is then set in comparison to their network and attachment in
their home country. The right to stay after such an evaluation is an exception and not a rule.
Shalini was an exception in that she complied with the criteria for this last chance to be
interviewed and potentially belong to Denmark.
For the Danish authorities, attachmentconcerns belonging to a particular nation-
state: Denmark. National attachment, like national belonging, are both concepts based
on a national orderideology where it is assumed that human beings belong to a particular
territorial entity corresponding to a national community (Rytter 2013). However, the
notion of attachmentopens up the possibility that this national belonging may be dis-
rupted when individuals move to another territorial entity and begin to develop social
ties within this other nation-state, to the extent that they may gradually form a greater
attachment to this national community. In this article, I will move beyond this under-
standing of national belonging and gradual attachment by examining, through an
extended case study of Shalinis everyday practices and narratives, how young asylum-
seekers who live in protracted asylum may develop different communities of belonging
in the uncertainty and temporality of their situations. I will argue that, in such situations
of temporariness and confinement to legal categories of marginality, it is difficult to form a
progressively strong attachment to Danish society through social relations with particular
individuals and ties to educational institutions and workplaces. Rather, due to their uncer-
tain and marginal position, such refugees attach themselves to different anchoring points
that become the basis of shifting communities of belonging in a new society. I thus con-
tribute with new insights on the relation between belonging and temporality among young
asylum-seekers at a time when protracted temporariness is becoming increasingly
common within the asylum and refugee systems in Denmark and beyond.
This article is based on 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork carried out in Denmark
between January 2015 and August 2016 when I followed the life trajectories of young
asylum-seekers and refugees who were on the boundaries of the legal category of the
unaccompanied asylum-seeking minor. Some were close to turning 18, many were
assessed as being 18 or above after going through a biometric age test, and others had
arrived underage and turned 18 after living in Denmark for a few years, as was the case
for Shalini. They were also at different stages in their asylum-seeking process, some as
asylum-seekers, others as rejected asylum-seekers and yet others as refugees with
temporary residence. This legal in-betweennesshighlights the significance of temporari-
ness and allows me to examine the lived experience of young refugees and asylum-seekers
in between life-stages, between childhood and adulthood, and related asylum-ascribed cat-
egories (cf. Sirriyeh 2010).
First, I explore how asylum-seekers and refugees have been studied through the lens of
community, identity and belonging in migration research within the literature on young
unaccompanied refugees in northern Europe. This leads me to the concept of anchoring
pointsas a way of explaining their mobile and complex ways of belonging. I then follow
Shalini from the moment she entered the asylum system in Denmark to examine how she
developed anchoring pointsgrounded in her everyday localised life as a young asylum-
seeker. My argument is that young asylum-seekers who live in protracted temporariness
construct and negotiate a sense of belonging and identity by developing different commu-
nities of belonging, which they enter and leave depending, to a large extent, on the struc-
tural parameters of the legal categories in which they are placed. These communities of
belonging are relational and situational and are created through an on-going, fluid and
dynamic process.
Situating belonging and identity
Until recent years, little research attention has been paid to belonging among young unac-
companied asylum-seekers and refugees, nor to their everyday lives and own experiences
(Wernesjö 2012), even less so for those over the age of 18 (Allsopp and Chase 2013). Of
late, however, there has been an epistemological turn where the voices of young refugees
have been brought to the fore through the lenses of identity and belonging. In Scandinavia,
Wernesjö (2015) uses the notion of conditional belongingto explore how, among other
things, unaccompanied young refugees living in group homesin rural Sweden negotiate
belonging and how their sense of belonging to Swedish society is conditional on their
acceptance by young Swedes and their housing conditions. In a comparative study of
Finland and Sweden, Kaukko and Wernesjö (2017) investigate how young asylum-
seekersand refugeesparticipation in their living units with their caregivers and other
young refugees impacts on their sense of belonging. In Britain, Wells (2011) and Wahl-
ström (2009) focus on belonging through the social relations established by unaccompa-
nied asylum-seekers and refugees living in London. Wells (2011) shows how young
asylum-seekers and refugees develop a multiplicity of social networks that included
both weakand strongties and how the former are salient in connecting refugees to
new social networks, allowing them to obtain material resources and emotional
support. Similarly, Wahlström (2009) explores the importance of social relations for
young people from the Democratic Republic of Congo in adapting to their changing cir-
cumstances in London. Also in the UK, Chase (2013) examines how young asylum-seekers
experience a sense of place, belonging and security through a projected sense of self and
argues for the need to engage with the idea of the young refugees sense of ontological
security as a key aspect of their well-being. In the Irish context, Ní Raghallaigh (2011)
investigates the role of religion as both a coping strategy for Muslim and Christian unac-
companied minors and a way to create a sense of belonging through continuity. These
studies investigate the everyday within and beyond institutional life and emphasise the sal-
ience of social relations in creating a sense of belonging in the new host societies.
This article contributes to this emerging research by focusing attention on young
asylum-seekersand refugeesown perspectives and socialities, but with a stronger focus
on the significance of the legal categories of young asylum-seekers with temporary
status. Unlike previous research, I do not focus on one particular category of unaccompa-
nied minors at a specific time and place, but rather follow the asylum life trajectory of one
individual, Shalini, in time and space as she moves through different age and asylum-
ascribed categories and associated localities. This enables me to examine the different
communities of belonging she developed through time and thus gain an understanding
of the significance and interrelationship of these communities, as her notions of place,
belonging and identity shifted in response to her changing positions in Denmark. I
suggest that the concept-metaphorof the anchoring point is useful for understanding
how Shalini was able to drop and pull anchor in and away from these communities.
Anchoring points
Communities of belonging are constructed and negotiated through social relations, which,
for young asylum-seekers, are shaped by the temporality and uncertainty of their con-
ditions of life. Researchers have argued that for people in im/mobility waiting is grounded
in different places (Conlon 2011, 355), and the construction of communities of belonging
can only be understood with an appreciation of the role that place plays in making it poss-
ible for people to develop social relations (cf. Weller 2010; Wells 2011 or Nicholls 2009).
Following these arguments, I suggest that communities are anchoredto particular places.
Thus, by developing social relations in particular localities, young asylum-seekers turn
them into places of their own, enabling them to establish a sense of belonging and identity.
These places I call anchoring pointsbecause they provide a certain stability in an other-
wise uncertain situation.
The concept-metaphor of the anchoring pointdraws on previous research on belong-
ing among refugees. Wernesjö (2014) notes that belonging is conditional and that this
conditionality is dependent on particular contexts and situations. In her study of young
refugees in Sweden, she suggests, their belonging is conditional on their acceptance by
us, the host society, and in particular by young Swedes in relation to them, the young
refugees. For my interlocutors, I argue, belonging is conditional on their legal status
and their relationship to the welfare asylum system, which in turn allows them to
develop social relations in certain places and thereby develop particular anchoring points.
When examining the social relations that lie at the core of the concept of the anchoring
point, it is useful to distinguish between strongand weakties. Granovetter (1973, 1361)
defined the strength of a social tie as a combination of the amount of time, the emotional
intensity, the intimacy and the reciprocal services which characterize the tie. He noted the
strength of weak tiesin which people with different communities of belonging, who
move in circles different from our own, will have access to greater support and infor-
mation. Following his analysis, Wells (2011) shows how, by developing weak ties,
young refugees were able to create multiple communities of belonging that gave them
access to further emotional, cultural and material resources. Strongand weakties
thus grant access to different and at times even incompatible anchoring points, which,
as the ethnography will exemplify, may play a key role at different points in time. The
importance of the anchoring points can be seen in the light of the ontological security
(Giddens 1991) they provide in the sense of order, stability and routine that together can
provide their lives with meaning and a degree of certainty and continuity (cf. Chase 2013,
860). By examining how individuals form different social relations as they move through
disparate legal statuses and associated institutions in the welfare system, it is possible to
show how they develop shifting anchoring points that give them a feeling of belonging
and an identity in uncertainty.
By using the concept of the anchor, my aim is to create a distance from the perception
of belonging, community or identity as rooted permanently in a particular territory (cf.
Malkki 1992) and thus from the sedentary bias and methodological nationalism embedded
in much social science discourse (Wimmer and Glick Schiller 2003). While rootscarry
the connotation of being permanently grounded in a particular place, anchors can be
dropped and pulled up again. Thus, anchoring points offer spaces of inclusion and belong-
ing, if only temporarily, and the possibility of pulling away, which may even be desirable or
necessary, as the situation changes. They allow people in otherwise uncertain and fluid
situations to be stable, at least for the time being, through a community of meaningful
social relations and to make sense of themselves as individual human beings. The
concept-metaphor thus provides a frame through which to study the interrelated
notions of social relations, identity, belonging, community and temporality through a
non-sedentary lens.
Using the case of Shalini, I will analyse how different anchoring points can be formed in
locations that are, to a large extent, determined by the structural parameters of the Danish
welfare asylum system and related legal categories. As her case unfolds, I explore how her
choice of anchoring was at times based on the quest for continuity, while at other times it
entailed discontinuity and disruption. Following Cohens(1985, 15) understanding of
community as that entity to which one belongs () where one learns and continues to
practice how to be social, I wish to focus on how, based on her own experience, Shalini
had the capacity to develop different anchoring points at varying stages during her life tra-
jectory in the legal margins of Danish society and give them meaning as communities of
belonging (cf. Cohen 1985).
Of what is this a case?
I first met Shalini two months into my fieldwork at an NGO that provides services to
asylum-seekers. In the two years during which I followed her, we developed a close
relationship as researcher and informant where informed consent and the ethical principle
of doing no harmguided the research. My search for those who had arrived as unaccom-
panied asylum-seeking minors and who had come of age whilst waitingproved difficult.
As one NGO worker noted, there are very few of those cases left in Denmark, the reason
being the changes implemented in 2011 in the Danish Aliens Act to the effect that, with
very few exceptions, rejected unaccompanied minors must leave Denmark upon turning
Nevertheless, in the current context of increasingly restrictive government policies
across Europe, protracted waiting is a common experience for all asylum-seekers, as
their applications for asylum are processed, deportations negotiated and possible exten-
sions of temporary protection status considered. Young refugees thus experience pro-
longed uncertainty as they go through several legal categories in the Danish asylum and
refugee system.
Shalinis case is unusual, yet it is precisely its uniqueness that makes it illuminating,
allowing important aspects to be foregrounded. By exploring the particularities of her
lived experience, I am able to show the complexity, multiplicity and diversity in her
social relations, as well as their inconsistencies and contradictions (cf. Rapport 1997)
and to examine how, by drawing on these varying social relations, she was able to
develop, and attach herself to, different anchoring points that helped her during her pro-
longed period of uncertainty. Shalinis case therefore provides insights into the complex
relationship between belonging, temporality and protracted waiting, while recognising
the diversity in the category of refugeesand asylum-seekersand giving a human face
to the category of refugees, often perceived as a single group that behaves in one and
the same way.
Arriving in Denmark
In Sri Lanka we had a mango tree, and my dad would grow rice and different vegetables. Id
go to school every day on my bike, and after school Id help him. I was the only girl in my
family, and my mum would always tell me: You are the apple of my eye. In my country I
wasnt afraid of anything. I thought I was free and I could do what I want. () Then they
[Tamil Tigers] came; first they took my [oldest] brother because they need him for the .
you know, military? Every house, not only our house, had to give one or two children to
go with the Tamil Tigers. Then a year later they came again to my house. I remember I
was crying, and my mum fell to her feet asking, Please dont take her. They took me to
the camp, where they teach us how to fight. Then one day the camp was attacked [by the
government] and I manage to escape. Then they catch me and put me in jail in Colombo,
and my uncle, he was working for the government, he helped me. Together with an agent
[a smuggler] they took me out of Sri Lanka. I spent seven months in Indonesia, and then
another agent, he took me to Italy by plane and then by car to Denmark. When we got
here, I didnt know where I was. He told me: Go ask asylum.
Shalini narrated her memory of why she ed Sri Lanka and, after enduring a long journey,
arrived in Denmark with no relatives and no anchoring points. Following the special
guidelines established by the Danish welfare system concerning the vulnerable group
of unaccompanied minors, Shalini was placed in a special asylum centre for this category
of asylum-seeker (børnecentre). Living in an asylum centre, with the everyday routines of
care and protection provided to this group, and sharing a space with young people who,
like her, had experienced forced migration and being separated from their families, con-
ditioned the kinds of social relations Shalini established and her sense of belonging to this
Anchoring in the Tamil community
At the beginning I was afraid of people. I was not sure if I told my stories, maybe they would
tell others. Then Shakti arrived, and I started to become happy. Before I was alone, there was
no one that who would speak my language; it is nice to talk your language. We did everything
together; we would watch movies, play, go shopping. The Red Cross knew that we were best
friends, so they would never invite her or me alone, always together: Shalini and Shakti.
I was
like her big sister. When I was with my friend, I forgot all my worries. Alone I was sad.
Having had to lie during her journey and not knowing whom to trust, Shalini initially dis-
trusted the people around her and did not form any weak tiesat the asylum centre in the
form of new relationships with other young refugees and adults. According to Ní Raghal-
laigh and Gilligan (2010), such mistrust is common in the initial stages of asylumhood
among the unaccompanied and can be perceived as a strategy to cope with the changes
and challenges they have faced. In this state of being alone, which Shalini conated
with being lonely, she instead developed a strong tiein the shape of her close friendship
with Shakti, another Tamil girl at the asylum centre, who represented the familiar as a Sri
Lankan Hindu. As the two girls looked out for each other as sisters, the initial feelings of
being lonely,sadand afraidwere transformed into feelings of happiness.
Shakti and Shalini also searched for further strong ties by attending a Tamil temple
nearby. Religion, as Ní Raghallaigh notes (2011), can offer an important source of conti-
nuity for unaccompanied minors by way of creating the familiar in an otherwise unfami-
liar context (see also McMichael 2002; Wahlström 2009). At the temple, the two girls
constructed ties with Tamil families, who would invite them to their homes to enjoy
Tamil food and traditions. By practising their religion, speaking their language and enjoy-
ing their own food, these strong ties created a familiar community of belonging in
Denmark that gave them a sense of continuity in their lives.
Anchoring in the community of the unaccompanied
While initially Shalini only developed a strong relationship with Shakti, which allowed her
to break away from her initial isolation, she gradually began to engage with other young
refugees, constructing weak ties and expanding her communities of belonging, as she
I then became friends with the other girls. We had a kitchen just for girls, and we would sit
and eat together every night. At the weekend we played music and danced, and the boys
would come and spy on us. Later I also became friends with Gulyar and another Afghani
boy. We were four best friends. Wed go out together, eat together, watch films and go to
sleep late at night. Brønsvej [the asylum centre] was the best place; even if I didnt have posi-
tive [asylum], I was happy. I liked that place because Shakti and my friends were there.
Through the community of the unaccompanied,
Brønsvej became an anchoring point
that gave Shalini some initial stability and condence, and thus ontological security,
amidst feelings of being afraid and lonely. The institutionalised asylum setting for the
unaccompanied also offered weak ties in the form of legal guardians. Shaktis legal guar-
dian, Tine, would often invite both girls to her home or take them out for an ice cream or a
During the two years Shalini spent in Brønsvej, she thus created a sense of belonging
around two anchoring points that became her own: the Tamil temple, where she was
able to become part of a community connected with the familiar and resembling strong
ties in Sri Lanka, and the asylum centre, where she developed weak social ties through
her everyday routines.
Turning 18: social disruptions
During her stay at the asylum centre, Shalini went through several interviews with the
Danish immigration services. However, her asylum application was rejected. After two
years of waiting, with several rejections of her case for asylum, she turned 18, thus entering
the legal category of an adult asylum-seeker.
Then I became 18, and they wanted to move me to another centre [for adults]. I felt sad. I
didnt want to go, because under 18 you had freedom, you could do what you want. They
[Red Cross] take you to the picnic, swimming, playing. Then I felt, oh, I am going to miss
everything! After 18 my life will change.
Her narrative of life in the asylum centre for unaccompanied children was lled with nos-
talgic feelings about the place she had made hers, her anchoring point, through the strong
social ties she had developed. Changing legal categories and now being classied as an
adult brought sudden social disruptions to her everyday life. Shalini was moved to a
new asylum centre with female asylum-seekers and started attending a new school.
These changes disrupted her social relations, as she no longer had the right to a legal guar-
dian or her Red Cross contact person, weak ties which were conditional on her legal status
as unaccompanied.
The changes in her everyday life and the loss of the anchoring point represented by the
centre led Shalini to make a radical decision. When Shalini and Shakti were both sched-
uled to have their final interviews with the Danish authorities to determine their legal
status in Denmark, they decided to leave the country to look for other places to belong to.
During her time at the asylum centre, through Facebook, Shalini had met a young
Tamil living in Germany, who became her boyfriend. In her imagination he represented
both a strong tie, since he was Tamil, and a weak tie, given that he was living in Germany
and they had never met. Understanding that their chances of being granted asylum in
Denmark were slim, and with the help of Shalinis boyfriend, who arranged for a car to
pick them up, Shalini and Shakti decided to flee to Germany, where they asked for
asylum again. However, Shalinis fingerprints were identified in the European fingerprint
database, and she was returned to Denmark in accordance with the Dublin regulation.
Conversely, the system did not identify Shakti, who was allowed to stay in Germany.
A deportee: seeking continuity
Upon returning to Denmark, Shalini was placed in a special prison for asylum-seekers
who have committed a criminal act: I was taken to court; they said, if you dont sign
[the deportation papers] well keep you in jail. I had agreed with my boyfriend that Id
go back to Sri Lanka and we would meet there. At this point, Sri Lanka had the potential
to become an anchoring point for Shalini. Thus, she signed the papers agreeing to be
deported. Being returned to Denmark and no longer categorised as a minor deemed vul-
nerableand therefore in need of protection by the asylum system, Shalini was once again
on her own. She did not attempt to reattach herself to her anchoring point in the Tamil
Temple: I decided not to contact the Tamil families because they told us not to leave
[Denmark] because it was dangerous. I felt shame. Her new legal status as a deportee
was both disruptive and disempowering (cf. Griffiths 2014) as she had to start constructing
a sense of belonging from the most marginal legal category, that of a rejected asylum-
seeker, a deportee.
However, Shalini was not sent back to Sri Lanka but remained at the asylum centre.
Despite several requests from the Danish police to the Sri Lankan embassy to issue her
with a passport, there was no response. Without this document, Denmark could not
prove she belonged to Sri Lanka, and she spent the following three years awaiting depor-
During this period, given her deportation status and the uncertainty over her
future, she committed self-harm on two occasions and was classified as vulnerable
and given special care. In this period of uncertainty, in the same way as she sought con-
tinuity through the Tamil community when she first arrived in Denmark, she now
reached out to the social relations she had created at the asylum centre for the unaccom-
panied. She contacted Gulyar, her best friend at the asylum centre for minors. Gulyar,
now with legal status as a refugee, helped her as much as possible, enabling her to re-
establish a sense of continuity by reconnecting her with her past. Shalini also contacted
the community of the unaccompanied through her Danish mother, as she referred to
Shaktis legal guardian Tine, to ask for her help. Tine forgave her after coming to
terms with the girlsdisappearance and the fact that Shakti had not come back. Thus,
despite the anchoring point of the asylum centre for the unaccompanied being con-
ditional on her status as a minor and no longer being available, the social relations
that gave meaning to this place were still within reach. The anchoring point acquired
meaning through these social relations, but it did not prove indispensable for the con-
tinuation of her friendships and socialities.
Shortly afterwards, Shalini bumped into Khan, one of the Afghan boys she knew from
her time at Brønsvej who had been granted refugee status. Khan began visiting her regu-
larly at the asylum centre, and slowly they became friends. During this period her Tamil
boyfriend visited her from Germany, but the relationship came to an end shortly after-
wards and, with time, her friendship with Khan became closer: I told him I would be
his girlfriend but that he would have to stop smoking and drinking, and he changed.
Then my life started here with Khan; I fell in love with him. Weak ties can therefore
acquire a new significance when the social and legal contexts change (cf. Wells 2011).
Khan became a strong tie and opened up new possibilities of belonging for Shalini, pro-
viding her with new stability, ontological security, and a life beyond the parameters of the
constraints of the asylum system that involved taking part in Danish society:
One summer afternoon, Shalini and I are window-shopping along the pedestrian streets of
Copenhagen. In one of the popular clothing stores for young people, Shalini decides to
buy a sweater and, as we are queuing up to pay, she shows me the bankcard she will use
and explains: We [asylum-seekers] dont have a CPR number [Danish Identity Number],
so we cannot open a bank account, so Khan gave me this one to use.
By using the bankcard, Shalini was able, eetingly, to break out of the constraints of the
legal category she belonged to. As a rejected asylum-seeker, she was expected to stay at
the asylum centre. Dating a refugee, however, she was able to spend much of her time
outside the centre, as long as she made sure she picked up her mail and pocket money
Her relationship with Khan made possible an everyday belonging outside the
asylum system when, after school, she would take the bus to his apartment, calling it
homerather than the asylum centre. Khan, who had access to the social benets of
welfare Denmark, allowed her to imagine a longer-term vision of her present and
future in Denmark. In this way, Shalini established a sense of continuity by reconnecting
with the community of the unaccompanied, thus enabling her to engage in an affective
relationship, which, in turn, gave her a new sense of belonging in Danish society.
Conditionalities of belonging: converting to Islam
Living for a protracted period of time in the confines of the asylum and deportation system
meant that the social relationships Shalini had access to were mainly with other refugees,
who, for the most part, were Muslim. Her most meaningful relationship was with her boy-
friend Khan, also a refugee and a Muslim. Initially, religion gave Shalini a sense of identity
and belonging through continuity in Hinduism and the associated Tamil communities.
Religion also became an important basis of belonging and identity while she was in the
category of deportee, this time taking the form of conversion to Islam. It, therefore,
did not involve a quest for a familiar faith, but rather an attempt to strengthen her
strong and weak ties.
When I came back to Denmark, all my friends and Khan were Muslim, and so I read a lot
about all religions. This changed me, and we [I] decided to be Muslim. I dont know,
maybe I became Muslim because all my friends were Muslims.
Converting to Islam was conditional for her to belong to the Muslim community, and thus
Shalini chose to convert, as she narrates:
The day I converted, I will never forget. I was with Khan and two of my Muslim friends from
my old school. I also invited all of Khans friends. I was without hijab, so when I went into the
mosque I covered [myself]. This was the first time I was going inside the mosque. I was
wearing my country [Sri Lankan] dress. The Imam asked me lots of questions: Why do
you want to convert to Islam? Is somebody forcing you, or is it by your own free will?I
told them that, Yes, of course it is my own free will.So he [an imam] said, I will say some-
thing, and you have to repeat it in Arabic, he said: I believe in one God, I believe in the mes-
senger of God, and so I repeated [it].
Becoming part of a new community involves a process of negotiation followed by recog-
nition (Howell 2002). The mutual acceptance between Shalini and the Imam and the wider
Muslim community was the result of a process of negotiation through the questions she
was asked to determine her possible inclusion in the community, which came to a nal
conclusion as she recited the words of acceptance. By converting, she came to be recog-
nised as part of an Islam community, as belonging.
In the moment I say those words, I feel so much peace. Everyone was congratulating me,
saying: Welcome to Islam. Suddenly I feel I got so many friends. Before I didnt have
anyone, no one talking to me, they only say hello, but now they feel like family. I feel like
one of them. This is true: when you become a Muslim, the Muslims love you more than
they do before. So I feel like peace, and was happy. I cannot describe [it], it was a beautiful
Ikenga-Metuh, who explored the massive and rapid conversion from traditional religions
to Christianity and Islam in Africa, explained that accounts of conversion are multicau-
sal rather than monocausal(1987, 25). The narrative of how Shalini remembers the con-
version contains two salient aspects. First, she explains how feelings of being at peace
and happyand loved arose, bringing her the inner peace and ontological security she
was searching for. Secondly, by converting she had the possibility to reformulate her
social relations by transforming weak ties into strong ties that feel like family. For
Shalini it therefore made sense and felt right to convert and thus belong to a Muslim
Anchoring point: the mosque
Shalinis conversion marked the beginning of belonging to Islam and a Muslim commu-
nity. However, such belonging is not something accomplished once and for all, but some-
thing that entails continuous achieving through an on-going process (May 2011) and that
requires recognition or acceptance by the wider community (Valentine, Sporton, and
Nielsen 2009). Shalini actively enacted her belonging to the Islam community by regularly
attending the mosque, her new anchoring point.
As we stroll towards the mosque Shalini explains: Do you know why we fast?It is because we
want to experience what it is like for people that dont have food ()we want to experiment
what its like when you cant eat; if I get positive [asylum] I want to go to Africa and help
(emphasis added).
The we that Shalini repeatedly used underscored her sense of being a Muslim and of
belonging to the Muslim community. The Muslim community became the prism
through which she evaluated others and her own life projects. The life project of establish-
ing a family with Khan was one of the drivers towards her becoming Muslim: after reading
about the different religions, we decided to become Muslim, the we signalling that it was a
common project.
As we get close to the mosque, she points at it: Look how beautiful it is. We make our
way to the womans floor on the top floor. From the ceiling right in front of us, golden
letters in Arabic wrap themselves around the wall. Those words are the 99 names of
God, she explains. She then starts doing her prayers, which involves her standing up,
kneeling and touching her forehead to the ground rhythmically. When the ceremony is
over, the women congregate in the back room to greet each other, and a group of
three young Muslim girls are chatting in lively fashion to Shalini as I approach them.
Shalini introduces me as her friend, and they all greet me with salam malekoum.My
silence requires that Shalini explains, She is not Muslim, she is a guest, to which they
react with smiles and signs of greeting. They keep chatting in Danish for a while.
Shalini later explains: These are new friends I made when I started coming to the
By attending the mosque, vigorously performing the ritual and participating in the
prayers and conversations that bring the women together after the ritual, Shalini con-
rmed her belonging in her new anchoring point and her becoming accepted by the
wider Muslim community. Despite her many epistemological uncertainties about
Islam, she negotiated her belonging through constant recognition by participating.
Through her shared experience at the mosque sharing emotions, symbols and spiritual
understanding she developed and conrmed a feeling of community. Through this
attachment to a Muslim community in Denmark, she sought to belong to something
larger than the category of an asylum-seeker and the possibilities and limitations that
this offered her. Being a Muslim thus allowed her to strengthen her strong ties both
with her boyfriend and with her Muslim friends in the community of asylum-seekers
and to develop new weak ties in the form of social relations with girls her own age in
the wider Muslim Danish society. Her Muslim belonging and the mosque constituted
a temporary anchoring point that gave her a sense of meaning in her experience of
living in a state of uncertainty as a rejected asylum-seeker where everything else about
her future was uncertain.
The womens café: A gendered anchoring point
Welcome to my prisonwere Shalinis words as she walked me around the asylum centre
for deportees. Despite the considerable time Shalini spent outside the centre by attending
Danish high school, living partially with Khan and attending the mosque, the asylum
centre continued to be a part of her everyday life, imposed by the deportation system.
Here, she was placed in a room with Zainab and Asma, two other young women who
were Pakistani Muslims. Given their physical proximity and shared living situation they
became friends, eating together and attending the different activities offered at the
centre for women. The womens café, a weekly activity, was a special place and occasion
to be with other women and their children,
and Shalini enjoyed going with her room-
mates. The café was a way to be in a safe gendered space where only women were
allowed and a place to create further social relations:
The womens café means a lot to many of my girlfriends who are also asylum-seekers. When
they come they can forget about their problems, and they are just happy. You can just be
yourself, throw [off] your scarf [hijab] and be with the other women.
Shalini underscored how this place, by allowing them to be who they want, had signi-
cance for their identity. The womens café, in other words, became an anchoring point in
the asylum centre, where she created further weak ties with other young asylum-seekers,
who, for instance, would text her when she had post to pick up, and was a space where the
gendered identity familiar to the women was made possible.
Since the café was run by a group of Danish Christian volunteers, it also became a place
for Shalini to develop further weak ties by meeting young Danes, and Shalini became
close friends with Frida. Their friendship went beyond the parameters of the centre, as
she would sometimes sleep at Fridas place, and Frida would at times sleep at Shalinisat
the asylum centre, just like friends do. Following Granovetters(1973)argumentregarding
the strength of weak ties, Shalinis relationship with Frida gave her new opportunities, as she
had access to information different from what we receive, when Frida would introduce her
to her Danish friends and show her different places across Denmark, giving her further
access to life outside the confines of the deportation system.
Shalinis choice of the mosque and the womens café as her new anchoring points was
not only conditional on the parameters of the asylum system, but also on her situation of
being alone and without her family. As she explained, If I had my mum here, I would have
never converted. The social relations she developed and negotiated and the related
anchoring points thus were largely conditioned by her lack of kin and other strong
tiesthat would have given her greater access to the Tamil community and to the feelings
of love and acceptance she was looking for.
Anchoring in school
Previous research has shown the importance of education as a normalising experience
for young refugees (cf. e.g. Hek 2005). In their study of young unaccompanied migrants
in the UK, Allsopp, Chase, and Mitchell (2014) explain how pursuing an education was
an important tactic employed by young refugees to construct a future whilst subject to
immigration control. In Denmark, adult asylum-seekers and deportees have limited
access to Danish language classes, and always within the asylum centre. However, having
started her asylum journey as an unaccompanied minorand being classified as vulner-
ableafter harming herself, Shalini was allowed to continue her education outside the
centre. The school became another anchoring point where she developed weak ties
with both some of her teachers and other students with an immigrant background. Sha-
linis education offered her a space in which to maintain an element of normality,striv-
ing to live in the present and have a projected sense of a future self (cf. Allsopp, Chase,
and Mitchell 2014). Despite the lack of temporal predictability that comes with being in
deportation and that affects ones ability to plan for the future (cf. Griffiths 2014), she
would often talk about her school, what subjects she would take the following year
and what she would go on to study at university, leaving no space for uncertainty
over her future in Denmark. As she explained: School kept me strong. It was the
hope, thinking I have to finish school.
By pursuing her education, Shalini defied her subjection to the deportation system and
showed agency and resilience in doing so (cf. Allsopp, Chase, and Mitchell 2014). School-
ing, and the school as an anchoring point, provided a sense of moving progressively
forward during the waiting time, creating a sense of daily and weekly routine that was
essential to her sense of self (cf. Verdasco 2017; Chase 2013), as well as a sense of conti-
nuity through her changing legal categories and related living places.
Mobile identities and conflicting anchoring points
Shalini had an everyday life and routine where she would regularly attend the mosque and
hang out with her Muslim friends and boyfriend. However, letting go of the anchoring
point of the temple and the interrelated Tamil community did not mean that Shalini
had left behind her Tamil identity. Rather, her Muslim and Tamil identities co-existed
in different ways in her everyday life. Shalinis understanding of herself can be described
as mobile and processual () a creolized aggregate(Malkki 1992, 37). When cooking, she
mixed Indian spices to flavour the Afghan dishes Khan taught her to cook; when dressing,
she would often match the colour of her hijab to a sari; when she went to see a film, she
would watch Bollywood movies in the movie theatre or Tamil soap operas through her
smart phone. Shalinis identity was mobile and dynamic, and she accepted and embraced
the different communities to which she belonged. She was aware, however, that others
might not be so accepting and that these identities and corresponding anchoring points
were not always compatible.
On one of the days spent together at her asylum centre, we went to pick up some bed-
sheets she needed. As we were waiting outside the building, she placed her headscarf as a
scarf around her neck. The Red Cross person who handed her the sheets was a Tamil
man who had had Shalini over for dinner with his family on several occasions. He
greeted her warmly and told me about how he fled to Europe over 20 years ago when
he was a Tamil Tiger, never to return to Sri Lanka. As we made our way back to her
room discussing where to eat dinner, Shalini distractedly put her hijab around her
face, covering her hair.
She realised that it was not possible for her to belong to the Muslim and the Tamil com-
munities at the same time. As she explained, the Tamils will never accept me if I am
Muslim. She chose to hide her conversion to Islam from the Tamil community, a
community she had chosen not to be part of temporarily. However, the Tamil man
working at the asylum centre may have been aware of her possible conversion, as
Shalini explained: He told me, No Tamil man will want you if they know you are
Muslim”’. She dealt with this conflict by continuing to behave like a good Muslim
woman should in her understanding, namely wearing her hijab, but rearranging it discre-
tely as a scarf when she met Tamils. The reality of her present moment was greater than
the importance of her past or a potential imaginary future. The communities she could
belong to had norms and valued culturein ways that did not accept her belonging to
the Muslim community. While being a Muslim became a large part of Shalinis under-
standing of herself and her everyday life, this religious identity was not possible if she
wanted to be part of the Tamil community.
As a deportee, Shalini was resourceful and dropped anchor at different placesthe
mosque, the womens café and the school where she found stability and a sense of
belonging, albeit temporarily. Unlike many rejected asylum-seekers, who endure the slow-
ness of the bureaucracy surrounding deportation by wasting time in chronic waiting (Grif-
fiths 2014), Shalini was agentive in developing a multiplicity of communities of belonging
and developing socialities at different anchoring points. She constantly developed weak
ties and transformed some of them into strong ties, thus having an everyday life
beyond the physical parameters of the asylum system by spending time at different
anchoring points. The social relations developed in these anchoring points allowed her
to hold onto the hope that she might be given asylum.
Belonging to Denmark
I got positive! I got positive!Shalini shouted over the phone, I am so happy, I cannot
describe it in words. A month after her interview with the immigration services,
Shalini was granted the right to stay in Denmark, the news she had been waiting for
over five years. She was not actually granted positive, the emic term for asylum, but
rather temporary residence due to her attachment to Denmark. This was because she
was able to prove her ability and willingness to integrate into Danish society: she could
speak Danish fluently the interview took place in Danish, despite the fact that she
was given an interpreter she was successful at school, had developed close social ties
with Danes and been active in the Danish community, thus complying with the criteria
of attachment. When set in comparison to her network in her home country, where
Shalini had no family she was aware of, the evaluationshowed that her attachment to
Denmark was greater than her attachment to Sri Lanka.
However, this attachmentwas not constructed in a linear and progressive manner, as
the nation-states criteria expect, but rather in a more fragmented way that involved con-
structing and negotiating belonging to different communities, ones that at times could
not co-exist, and therefore dropping and weighing anchor at different anchoring
points. Belonging to Denmark by proving her attachment to it meant she was no
longer a rejected asylum-seeker, a label she had carried for many years. This change
of categories had a deep significance in respect of the communities she chose to
belong to, her identity and, in turn, the anchoring points she decided to hold on to
and let go.
Returning to the Tamil community
A few months prior to her last interview with the Danish authorities, Shalini slowly re-
established her contact with the Tamil community she had known since her first years
in Denmark. She began to visit a particular Tamil family regularly and became close
friends with their children, participating again in celebrations with the Tamil community
the family was a part of.
It was at the birthday of the daughter that I realized how much the mother loved me. She
would always treat me like a daughter, but that day it was exactly like her daughter, that
day I decided to come back to my Tamil family.
Upon being granted temporary residence, with certainty replacing temporariness,
knowing that she could stay in Denmark at least for the next ve years, Shalini decided
to return to the strong ties she spoke of in kinship idioms. She also visited Shakti, her
sister, upon being granted the right to stay.
Since she could not be a Muslim and attend the anchoring point of the temple, nor be a
Hindu attending the mosque, she decided to let go of the mosque, as well as many of the
social relations attached to this anchoring point. More importantly, she decided to break
with the most meaningful tie she had constructed in her life as a deportee. As she
explained: I cannot have Khan and my Sri Lankan family. He told me: Go have Sri
Lankan friends and go with the Sri Lankan people.For him it is OK, but for the Sri
Lankan family they will not take me if I am Muslim.No longer belonging to the
Muslim community, she took off her most visible identity signifier, the hijab. This decision
to leave behind the Muslim community and her affective relationship with Khan caused
her a period of spiritual doubt when she questioned her faith and her Muslim sociality:
Is it not enough to just love and believe in God? Do I have to call him [by] one name?
she asked. Belonging to the Tamil community again was conditional on her acceptance
by the Tamils, which required her moving away from Islam. Her decision to return to
what she understood as her family was also conditioned by the possibility of her returning
to Sri Lanka and searching for her family there. Shalini was no longer labelled a deportee
who had arrived as unaccompanied; being freed from the constrictions of the asylum
system, she could make decisions based on her Sri Lankan family and kin ties.
However, moving away from the asylum system did not mean that she let go of her
asylum community. She would often spend weekends at the asylum centre with her
friends there, still use her bedsheets from the asylum centre, and it was her pictures
with Shakti that decorated her room when she moved in with a Danish family. At the
same time, having let go of her Muslim identity, she decided to participate more in
after-school activities and began making new Danish school friends. Thus, paradoxically,
she was able to develop a stronger attachment to Denmark, understood by the state as
having Danish friends, once she was able to move beyond the confines of the asylum
system and had been granted the right to stay.
In this article, I have followed Shalini as she, a young asylum-seeker with no family living
within the parameters of asylumhood, engaged in an on-going process of negotiating her
identity and sense of belonging. Her constructions of belonging comprised a diverse con-
stellation of strong and weak ties that allowed her to develop a sense of belonging with
different communities anchored in different places that provided a certain measure of
stability and ontological security in an otherwise uncertain situation. Her case shows
how legal categories condition asylum-seekerssenses of identity and belonging and the
ways in which changing these categories affects the social relations they can develop.
The case also makes it possible to explore how belonging is negotiated, often in a non-pro-
gressive, fragmented manner, in relation to different social relations and communities of
belonging. The notion of attachment, as understood by the Danish immigration system,
assumes that refugees can pursue a specific path towards belonging in Danish society that
involves, for instance, the development of social ties with Danes, learning Danish and edu-
cational achievement. Shalinis case shows, however, that widely different communities
become important to people as they attempt to create a sense of belonging through
time and that there is no linear path towards belonging in a society.
By using the concept of the anchoring point, I have been able to explore the relation-
ship between belonging and temporality. The concept enabled to highlight the fluid and
mobile character of refugeesnotions of identity, community and belonging and the
interrelationship between them. I, therefore, suggest that this is a relevant concept for
further research, given the increasing number of asylum-seekers and refugees who are
living in a state of uncertainty and unpredictability. While young asylum-seekers may
be confined by a fixed legal system and tied to temporary anchoring points such as
the asylum centre, these anchors may acquire more permanent significance and
become central to their identity and belonging. At the same time they may develop
other communities of belonging, as they adapt to their situations away from the
asylum centre, reorienting themselves in relation to those new anchoring points that
become available to them. Shalinis case shows how, even under conditions of protracted
waiting and legal uncertainty, individuals are able to develop communities of belonging
that give them a sense of belonging, if only temporarily. With increasingly restrictive pol-
icies in which all categories of asylum-seekers and refugees are enduring protracted
periods of temporariness and uncertainty, there is an urgency in acquiring a better
understanding of the forms of belonging and identity that are constructed and negotiated
within the changing refugee regime. This is especially the case for young refugees who
arrive without their parents and are placed in in-between categories and that represent
the most rapidly growing group of refugees today.
1. The names of informants have been changed to preserve anonymity.
2. The possibility of being heard again is a special practice reserved only for asylum-seekers who
arrived as unaccompanied minorsbefore 1st January 2011, whose cases have been rejected
and who, for some reason, have not yet been deported after more than five years waiting. This
special practice is based on provision 9c (1) paragraph 1 of the Danish Aliens Act, an open
provision that encompasses a variety of exceptional cases. For applicants arriving after 1st
January 2011 this special practice no longer applies, and they have to leave Denmark on
turning 18.
3. For a comprehensive historical overview of how this politico-legal decision entered into force,
see Lemberg-Pedersen (2015).
4. Shalini chose her name and explained it meant sensitive and beautiful; she also chose
Shaktis name, meaning power and strength. This choice of pseudonyms reflects how she
thinks of them both as complementary, as forming a whole.
5. Within the asylum centre there is no one defined community, but rather several, partially
overlapping communities, depending on a multiplicity of variables (gender, age, ethnicity).
6. The deportation of rejected asylum-seekers is often delayed for several months or years for
many reasons, including an inability to obtain a passport for the deportee, conditions in the
country of origin, uncertainty about which is the country of origin, or the country of origin
refusing to accept deportees (Khosravi 2009).
7. Adult asylum-seekers are only allowed to sleep outside the centre for 20 nights per year.
Those who have relatives or close friends often live in between places. However, they go
to the asylum centre (i) to pick up their mail regularly (if it is not picked within three
days, they will be reported as missing, which will affect their asylum case negatively); and
(ii) to collect their pocket money, which is handed out every fortnight. Unaccompanied
minors must always sleep in the centre, except on weekends, when they are allowed to
visit relatives or invite friends over.
8. Due to the higher numbers of male asylum-seekers and the practices of masculinity in many
of these cultures, the shared spaces at asylum centres are male-dominated. For further dis-
cussion, see Whyte (2009).
I owe considerable thanks to Shalini for allowing me to be a part of her life when life was uncertain. I
would also like to thank my colleagues at the Departments of Anthropology at Aarhus and Copen-
hagen Universities who were part of the Ph.D. Courses Fieldwork to Analysis,Analysis to Text
and An Anthropology of Anchoragewho generously read drafts of this article and helped me work
with the concept of anchoring points. I am also grateful to Karen Fog Olwig for her careful reading
of my work and her help in structuring the argument and editing my long text. Finally, I would like
to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their very helpful comments and suggestions.
Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author.
This work was funded by a full scholarship from the Department of Anthropology at the University
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... Whereas a positive asylum decision grants them permission to stay in one place at least for as long as the residency permit is valid, deportation decision throws them into further involuntary movement: removal back to the country of origin or couch surfing to escape deportation. During the waiting process they can increase their control of their own movement by securing societal 'anchors' (see also Verdasco, 2018), such as employment or an apartment. ...
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This research considers the waiting and confinement experienced by young asylum seekers during and after their stay at a temporary shelter in Finland. The data for this research consists of interviews and ethnographic ‘hanging out’ with nine young asylum seekers throughout their asylum process. In order to generate new knowledge about the situated and fluid experiences of young adult asylum seekers’ confinement, this article focuses on four in-depth interviews with two young men, Kokab and Mahammed. They arrived in Finland in 2015, and are, at the time of writing this article, still waiting for their final asylum decisions. The results show, first, that while the time in the temporary shelter resembles physical, punitive confinement, it is also experienced as warm and social time. Second, the article argues that the confinement of young asylum seekers extends beyond the physical confinement, as they are for years confined in forced movement, indefinite waiting and othered as a number in the system.
This chapter analyses the role of household-level refugee hosting relationships in refugees’ experiences of home in protracted displacement. Conceptualised as relationships of care, the everyday practice of hosting holds the potential for home within an uncertain and hostile context. Yet, this is an incomplete and transient home, restricted by the temporal, legal, and political limitations of protracted displacement. Based on qualitative research with Sudanese refugee men living in urban Amman, I look at the day-to-day experience of living in a refugee-refugee hosting relationship in with the socio-economic dynamics of Sudanese refugeehood. Household-level hosting is an overlooked practice within humanitarian and forced migration studies, yet it is by paying attention to the everyday ways in which particular refugee groups create and experience relations of care that we can re-focus our attention on how refugees inhabit, experience, and negotiate protracted urban displacement.
Brain architecture is shaped by early childhood experiences, which thus affect future physical and mental health. These experiences consist primarily of parenting, intertwined with environment. The mental health of migrants has received much attention in research; however, early childhood experiences and the spatiality of parenting have largely been ignored. This study examines asylum-seeking parents' perceptions of parenting their 2-6-year-old children, focusing on the spatial context of the reception centre. We conducted 26 semi-structured interviews among parents in three reception centres in Finland. The results show that parenting was challenged by all three dimensions of place: location, locale and sense of place. The findings indicate that for parents, the reception centre is an essential factor interacting with parenting, enabling or impeding caregiving. These findings are discussed from the viewpoints of transnationalism, insufficient children's spaces and activities and lost sense of place. We urge policy-makers to improve the spatial context for parenting in reception centres by ensuring adequate children's spaces and activities, including opportunities for early learning, privacy of the family, parents' social support and possibilities for establishing everyday routines. We suggest that these improvements would have far-reaching beneficial implications for the healthy development and future mental health of asylum-seeking children.
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In response to refugees’ social marginalisation and lack of appropriate housing, homestay programs have emerged as a new approach to refugee accommodation. However, caring relationships between asylum‐seekers and refugees and locals are prone to reproduce power imbalances. As a countermeasure, flatshares initiated by the organisation Refugees Welcome are created within a three‐fold network of hosts, social workers, and volunteers. The volunteers serve as intermediaries and provide refugees with personalised support to become more rooted in society. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and thirty in‐depth interviews with hosts, refugees, intermediaries, and social workers in Catalonia (Spain), this article explores the responsibilities and struggles of intermediaries in the hosting networks. Results show that intermediaries give refugees and hosts a sense of security during the flatshare and keep social workers informed, yet their role varies considerably.
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This thesis is an empirical study of how young refugees with temporary residence permits in Denmark experience the focus on temporariness and return in their everyday lives. The thesis builds on in-depth interviews with young people with refugee backgrounds as well as secondary interviews with municipal integration workers and labor union representatives. The legislative changes introduced in the Danish refugee policy since 2015 means that all residence permits for refugees are temporary and that there is a focus on return rather than integration. At the same time, it has become increasingly difficult to obtain permanent residency and refugees are therefore kept in an uncertain situation for many years. This thesis argues that the different temporalities governing refugees' lives together with the focus on return contributes to experiences of situational and existential uncertainty for young people with refugee backgrounds, which has consequences for their well-being. Furthermore, the thesis shows how young people with temporary residence permits navigate both their current lives and their future in relation to the changing environment marked by uncertain temporalities. In relation to this, education provides meaningful stability and routine in their daily lives and also serves as a future oriented driver and investment in their future. Lastly, the thesis explores how the focus on temporariness and return interferes with young refugees' sense of belonging to the Danish society and with the continuous expectations of 'integration'. The thesis concludes that the focus on temporariness and return has severe and various consequences for young refugees and more broadly also for the Danish society.
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This thesis is an empirical study of how young refugees with temporary residence permits in Denmark experience the focus on temporariness and return in their everyday lives. The thesis builds on in-depth interviews with young people with refugee backgrounds as well as secondary interviews with municipal integration workers and labor union representatives. The legislative changes introduced in the Danish refugee policy since 2015 means that all residence permits for refugees are temporary and that there is a focus on return rather than integration. At the same time, it has become increasingly difficult to obtain permanent residency and refugees are therefore kept in an uncertain situation for many years. This thesis argues that the different temporalities governing refugees' lives together with the focus on return contributes to experiences of situational and existential uncertainty for young people with refugee backgrounds, which has consequences for their well-being. Furthermore, the thesis shows how young people with temporary residence permits navigate both their current lives and their future in relation to the changing environment marked by uncertain temporalities. In relation to this, education provides meaningful stability and routine in their daily lives and also serves as a future oriented driver and investment in their future. Lastly, the thesis explores how the focus on temporariness and return interferes with young refugees' sense of belonging to the Danish society and with the continuous expectations of 'integration'. The thesis concludes that the focus on temporariness and return has severe and various consequences for young refugees and more broadly also for the Danish society.
Based on analysis of legal documents on family reunification and educational material concerning transnational adoption in Denmark, this article suggests that the concept of attachment may be conceptualized as a specific operationalization of belonging, and that belonging and biopower may be viewed as intertwined (rather than opposites). The analysis conceptualizes two modes of how belonging is operationalized through attachment. The belonging of families seeking reunification is targeted on a regulatory level via the legal requirement of national attachment. This requirement materializes as a prognosis of belonging in families seeking reunification. On a disciplinary level, psychological attachment discourse is utilized to address belonging in adoptive kinship. As a disciplinary instrument, psychological attachment discourse extracts affective labour from the adoptee in order to secure belonging in the form of psychological attachment, which serves to sustain the white adoptive family. In both cases, attachment discourse naturalizes the governing of belonging over time.
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Discursive approaches to Europe usually focus on elite discourses and target a narrow political understanding of Europe. Against the backdrop of rising Euroscepticism and the known elite-mass divide on issues of European identity, it seems important to shift the focus toward non-elite discourses on Europe. Given that club football is largely Europeanised (player markets, continent-wide club competitions and broadcasting of matches), we analyse how fans of the English Premier League club Manchester United discursively construct ‘Europe’ in relation to their sport. Our main research question aims at identifying how identifications of fans have been unconsciously Europeanised in the wake of an ongoing Europeanisation of the game. We explore online discourses on rivalry, competition and player transfers in club football as these areas are strongly influenced by the interplay of national and European inclinations. Preliminary results of our qualitative content analysis demonstrate that Manchester United fans, inasmuch as their club ‘goes Europe’ on a frequent basis, have developed transnational perspectives on football. Distinctions between ‘us’ and ‘them’ are not predominantly based on nationality, even though they remain complex. However, European orientations (not the European Union as such) seem to play more of a prominent role than commonly assumed.
This chapter discusses how and at what costs the Danish governments since the 2015 “refugee crisis” (2015) have managed the inclusion of refugees in the labor market and celebrated it as successful integration. However, refugees have become a cheap labor reserve for private companies and fear that they might risk being deported to Afghanistan if they do not fulfill the integration program. Drawing on a qualitative research and presenting an emic perspective, we explore how the different internship programs are experienced among recently arrived Afghan refugees. This chapter contends that the statistical representation of successful integration in the Danish labor market is a simplified representation of complicated realities. Further, it may be counterproductive and create a new precarious subclass of insecure, underpaid workers with constrained mobility.
The prospects for young people in care and care leavers in the worlds of education and work may often seem bleak. The challenges they face in education are widely covered in this book. In the world of work, the picture is also difficult for care leavers. Youth unemployment, generally, is a major challenge across the globe, with its risk greatest for marginalised groups such as care leavers. This conceptual chapter argues that efforts to improve educational outcomes for care experienced young people need rethinking. Current difficulties are not just a result of problems the young people ‘bring’ from their care histories; they may also relate to the nature of the education provision they encounter. Education systems may often lack sufficient vision and flexibility to properly ‘accommodate’ the needs of various marginalised groups including young people in care. Drawing on a range of research and policy evidence, the chapter calls for deeper engagement with the life-long learning model of education. It seeks less emphasis on normative timelines for educational attainment, much stronger integration of opportunities for work and education, and harnessing of the powerful educational potential of work experience in terms of building confidence, motivation and soft skills. A stronger focus on early work opportunities for young people in care can enhance not only educational but also employment prospects. Just as our thinking about timelines etc. needs to loosen up, so too do our understandings of ‘work’ and ‘education’. Work involves a much wider range of valuable activity beyond wage-based employment. Similarly, huge amounts of learning occur outside the classroom. The chapter explores the transformative potential of such fresh thinking for enhancing educational and work outcomes for young people in care and care leavers.
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This working paper traces the institutional dynamics surrounding the European Return Platform for Unaccompanied Minors (ERPUM), the first ever EU pilot attempting to organize the administrative deportation of unaccompanied minors. The first phase of ERPUM was initiated in January 2011, and its second stage began in December 2012 and was then discontinued in June 2014. Its core members were Sweden, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands, and its observers were Denmark and Belgium. The pilot illustrates how bureaucratic networks in the European landscape of asylum policy interpreted the need to find “durable solutions” for unaccompanied minors as providing justification for institutionalizing their mass deportations. Iraq, Afghanistan, and Morocco were the prime targets of ERPUM, but the pilot’s goals, derived from the Returns Directive, were formulated in general terms and could therefore be applied to any country. Even though ERPUM’s second stage was formally concluded in June 2014, it is part of a larger deportation trend and thus a highly relevant object of analysis, from which both specific and general dynamics concerning European deportation policies for unaccompanied minors can be discussed.
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This article explores and unfolds the category of the 'unaccompanied asylum-seeking minor' in Den-mark. By studying the notions that are embedded in the category, namely age and childhood, I analyse, through the narratives of the young refugees, what it means for both their sense of self and for their everyday lives to belong to, or to be excluded from, ascribed asylum categories, while finding themselves in complex situations of uncertainty. Using ethnographic material gathered during the refugee crisis of 2015–2016, I show that the young refugees' narratives point to contradictions in their understandings of the 'self', which are linked respectively to the notions of chronological age, upheld by the asylum system , and relational age operating within the context of their family relations. I further describe the changes that take place when a young refugee's status changes from minor to adult. Finally, I suggest how these changes may be linked to contemporary Western and welfare-related notions of childhood. The findings suggest that a relational approach that goes beyond the fixity of categories in the asylum and refugee system allows for a better understanding of the young people's situation and sense of self.
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This article investigates children’s participation and sense of belonging from the perspective of unaccompanied children, based on two qualitative research projects with unaccompanied children in Sweden and Finland. The results show that the unaccompanied children’s own understanding of their participation and belonging in different positions was fluid; for instance, the borders between childhood and adulthood, and striving for independence or wanting to be cared for by adults were flexible, allowing the children’s movement within and between the categories.
This thesis explores negotiations of belonging among unaccompanied young refugees in Sweden. The thesis further aims to shed light on methodological aspects of bringing out their voices. The analysis draws on postcolonial and poststructuralist approaches to belonging and relates belonging to the concepts of home, place, racialization and notions of “Swedishness”. The thesis analyses qualitative interviews with 17 young people, who arrived in Sweden as unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors and have been granted permanent residency. The interviews are complemented with walk-alongs and photography-based interviews. Paper 1 gives an overview and discussion of research on unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors. I argue that there is a lack of their voices in the research, and that their own agency and perspectives are not addressed due to a focus on vulnerability and emotional health (or lack thereof). Paper II, which is delimited to participants in a rural village, shows that they negotiate belonging and a sense of home related to places but that othering is constraining. In paper II and III I suggest that the participants’ belongings and position in Sweden can be understood as conditional due to othering and racialization. In paper III, I argue that expressing gratitude can be understood as a form of impression management and, thus be a strategy to negotiate their position in the interview setting as in the host country. I finally argue that in order to understand the participants’ negotiations of belonging attention has to be paid to their agency as well as the conditioning of belonging in discourses and in interactions on the local level.
Pakistani migrant families in Denmark find themselves in a specific ethno-national, post-9/11 environment where Muslim immigrants are subjected to processes of non-recognition, exclusion and securitization. This ethnographic study explores how, why, and at what costs notions of relatedness, identity, and belonging are being renegotiated within local families and transnational kinship networks. Each entry point concerns the destructive-productive constitution of family life, where neglected responsibilities, obligations, and trust lead not only to broken relationships, but also, and inevitably, to the innovative creation of new ones. By connecting the micro-politics of the migrant family with the macro-politics of the nation state and global conjunctures in general, the book argues that securitization and suspicion-launched in the name of "integration"-escalate internal community dynamics and processes of family upheaval in unpredicted ways.
Young people subject to immigration control frequently draw a link between their own subjective wellbeing and whether or not they have a projected sense of self within a clear future trajectory. Building on previous work by the authors, this article explores young people’s lived experiences of constructing futures while subject to immigration control as they transition to ‘adulthood’. More specifically, it examines how young people perceive and respond to time as a tactic of immigration control used in chronological age markers, time-limited legal statuses and bureaucratic process rhythms. It is argued that, in order to sustain a sense of moving forward, young people strive to counter such tactics of immigration control with tactics of their own. The article explores how young people describe working creatively to secure access to a range of often contested rights and entitlements in order to sustain the possibility of futures of their own making in Britain. It concludes by highlighting an overlooked divide between young people’s intentions and aims in securing their futures and the intentions of an immigration control system which arguably underestimates the power of some young people’s agency and determination.
This article explores how unaccompanied young refugees living in a rural village in Sweden make sense of home and belonging. From a post-structuralist approach, belonging and home are understood as ongoing processes that are negotiated with others, and via processes of othering and racialisation. This article demonstrates that the form of housing available, together with experiences of social exclusion in the village, may contribute to othering and thus challenge their feelings of home and belonging. However, they do construct some kinds of belonging and feelings of home based on social relationships and places that they have access to.