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About this book

Kohli offers a comprehensive overview of what is known about the resettlement of young asylum-seekers, answering social work practitioners' need for a fuller understanding. After reviewing existing approaches, research evidence and current practice, students and practitioners are presented with a new conceptual framework for social work.

Table of Contents

1. Unaccompanied asylum seeking children

Abstract
As children who are seeking asylum resettle in lands that are not their own, they look for the re-emergence of order, peace and the rhythm of ordinary life. They look to a variety of skilled helpers in assisting them to find a sense of home again. This is both a complex process and a valued achievement. It relies on the capabilities of both parties to see what requires attention and repair, and when. In presenting a view of what is currently known about the resettlement of unaccompanied children and more specifically what is known about the social work responses to them, the first three chapters in this book address theoretical ideas and debates, key laws and policies, and research findings that illuminate the territory within which social workers and the young people face each other and conduct their day-to-day exchanges. This chapter lays out the contexts of resettlement-based practice, beginning with key definitions, the historical basis of forced migration for unaccompanied minors and the current picture of their presence and spread across the UK, including the impact of a number of key policy and legal decisions on the provision of care. It then considers the concept of resettlement in detail from theoretical and research perspectives, suggesting that asylum seekers and refugees play a purposeful and full part in reorganising their lives after arrival. It concludes by outlining a three-dimensional model of practice within which practical assistance, therapeutic care, and companionship have significant parts to play in shaping successful resettlement.
Ravi K. S. Kohli

2. The meaning of resettlement for unaccompanied asylum seeking children and young people

Abstract
There is no indication when examining the existing literature that a great deal is known about the pre-departure histories of the asylum seeking children and young people now living in the UK or in other parts of Europe. There is a tendency for researchers not to look back, as if the stories only begin when they become visible as asylum seekers. By only beginning a story from the point of departure, the chance to see unaccompanied minors as ‘ordinary people driven by ordinary desires (such as wanting to live in peace in a democracy that allows free speech’, (Robinson and Segrott, 2002: 64) has not yet been grasped by researchers. At present, just a few of their stories of ordinary living are gathered up, and presented as small illustrative vignettes from a generation ago (Bell, 1996; Harris and Oppenheimer, 2001) or the more recent past (Minority Rights Group International, 1998). Some of them are linked with a heartfelt sense of bewilderment when transmitting the loss of ordinariness in becoming a refugee. Within these accounts children speak of simple and mundane events with affection.
Ravi K. S. Kohli

3. Social work with unaccompanied asylum seeking children and young people

Abstract
What do unaccompanied minors say they want from their lives, and what is known about social work practice with them? Williamson (1998) gives a glimpse in a summary of a study she conducted in the early 1990s in the UK. She reports that she asked twenty-three asylum seeking young people to tell her about their experiences, wishes and feelings. Her report suggests that they wanted caring adults who kept them safe, who understood the complexity of their experience and connected them to networks that were meaningful for them, as key aspects of support. In addition, the young people wanted opportunities to eat ‘home food’, or keep up with cultural affiliations; teachers who were strict but fair, and recognised that failing in education would be ‘a disaster’. They wanted good legal representation in the asylum process, sympathetic welfare workers, careers advice, learning about ‘the British way of life’, and plenty of social activity to keep their minds off their problems. To an extent, this brief report by Williamson (1998) summarises key aspects of the resettlement task for unaccompanied children.
Ravi K. S. Kohli

4. The social workers, their backgrounds and their work contexts

Abstract
The social workers who took part in the study came from a variety of backgrounds to this area of practice. Some were veterans, some relative novices in relation to the work. They represented many perspectives and experiences of providing a service for the young people in their care. This chapter describes their backgrounds and contexts, and identifies the ways they used their knowledge and skills to navigate across what was at times conflicted territory. So this chapter focuses on two major issues. First, it gives a picture of the social workers themselves, in terms of personal characteristics including the ways their own histories and backgrounds influenced their practice with unaccompanied minors. Secondly, it details their professional characteristics, including the ways in which experiences of working with refugees since qualifying, building up a knowledge base for practice, and refugee-related guidance within their agencies, provided the frame within which they acted. The intention within this chapter is to present the ‘stage’ where the action took place, before moving on in Chapters 5 and 6 to look at the parts played by the young people and their social workers in the ‘drama’ of resettlement.
Ravi K. S. Kohli

5. The unaccompanied minors and their circumstances

Abstract
This chapter relates the stories of the young people that the social workers discussed in the research interviews. Here, the lives and circumstances of the thirty-four young people are laid out in the following way. Initially, some of their basic characteristics are briefly described and linked to what the social workers knew about their ordinary lives before departure, the people who looked after them and the places where they grew up, as part of the background information needed to understand the genesis to their stories of movement. Also, their stories of leaving their countries of origin and arriving in the UK are presented, to give a flavour of the type and extent of biographical information available to the social workers. Secondly, there is an exposition of their experiences in the UK after arrival, including what the social workers knew about the process of making an asylum application, producing passports, being referred to Social Services, and being looked after in relation to the number and types of placements made available to them. Thirdly, their current circumstances are described, including major issues related to physical and psychological health, and the quality of day-to-day care, including self-care.
Ravi K. S. Kohli

6. Social work practice with unaccompanied asylum seekers

Abstract
As discussed in Chapter 2, the term ‘resettlement’ describes a process and an outcome, the journey towards a new home, as well as the home itself. In this chapter, the fluidity of process and firmness of outcome are measured in relation to the ways the social workers described and understood their work. The analysis shows that on the whole these social workers liked the young people and enjoyed working with them, even though the work was demanding and strenuous. The stories that they had been told by the young people held their attention, and engaged them emotionally. In turn, by retelling the stories, the workers became actors in the stories that they knew, and tried to bring some order to the ‘narrative threads’ that the young people brought to them. In a sense, through taking part in the research interview, they became the loom through which the stories of the young people’s lives were woven. A few of them acted as defeated sceptics, sometimes demonstrating a weary awareness of tales that they said they had heard many times before from young people. But the majority of them also showed, as a broad pattern, optimism about their practice, and an ethical commitment to providing and coordinating welfare for unaccompanied minors. While gloom, drudgery, high drama and heightened emotions were part of the worlds in which they worked, their stories also contained humour, civility and affection. Here, an attempt is made to describe this tapestry of experiences.
Ravi K. S. Kohli

7. Conclusions

Abstract
In this book, one image that has been used in describing social work practice with unaccompanied minors is that of weaving together threads which have been scattered. As indicated in the introduction, the threads themselves are not new, in that they have existed for some time across a variety of disciplines and lines of enquiry. Neither is the idea of the ‘loss of narrative threads’ (Summerfield, 1998) new, because researchers within social work and researchers within refugee studies have been looking for many years at stories of loss and continuity for vulnerable children who cross different borders in search of safety. What is new, in the ways in which it has been applied in this study, is the generation of fresh perspectives for stories of social work in the context of forced migration. While the nature of this enquiry and the methods used do not lend themselves directly to the production of recommendations for practice, they do reveal important details about the lives of asylum seeking young people and their social workers. These can be used in two ways. First, to understand in some depth aspects of the lives of young asylum seekers which show them as people coping with the rough and tumble of resettlement as best they can. Secondly, to think broadly about social work as more than an impoverished response to their care needs, so that social workers can reclaim some optimism about their practice.
Ravi K. S. Kohli
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