Examining refugees’ attitudes to UK citizenship
Writing a blog for the first time and staying within a 250 word limit are both new challenges for me. But I’ll try my best to keep it short and tell you about the research I’ve been doing that looks at refugees’ perspectives on becoming British citizens.
From train chats to a research project
The beginnings of this research project started with a discussion on a train journey between Edinburgh to Glasgow in 2009. Gary and Gareth from Scottish Refugee Council had an exciting research topic to explore – and I was eager to collaborate with the organisation given my research interests.
From this initial conversation, we went on to successfully bid for research funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). It allowed us to explore the experiences and opinions of refugees living in Scotland towards the UK citizenship process and becoming British citizens.
From February to March 2010, 30 in-depth interviews were conducted with refugees living in Scotland. This was a collaborative effort between Gareth, Gary and I but it would have never been possible without the invaluable and tireless support of caseworkers at Scottish Refugee Council.
What we discovered
The research (PDF) identified four key reasons for refugees deciding to become British citizens including:
- instrumental reasons like getting a passport, having the right to vote or securing a job;
- a search for safety and security;
- to develop a sense of belonging to the UK; and
- securing legal rights in the UK.
The research also highlighted a number of practical problems facing refugees such as the cost of citizenship tests.
More than just research
I stepped outside of academia for several months during this research period, which led to a two-way exchange of expertise through seminars and work shadowing.
I really enjoyed and benefited from the time I spent with caseworkers giving face-to-face advice and support to refugees, as well as learning about refugee integration programmes. The opportunity for a group of my honours students to visit the Scottish Refugee Council was also extremely welcomed.
I will always reflect positively on the time I spent at Scottish Refugee Council, which was both fruitful in terms of research and I gained a lot of personal insight too.