1st Edition

Children of the Crisis Ethnographic Perspectives on Unaccompanied Refugee Youth In and en Route to Europe

Edited By Annika Lems, Kathrin Oester, Sabine Strasser Copyright 2022
    172 Pages
    by Routledge

    172 Pages
    by Routledge

    Every year, thousands of young people on the run from war and persecution, or escaping poverty and chronic instability, make their way to Europe without their parents. Embarking on long and often dangerous journeys, they have either become separated from their families on the way or set out on their own. In recent years, the number of unaccompanied minors arriving in Europe has risen drastically. It has led to a major shift in perception in European countries, initiating a wealth of policies and infrastructures targeted specifically at unaccompanied child refugees.

    This book investigates the emergence of the unaccompanied child refugee as a ‘crisis figure’. It shows how the sense of exceptionality attached to this figure translates into ambiguous and at times extremely contradictory social practices that have far-reaching effects on the lives of refugee youth. By bringing together ethnographically driven research on unaccompanied minors in some of the core arrival and transit countries in or into Europe, it shows the divergent ways ideas on childhood, deservingness and vulnerability are interpreted, lived, and grappled with on the ground. By laying the focus on young people’s own experiences and perspectives, it establishes a deeper understanding of the ways unaccompanied asylum seekers live and make sense of shifting social terrains.

    The chapters in this book were originally published as a special issue of the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.

    1. Introduction

    Annika Lems, Kathrin Oester and Sabine Strasser

    2. Family project or individual choice? Exploring agency in young Eritreans’ migration

    Milena Belloni

    3. The border event in the everyday: hope and constraints in the lives of young unaccompanied asylum seekers in Turkey

    Sabine Strasser and Eda Elif Tibet

    4. Children, adults or both? Negotiating adult minors and interests in a state care facility in Malta

    Laura Otto

    5. Across the threshold: negotiations of deservingness among unaccompanied young refugees in Sweden

    Ulrika Wernesjö

    6. Being inside out: the slippery slope between inclusion and exclusion in a Swiss educational project for unaccompanied refugee youth

    Annika Lems

    7. The limits of freedom: migration as a space of freedom and loneliness among Afghan unaccompanied migrant youth

    Francesca Meloni

    8. Transitions, capabilities and wellbeing: how Afghan unaccompanied young people experience becoming ‘adult’ in the UK and beyond

    Elaine Chase

    9. Methodological innovations, reflections and dilemmas: the hidden sides of research with migrant young people classified as unaccompanied minors

    Elaine Chase, Laura Otto, Milena Belloni, Annika Lems and Ulrika Wernesjö 


    Annika Lems is Head of the independent research group ‘Alpine Histories of Global Change’ at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle, Germany. Her work broadly concerns the ways people experience, negotiate, and actively create place attachments in an age of rapid global transformations.

    Kathrin Oester was Professor for research on migration and mobility at the University of Teacher Education, PH Bern, Switzerland; her work is focused on youth, media, migration, and education. Today, she is an associated researcher at the Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Bern, Switzerland.

    Sabine Strasser is Professor at the Institute of Social Anthropology, University of Bern, Switzerland. Her work is situated at the intersection of feminist, postcolonial, and critical border studies and addresses the impact of the European border regime on the everyday life of people on the move