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Making a New Life in Ireland: Lone Refugee and Asylum Seeking Mothers and their Children

Research Staff

Karen Smyth, Dr. Jean Whyte

About the Project

Little empirical research documenting the experiences of refugees and asylum seekers in Ireland exists as the arrival of refugees in Ireland is a relatively recent phenomenon. The Children's Research Centre approached the Vincentian Refugee Centre (VRC) in Dublin with a view to conducting research related to refugees and asylum seekers specific to the Irish context. Staff in the VRC met with researchers from the Children's Research Centre to discuss which areas of possible research would be of most benefit to the service. Women who were parenting alone had been identified as a heterogeneous group amongst their clients whose needs had largely been neglected. They could be seen as doubly disadvantaged having to contend with the challenges associated with resettlement in a new country in addition to the challenges of lone parenthood in Ireland.

What does the research focus on?

The research focused on the experiences of mothers who are refugees or asylum seekers and parenting alone. It collected data describing their experiences of life in Ireland, their perception of factors that created difficulties for them and factors supporting resilience; the experiences of the young people in Ireland, factors contributing to their difficulties and factors which supported resilience. Potential responses to alleviate their situation are suggested under the headings of Health and well-being, the provision of accommodation, the encouragement of the development of inclusiveness and tolerance, reviewing the asylum-seeking process and addressing poverty.

What does the research involve?

This project involved careful consideration of the challenges of cross-cultural research. In order to familiarize herself with the language and the issues arising for possible participants, the researcher (qualified in teaching English as a foreign language) taught English to a group in the VRC for three months before initiating data collection. Data collection took the form of semi-structured interview in the VRC or in the women's homes (N = 31 from 9 different countries with 84% from Africa). Interviews were also conducted with seven young who were children of the mothers who participated.

Timescale and final products of the research

The research began in January 2002 and data collection was completed by August 2003. Preliminary findings were presented to the women for their comment and opinion. The report of the study was launched at the Vincentian Refugee Centre on Monday 7th November 2005 and can be ordered free of charge by emailing crcentre@tcd.ie .


Last updated 15 March 2010 by The Children′s Research Centre (Email).