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The Lived Experiences of Youth Migration - Global Perspectives

The Lived Experiences of Youth Migration
Global Perspectives


Thursday, 23 May 2019

TRiSS Seminar Room
(6th Floor, Arts Building, Trinity College Dublin)

The Lived Experiences of Youth Migration - Global Perspectives

Young people are major actors in the reality of migration, whether moving alone or with family. This event explored many aspects of the complexity of youth migration. It brought together scholars whose work relates to vastly differing contexts and circumstances but who share a common focus on youth experiences in the realities of migration globally. Presenters highlighted the impact of many influences on young migrants’ process including poverty, rurality, gender, legal status and wider community attitudes.

The event was run by Professor Robbie Gilligan at the School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin, in association with Trinity Research in Childhood Centre (TRiCC), Trinity International Development Initiative (TIDI), and Trinity Research in Social Sciences (TRiSS).

Date and Time: Thursday 23rd May 2019, 9:00 – 14:00

Location: TRiSS Seminar Room, Trinity College Dublin

Event organiser - Professor Robbie Gilligan, School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin


  • Dr Derina Johnson, Trinity College Dublin - Displaced and Undocumented Youth on the Thailand-Myanmar border
  • Dr Riikka Korkiamaki, Tampere University - Unaccompanied Minors from Afghanistan in Finland
  • Dr Muireann Ní Raghallaigh, University College Dublin - Young refugees in Ireland
  • Dr Daniela Sime, University of Strathclyde - Eastern European Young People in Brexit Britain
  • Dr Louise Yorke, Cambridge University - Rural Girls migrating to Cities for Education in Ethiopia

We were also pleased to hear from two current PhD researchers at the School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin:

  • Bao Rong - Return young migrants in China
  • Amy Stapleton - Separated Young People in France

Photo of the speakers and organisers

Event Programme

Event Programme

09:00 – 09:15


09:15 – 09:25

Welcome by Professor Robbie Gilligan

09:25 – 09:55

Derina Johnson

Displaced and Undocumented Youth on the Thailand-Myanmar border

09:55 – 10:25

Riikka Korkiamaki

Unaccompanied Minors from Afghanistan in Finland

10:25 – 10:55

Muireann Ní Raghallaigh

Young Refugees in Ireland

10:55 – 11:15


11:15 – 11:30

Tea and Coffee

11:30 – 11:40

Bao Rong

Experiences of Young Return Migrants in China

11:40 – 12:10

Daniela Sime

Eastern European Young People in Brexit Britain

12:10 – 12:30

Amy Stapleton

Separated Young People during the Transition to Adulthood in France

12:30 – 13:00

Louise Yorke

Rural Girls migrating to Cities for Education in Ethiopia

13:00 – 13:20


13:20 – 13:30

Concluding Remarks

13:30 – 14:00


Details of Speakers and Talks

Derina Johnson

Derina was awarded a PhD in Social Work and Social Policy from Trinity College Dublin in 2018. Prior to her PhD, she spent three years working as field director for a mental health NGO on the Thailand-Myanmar border, and prior to that, in play therapy and psychotherapy in Dublin city. Derina obtained her BA Hons (Psychology) from University College Dublin, and studied Play Therapy and Psychotherapy at the Children’s Therapy Centre. Derina is currently based in Trinity College Dublin, working as Research Coordinator for the Trinity Research in Childhood Centre and Children’s Research Network, and as Project Manager for the Horizon 2020 socio-economic research project CONSEED. Twitter: @Derina_Johnson

Growing up "Illegal": Suffering and survival among young migrants and refugees along the Thailand-Myanmar border

In this talk, Derina will focus on the realities and perspectives of young men and women on growing up as “illegal migrants” on the Thailand-Myanmar border. Drawing from her PhD findings, Derina will discuss the legal and social precarity shaping the young people’s everyday lives and ways of being from a young age. Within these worlds, the young people develop a myriad of strategies to survive and strive towards a ‘decent’ life. The talk will bring attention to the often-overlooked lives of young migrants and refugees growing up in non-western contexts, or the Global South, as well as the expression of youth agency and resilience in contexts of extreme adversity.

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Riikka Korkiamäki

Riikka Korkiamäki is an Associate Professor in Social Work at the School of Social Work at Tampere University. She is currently working on her Academy of Finland funded three-year postdoctoral research project on young asylum seekers’ friendships, peer relationships, and social support networks in Finland. More broadly, Riikka’s research interests include young people’s peer communities, communality, children and young people’s social capital, social resources in everyday life, recognition in social relationships, and creative research methods. Twitter: @RiikkaKorkiamk1

Available, Accessible and Acquired Social Support for/among Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Young People in Finland

The talk draws from an ongoing qualitative research that investigates the social relationships and support networks of 31 young asylum seekers, aged 14-18, from Afghanistan and Middle East, in Finland. From the viewpoint of emotional, material, informational and appraisal support, their perceptions and experiences are paralleled with the official guidelines provided by the Finnish Immigration Service and the implementation of these guidelines at the local level support services. The findings reveal about the personal support networks and ‘hidden’ practices of social support, and address the question of how the prevailing support system meets the young asylum-seekers’ lived experience of social support.

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Muireann Ní Raghallaigh

Dr. Muireann Ní Raghallaigh is a lecturer / assistant professor of Social Work at University College Dublin. She previously worked as a social worker with separated asylum seeking children and undertook her PhD in Trinity College Dublin, supervised by Professor Robbie Gilligan. Muireann’s research is focused on the experiences of asylum seekers and refugees, particularly children and young people. Muireann is committed to undertaking research that has the potential to have a strong social impact and to this end has written policy relevant reports, made submissions to relevant task forces/working groups, whilst also writing in academic journals. Twitter: @MuireannNiR

Young refugees negotiating life in Ireland: insights from three research studies.

This paper will draw on three separate studies: the first, looked at the lived experiences of unaccompanied minors living in Ireland; the second looked at unaccompanied minors’ perspectives in relation to life in foster care and the third looked at the needs of young Syrian refugees who arrived in Ireland with their parents. The paper addresses how these young people negotiate their daily lives in their new environment. Drawing on interviews and focus groups with young people, the paper focuses on the significance of relationships in the lives of young people as they navigate daily live, adjust to a new culture and maintain their own cultural background, highlighting both the challenges they encounter and their abilities in this regard.

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Bao Rong

Bao is a PhD candidate at the School of Social Work and Social Policy under the supervision of Professor Robbie Gilligan, and she based at the Trinity Research in Childhood Centre. Her PhD project aims to explore the lived experience of young migrant mothers in China. Bao obtained her MA (Education and International Development) from University College London, UK. Her dissertation looked at the well-being of migrant children in Beijing, China. Prior to that, she worked for an NGO in migrant communities in Beijing. She obtained her BA (International Journalism and Communication) from Beijing Foreign Studies University, China. Twitter: @BaoRong_

Return migrant children in China: a review of recent studies

Migration has almost become synonymous with transnational migration. However, in reality, over 70% of the migrants are internal migrants. Internal migration is especially prevalent in developing countries. In 2018, the rural-to-urban migrant population in China reached 245 million, a figure which rivals the entire population of international migrants globally. Among all the internal migrants in China, 30 million are children who moved to the city with their migrant parents. As rural citizens, these children are not able to access urban public education. Moreover, in China, students can only take the national college entrance examination at their place of origin. Therefore, migrant children have to return to their rural hometown if they aspire to higher education. However, the number of return migrant children is unclear and what their life is like after return is seldom studied. This presentation will review key messages from 13 relevant studies published in English or Chinese since 2010. These messages will relate to focal issues in the lives of return migrant children in China including academic performance, family life and social life and integration.

Daniela Sime

Daniela is a Reader/Associate Professor in Education and Social Justice at the University of Strathclyde, Scotland. She has over 15 years of research experience with migrant groups, including children and young people. Until recently, she was research leader on an ESRC-funded project entitled 'Here to Stay? Identity, citizenship and belonging among Eastern European migrant youth settled in the UK', from which she will present findings at the event. Daniela's broad research interests include issues of social justice, experiences of marginalisation, research with children and young people, the use of arts in public engagement, migration and children. She is currently Associate Dean for Public Engagement and Impact in the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences at the University of Strathclyde and in this role, she is aiming to support colleagues to make their research more accessible to wider audiences. Twitter: @danielasime @MigrantYouth

Citizenship, identity and belonging among Eastern European young people in the UK in the context of Brexit

This presentation draws on data from an ESRC-funded study conducted with over 1,200 Eastern European young people living in the UK. It examines young people's feelings of belonging, views and experiences of citizenship in the UK and as Europeans and their everyday experiences of racism, xenophobia and exclusion in the context of Brexit. The findings will reveal the uncomfortable position of many young people born in Central and Eastern Europe and living now in the UK, and their ambiguous future in the context of uncertain UK plans for Brexit. Drawing on concepts of identity, citizenship and belonging, the study progresses existing knowledge by focusing on young people's experiences in the context of current debates on Europe and issues of national and European identity.

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Amy Stapleton

Coming from a background in international development and intercultural mediation with a strong focus on migration and youth issues, Amy is currently an Irish Research Council PhD Scholar in Trinity College Dublin, researching under the supervision of Dr. Paula Mayock, School of Social Work and Social Policy. Prior to her PhD, Amy lectured in subjects including intercultural management, migration and research methods in the University of Lille and the Catholic University of Lille. In parallel, she ran an NGO developing projects in the make-shift camps in Northern France, particularly with young migrants and refugees. As a youth trainer and human rights activist, Amy is also actively involved in promoting young refugee rights and representing youth and refugee organisations at a European level. She is regularly invited to participate in international and European youth events

Understanding the Lived Experiences of Separated Young People during the Transition to Adulthood in France

This presentation draws from ongoing qualitative, participatory action PhD research that examines 40 separated young people’s experiences of the transition to adulthood in two European countries, Ireland and France, respectively. In both jurisdictions, the young people are invited to take part in a participatory group project and in one in-depth one to one interview. Preliminary findings from the French participatory group project will provide insights into these separated young people’s perspectives on the transition to adulthood, their expressions of agency and the key influences shaping their perceived choices. There will also be consideration of the merits and challenges of using a Participatory Action Research approach.

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Louise Yorke

Louise Yorke is a research associate at the Research for Equitable Access and Learning (REAL) Centre at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge where works with the Research on Improving Systems of Education (RISE) Ethiopia research programme exploring the effectiveness of large-scale education quality reforms. She completed (submitted) her PhD at the School of Social Work and Social Policy Trinity College Dublin, which focused on the lives, experiences and choices of rural girls as they negotiate different pathways to urban secondary schools in Ethiopia. Twitter: @LouiseYorke

What can we learn from the positive aspects of the migration of rural girls and young women to an urban city in Southern Ethiopia?

Migration is a diverse and increasing phenomenon, yet narratives that shape migration stories often overemphasise its negative aspects and implications. In opposition to such narratives, this presentation explores the positive aspects of rural-urban migration for a group of 27 rural girls and young women in Southern Ethiopia. It explores how migration enables them to escape restrictive norms and practices in their rural communities that limit their education and wider experiences. It shows how gaining independence and confidence through the experience of migration helps them to challenge the negative attitudes and expectations held within their sending communities. It also highlights the important residual benefits of migration, even when journeys have not been successful. While not seeking to understate the risks and challenges associated with migration, this presentation will show how focusing on positive aspects of such experiences can help to provide lessons for improving the lives of girls and young women in rural areas in particular, but may also help to think about how we can start to reimagine and reshape narratives around migration more generally and ensure that those who chose to migrate benefit from the experience.

Contact Louise

Schedule to follow!

For more information, contact event organiser, Professor Robbie Gilligan

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