Exploring the Refugee Experience and how it affects Mental Health and Identity Formation of Refugees in Wales – A Thematic Analysis
Rehman, Hareem ur Rehman Ighna
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This study explored the lived experiences of refugees and asylum seekers based in Wales, UK. According to the Red Cross there was an estimate of 118,000 refugees in the UK in 2016. Past research has shown that labelling someone a refugee enforces an identity of a passive victim and this has been found to be untrue. Each refugee experience is unique. It is characterised by trauma and loss – of property, status, social habitus and identity and refugees go through a process of identity re-formulation which can be influenced by a variety of internal and external factors. The aim of this study was to understand the struggles refugees and asylum seekers in Wales faced and how these affected their mental health and identity re-formulation. Participants were first generation refugees or asylum seekers who were recruited from a community centre focused on helping refugees, and data was gathered using semi-structured interviews. A thematic analysis found that the participants had all experienced loss, but they did not desire to be seen as victims of their traumatic pasts. They described factors which impeded their integration into life in the UK and affected their mental health – language and cultural barriers, the negative portrayal of refugees in the media and the suspicion which they faced from the authorities. Factors that helped their integration and worked towards improving mental health were support from the community centre and finding a sense of purpose. This study concluded that refugees were active participants in the re-formulation of their identity and a viable way of helping them with this process would be to make higher education more accessible to them.
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