Bringing together researchers, practitioners and policy makers working with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland
The ESRC funded research project is to start in November 2013 and will run for four years. It arose out of previous research conducted by myself and the P-I (Rebecca) and other Co-I (Sergei). Our previous research had mainly focussed on the Russian Federation and Central Asia, and had considered issues ranging from gender, welfare and social security to migration, settlement and integration. The research equally arose from our interest in the very changed migratory context that had come to exist in Europe as a whole since 1989/1991 as freedom of movement rapidly increased for people living in countries once separated from Western Europe by ‘the iron curtain’. The UK has seen new flows of migration coming from Central Eastern Europe and other parts of the former ‘Soviet bloc’, particularly since EU accession processes in 2004 and 2007. Scotland, the focus for this research, presented a particularly interesting and distinctive case to us due to the specifics of its economic and demographic situation, the political discussion taking place of the need for migration, and the division of responsibilities between UK and Scottish parliaments and local authorities for migration. Whilst we observed that both the Scottish Executive and many local authorities had expressed a wish to attract and retain migrant workers, we noticed that challenges had also been highlighted in academic and policy oriented research relating to a demand for and adequacy of service provision. Meanwhile it became clear to us as we developed the research proposal that the experiences and perspectives of migrants themselves remain little understood.
The project prioritises this often hidden migrant voice in both its theoretical and empirical approach. It aims to study perspectives and experiences of ‘social security’ amongst migrants from Central Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union in Scotland. We use ‘social security’ in a holistic sense to mean the ways in which migrants are able to make themselves socially, economically, personally and culturally secure in a new environment and their strategies for dealing with every day risks. Over the course of the project we will examine the ways in which migrants’ experiences and perspectives on ‘social security’ affect their longer term intentions regarding settlement in Scotland, whether this is a decision to stay, or a decision to move elsewhere. Migrants’ experiences and needs obviously differ depending on their levels of education and skills, the kinds of work they do, their language abilities, their age, which country they come from, whether they are male or female and which part of Scotland they have come to live and work in. Levels of service provision, local economic and demographic needs and local community perceptions of and responses to migration also differ quite markedly between, for example, large cities and more remote rural areas. These differences also impact on migrants’ experiences and aspirations. Therefore in the project we chose to focus upon and pay attention to these various forms of diversity, both in terms of the migrants themselves and their location. The research will be conducted in eight locations in Scotland: two cities (Glasgow and Aberdeen) two medium-sized towns (Peterhead and Arbroath) and four more remote rural locations in Aberdeenshire and Angus. In each location, the project will explore the different kinds of resources, networks, structures and services which migrants draw on in order to make themselves materially and emotionally secure within the places where they live and work. It will also tease out which aspects and perceptions of security (economic, personal, cultural, social) are deemed particularly important by migrants and how these influence migrants’ decisions to settle in a particular location, to move on, or to return to their countries of origin.
We hope that through a long-term and deep engagement with migrant communities, the project will deliver significant new and original empirical data which will prove to be of benefit in terms of its academic contribution, but also in terms of its practical and policy relevance. In our development of the research methodology, we thus prioritised a participatory action research element. A first phase of research will identify key themes and areas of concern for migrants, drawing particularly on the experiences and perspectives of migrants, and involving in-depth interviews, video and photo diaries, ethnographic observation and expert interviews at all fieldwork sites. This will be followed by the phase of participatory action research, during which we will work directly with migrants, migrant organisations, policy makers, service providers and employers to develop practical projects addressing particular issues that have been identified by migrants themselves. The process of developing these projects will be evaluated as will their short, medium and long-term outcomes with a view to determining ‘best practice’ and the potential for replication in broader local, regional and national contexts. Through the use of PAR, the project is attempting to make a practical contribution to the lives of the people being studied by including them in the formulation of the research design and the research practice. We hope through this approach to give equal weight to migrants’ knowledge rather than prioritising academic or professional ‘expert’ knowledge. We are also keen to have a deep engagement with those who are at the front line in terms of policy development and service provision. During the development of the research proposal, we consulted with both governmental and non-governmental actors in the different fieldwork locations, many of these are represented on the Project Advisory Group, and we are looking forward to collaborating with them further during the research.
We are looking forward very much to starting the research in November. If you would like any further details about the project, please contact Moya.