Trajectories of Flight and Migration and possible Constructions of a Future of young Refugees in in Germany

2019 - 2020 / Project team: Prof. Dr. Phil C. Langer, Aisha-N. Ahmad & Khesraw Majidi

Funding: Analytische Stiftung für Psychiatrie

"There are far more reasons that push children to leave their homes and fewer pull factors that lure them to Europe. But for those who do aim to come to Europe, the allure is the chance to further their education, find respect for their rights and get ahead in life. Once they reach Europe, their expectations are sadly shattered."
– Afshan Khan, Regional Director UNICEF in Europe and Central Asia

Research Background

According to estimations up to ten million children and young people worldwide are fleeing from war and violence due to a persistent lack of perspectives and the complete destruction of their livelihoods. A recent report by UNHCHR, UNICEF and IOM assumes that 70 percent of the children and young people who fled to Europe, almost 80,000 in total, are registered in Germany. Many of these young people have experienced traumatic experiences in their countries of origin and in the course of fleeing; some have never had a life in security and normality. Surprisingly little is known about their psychosocial situation, their own perception and experience and the subsequent needs in Germany.

A large part of the young people who have come to Germany in the recent years will most probably stay here, their experiences and stories will increasingly become part of the country, society and culture. If it is not possible to consciously and productively shape this process and thus make use of the potential it contains, the problems that currently appear will not only intensify but multiply. Trauma can and will be passed on over generations, often unconsciously, as we know from working with Holocaust survivors.

The purpose of this project is to contribute productively to a process of a joint processing of the experiences of war and flight in the sense of creating social participation and integration and to help shape it through empirical findings by offering young people who have fled to Germany in recent years the opportunity to pass on their experiences in a non-psychopathological manner and to convey their ideas, hopes and aspirations for a future in Germany. At the same time, this presumes the determination of the psychosocial conditions for success. With this project we want to connect thematically as well as methodically with and further develop the research that we have carried out in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2015. In the Afghan Youth Project, we investigated the experiences and visions of the future of young people in Afghanistan, which were shaped by everyday violence, and made them conveyable through projective essays and drawings, among other things. In northern Iraq we worked with former ISIS Child Soldiers and could process their extreme traumatic experiences with the method of collaborative storytelling.

Research Questions

As an overarching research question, we aim to find out: How do war and flight-related experiences and current social conflicts influence and shape the psychosocial reality of young people in Germany and their future prospects? This gives rise to interrelated individual questions such as: What hopes, and desires were associated with the flight to Germany and to what extent have these been fulfilled and changed? How do young people deal with obstacles and disappointments? What does it mean for them to live in Germany now and what future prospects have they developed for themselves? What opportunities do young people, most of whom do not have experienced a stable security situation or political stability, see for getting involved in society and politics?

Remarkably, these are questions that have hardly been investigated in Germany so far. At the same time, however, the perception and experience of young people who were born and grew up in Germany (especially without family migration backgrounds) should also be recorded: How do these young people perceive the current situation of forced migration and flight, through which the experiences of the war also came to Germany? What does this mean for their ideas of the future? Can a "common ground" be identified through the very different biographical experiences of the two groups, which could open up a starting point for perspectives for integration and participation to be shaped jointly, for a common struggle for social and political participation? And what can we learn from this about the necessities and needs of institutionalized psychosocial and therapeutic help systems for young people?

Methodical Approach

In the past projects we have developed and applied two innovative empirical-qualitative methods – projective essays and drawings & the collaborative storytelling method -, which both have proven to be culturally sensitive and suitable for research with young people. We are aiming to apply these methods also within this project. Additionally we are planning to use video voice as an innovative and participatory method.