Conference Agenda

JS_RN13_RN35_10: Relatives at a distance: Doing family in current migration regimes
Friday, 23/Aug/2019:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Vida Česnuitytė, Mykolas Romeris University & Vilnius University
Location: BS.1.25
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, First Floor, North Atrium Oxford Road


Family Migration Practices Of Refugees In Germany: The Timing Of Spouses’ And Children’s Migration

Lenore Sauer, Elisabeth Kraus

Federal Institute for Population Research, Germany

Although the numbers of forcibly displaced persons worldwide has increased substantially over the last years, studies on refugee populations in European destination countries are still sparse, especially concerning transnational family arrangements and family reunification practices. This paper aims to fill this gap by examining the process of family migration and reunification practices among male and female refugees who recently arrived in Germany from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Using data from the first two waves of the Refugee Sample of the German Socio-Economic Panel (IAB-BAMF-SOEP) and applying descriptive statistics as well as logistic regression models, we disentangle the heterogeneity of refugee families’ migration processes. Specifically, we analyse different types of family migration trajectories (joint versus independent versus family stage migration) and the probability of reunification with the left-behind partner and/or children in the destination country and to what extent this is shaped by socio-economic conditions, family networks and the legal situation of the first mover. Preliminary results on spousal migration behaviour reveal that the husband’s educational attainment and financial situation in the origin country determine whether couples arrive together at the destination. Moreover, solo migration is associated with the presence of other extended family members at the destination. We conclude that conventional theories for explaining economically motivated migration decisions and outcomes have to be adapted to the context of forced migration, and that further research is needed on the gender-specific characteristics of refugees.

Who Counts as “Unaccompanied”? The Making up of Family Relations in the Context of Migration Management in Germany

Bettina Ülpenich

Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, Germany

This presentation explores the social construction of family relations in the context of migration management based on qualitative interviews with social workers in youth welfare service in Germany. Large numbers of Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM) have been resettled in Germany and taken into care. As the interviews show, not only do case workers try to identify who counts as unaccompanied, they make family relations count through their assessments. In my paper I assume that minors who end up being classified as travelling “alone” are a social construction, interlinked with the migration regime, where identities are questionable and a specific doing family can be considered.

This leads to the central aim of this paper: How do professional case workers proof and evaluate family relations? When and how do family relations become questionable and when do they count? And most important, how “is family done” during the assessments?

The empirical examination of taking unaccompanied minors into care clarifies that companions have to be ignored or made relevant by the case workers. The main finding suggests that family relations are not taken for granted, they have to be verified. Case workers reach out for reliable documents to investigate family relations, guardianships and parents in the distance, while the lack of legal documentation leads to them being questioned. That means family members are documented family members. To do family, case workers use the differentiation between documented and undocumented people created by legal boundaries and border crossing, reproducing a migration regime in which undocumented migrants’ access to rights and belonging is limited.

The International Migration of Couples: Timing – Motives – Outcomes

Marcel Erlinghagen

University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany

Migration of couples should be understood as a product of bilateral negotiations between the two partners rather than an effect of individual decisions. Against this background, the paper investigates in the timing, motives and outcomes of international migration of couples. Based on data from the first two waves of the new and unique German Emigration and Remigration Panel Study (GERPS) the paper tries to answer the following questions: Are there differences between male and female partners in the timing of migration? How do different migration motives correlate with gender and education? How does partnership quality develop in the very first month after migration? How do childless couples and parents differ with regard to these parameters? GERPS will provide information on approximately 4.000 couples from which at least one spouse has recently emigrated from Germany to any other country or has recently re-migrated to Germany. The results will contribute to the ongoing debate about tied movers and family related inequalities of migration. Since most research deals with internal migration, we add new evidence on these topics by investigating in international migration. Moreover, whereas much of the previous literature on international family migration has focused on migration from less gender-egalitarian and economically less developed countries, our study uses data from Germany, where livings standards and gender equality within couples are – by global standards – relatively high.