Everyday life - stories from elderly refugees and migrants: "What am I to do?"
Ask, Torunn A.
Department of sociology, social work and welfare studies University of Agder Kristiansand, Norway
In partnership between university and practice we are exploring the theme: Social work in a multicultural society. The project has an action research approach. An ambition is to develop cooperation between researchers, practitioners and users of welfare agencies to investigate issues and increase knowledge about migrants and their situations. Part of the project investigates especially how elderly people (55+) with migrant backgrounds (mostly refugees) experience their meetings with the Norwegian society and the welfare system and how they express their everyday life in new frames. Qualitative interviews with elderly refugees are the main part of the empirical data. The migrants interviewed have been settled in Norway for five years or less.
The framework and background for the project is that all municipalities offer an introduction programme to everyone who has been granted a residence permit. The programme is compulsory for refugees, but not for those who are 55+. Although they have a possibility to attend, we may ask whether these individuals are being neglected in the official work that aims to contribute to equality in living conditions and diversity through employment, integration and participation. Another aspect is that the operating line of getting everyone into work may weaken the attention paid to elderly people's voices and contribution in society. They may as such become a minority within the minority. Persons 55+ are also in number a minority among those who apply for asylum and stay in Norway. We may question whether they have lost most and perhaps gained least through their changed conditions. We do not know, however, because little attention has been paid to their stories and viewpoints.
Methodologically the project involves practitioner research which also actualises ethical considerations because practitioners (together with researchers) perform interviews with the migrants who they also (partly) know from their position in the refugee services. One aims at developing and improving practice through scrutinising and critically investigating one's own practice. This represents challenges and interesting reflections.
This is an ongoing project and the presentation will deal with the experiences so far.