Skip to main content
KBS_Icon_questionmark link-ico
Syria_ICSR (2) ;

Researching the experiences of refugees, migration and social exclusion

School of Education, Communication & Society

19 June 2020

King’s is proud to be the first ‘Refugees Welcome University’ in the UK. Within the School of Education, Communication & Society, important research continues to look at the experiences of refugees, migration and social exclusion. To mark UK Refugee Week, Dr Aisha Hutchinson and Dr Francesca Meloni speak about their work and the importance of understanding the experiences of displaced people and communities.

Dr Aisha Hutchinson

I am a Lecturer in the Social Sciences in the School. My research interests include the nature, role and functioning of international social work and social development with a particular focus on international child protection and gender-based violence. I have also been involved in several pieces of research aiming to improve the lives of adolescent girls in contexts of humanitarian aid and social development.In 2016, I joined with Terre Des Hommes - Lausanne (a Swiss INGO specialising in humanitarian aid with children) to carry out an extensive piece of in-depth qualitative research on child marriage amongst Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon.

Other previous research strongly indicates that more girls under 18 are affected by child marriage across Syrian refugee communities in Jordan and Lebanon, than they had been back in Syria prior to the conflict. The marriage of children under 18, while sometimes considered as culturally acceptable, is commonly considered as a harmful practice by a wide range of actors across Jordan and Lebanon. In 2015, the elimination of traditional harmful practices such as child marriage was included in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and it has since received considerable attention by international, national, and local actors across the globe.

The research draws on semi-structured narrative interviews with Syrian refugee families in Jordan and Lebanon. This rich data examined the nature of child marriage, the social process of marriage, the impact of displacement, reasons for marriage, consequences of marriage, attitudes towards child marriage, help seeking behaviour and advice to other girls and their families.

We must recognise that child marriage occurs within broader processes of marriage and that for refugees, these processes have all been adapted by displacement. Responses to child marriage often either take poverty and vulnerability as the main cause of child marriage, or cultural norms, and activities are tailored in response to this. However, it must be recognised that poverty, concerns about protection and social norms all influence decisions, along with other contextual factors, and interventions must recognise and respond to the interaction of all of these rather than focus on one at a time. Gender transformative approaches to crisis, poverty and vulnerability, embedded in cultural practice and an acknowledgement of what life is like for refugees in Jordan and Lebanon are essential.

All final reports on research with faith-based actors and child marriage, qualitative interviews with married girls and their families, focus groups with Syrian refugees and policy mapping in Jordan and Lebanon have been finalised and published by Terre Des Hommes. The final reports can be accessed on the Terre Des Hommes website


Dr Francesca Meloni

I am a Lecturer in Social Justice in the School. My research focuses on contemporary processes of migration and social exclusion. I’m particularly interested in the interface between migration, age, race, and policy, and in the impact of legal status and racism on the experiences of belonging and access to social services of young migrants.

I have over 10 years of experience conducting ethnographic research with young migrants and, as part of my PhD at McGill University, I examined the influence of undocumented status on young people’s social belonging and access to education in Canada.

I conducted participatory research as part of the project, Becoming Adult: Conceptions of futures and wellbeing among migrant young people in the UK.

The ESRC-funded project analysed the experiences and intentions for the future of young men and women who migrated alone to the UK as children, as they make the transition to institutional ‘adulthood’. The research focused on the experiences of young people aged 17–25 years from three different countries of origin (Albania, Afghanistan and Eritrea).

As part of the project, young people used photography as a medium of expression and created a photobook to share and highlight their experiences. You can view the photobook here.

After completing this research project, I went on to do more research in similar areas. I examined the following issues and questions:

  • how is state parental responsibility towards unaccompanied minors given meaning for both frontline workers and unaccompanied minors in the UK.
  • how unaccompanied minors from Afghanistan experience migration as a space of both freedom and loneliness situated between competing moral frameworks: family projects, neoliberal discourses of independence, and a quest for new ways of being.
  • how illegality shapes youth’s belonging in Canada.

Learn more about how King's became the UK’s first ‘Refugees Welcome University’. For more information about the featured academics' work, go to their staff profiles below.

In this story

Aisha Hutchinson

Aisha Hutchinson

Senior Lecturer in Social Sciences

Francesca Meloni

Francesca Meloni

Lecturer in Social Justice

Latest news