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The University of Southampton
Politics and International RelationsPart of Economic, Social and Political Science

“LIVES ON HOLD, OUR STORIES TOLD” (LOHST) - A new collaborative research project

Published: 15 March 2021
A man standing in an alley.

A new collaborative research project between the University of Liverpool, University College London (UCL) and University of Southampton has successfully received funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to Covid-19.

The project ( Vulnerable Children in a Hostile Environment: The Legal and Social Impacts of Covid-19 on Young Unaccompanied Asylum-Seekers in England, ESRC ref. ES/W000474/1) which has a total value of approximately £354,000, has been awarded funding of over £283,000 from the ESRC. 

Covid-19 has had a hugely detrimental impact on the lives of young people, but the challenges facing young unaccompanied asylum-seekers have been further compounded by disruption caused by the pandemic to asylum processes and welfare support services.

Additionally, the post-Brexit legal environment may further affect the rights available to child migrants in the UK. Many teenagers on the cusp of adulthood will find their children’s rights disappearing while still waiting to be granted asylum.

Thanks to ESRC funding, this interdisciplinary research will be able to provide the first detailed study of the effects of the legal and welfare effects of Covid-19 on unaccompanied asylum seekers aged 16 – 25. As well as evidencing how their legal, welfare and civil society representatives are responding to delays in front line services, it will suggest concrete legal, policy and practice proposals to ensure their rights and welfare are restored and upheld.

In addition to exploring the impact of Covid-19 on the delays in the asylum process, importantly the study will give voice to young unaccompanied asylum seekers, with a focus on Albanian young people as a particularly marginalised group. 

It will reveal the extent to which Covid-19 compounds young unaccompanied asylum seekers’ exposure to risks such as criminal and sexual exploitation and poor mental health. 

The Principal Investigator is University of Liverpool’s Professor Helen Stalford, director of the European Children’s Rights Unit within the School of Law and Social Justice.

Co-Investigators are Dr Ingi Iusmen, Associate Professor in Governance and Policy (Dept of Politics and International Relations, Southampton), Dr Jana Kreppner, Associate Professor in Developmental Psychopathology (Psychology, Southampton University) and Dr Elaine Chase, Associate Professor in Education, Health and International Development at UCL. 

The project team will work with a group of unaccompanied young asylum seekers as co-researchers, accessed through and supported by the Albanian-support charity, Shpresa Programme.

The rapid response, multi-informant study will collect data from legal practitioners, social workers, services and refugee charities/NGOs and young unaccompanied asylum seekers themselves, and will run for eighteen months, until July 2022.

Dr Ingi Iusmen said:

“This is a very timely and impactful interdisciplinary research project aimed to capture the effects of the pandemic, as in asylum delays/suspension, on the lives and mental well-being of young unaccompanied asylum-seekers. Our team includes some of these young people (supported by Shpresa Programme) as co-researchers on the project.

It is amazing and very inspiring working with these young researchers: indeed, our project meetings are always dynamic, creative and aimed at making a difference to the lives of child migrants in the UK. We hope that our project findings will inform policy and practice in line with the pandemic experiences of young asylum-seekers in England”. 

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