“I cannot forget the treatment that I received in the detention centre”
: unpacking the stories and experiences of refugees and migrants in Estonia in the context of Europe’s refugee “crisis”

  • Aminul Islam

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

This PhD thesis is a cumulation of five published articles, which examine different aspects of the life stories and genuine settlement attempts of refugee and migrant populations during Europe’s recent refugee crisis. Specifically, the objective of the thesis has been to offer an empirically rich account of the experiences of non-European asylum seekers, refugees and migrants in Estonia during the crisis. Everyday assumptions of these populations have been the product of either political elite or national(istic) media discourses, both of which are usually limited in scope and largely antagonistic in tone. To challenge the resulting portrait of refugees and migrants as a burden and a threat to host societies across Europe, a series of qualitative and in-depth interviews and ethnographic observations were carried out with non-European asylum seekers, refugees and migrants between 2015 and 2017.
The ensuing series of articles illustrate well 1) the peculiarity of refugee and migrant politics towards non-European populations in Estonia; 2) the role of memories and stories of the homeland in refugees’ “integration” attempts; 3) the representation of their agency; 4) the leisurely and ensuing identity practices of migrants and refugees; and 5) the meeting of past and present in how stories underpin the future plans of migrants and refugees in Estonia. The importance of individuality for each and every participant who participated in the study and the diversity and heterogeneity of refugee and migrant populations emerge strongly from the qualitative evidence. In this way, this PhD thesis challenges the homogenous assumptions of refugee and migrant populations and raises important theoretical, conceptual and policy questions about who should produce refugee and migration narratives and how these narratives should be deconstructed. In response, some thoughts are offered about the potential benefits of focusing on ‘marginalised voices’ and adopting a decolonial framework to (future) studies on refugee and migration (politics) in Europe
Date of Award2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorNora Siklodi (Supervisor)

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