Front Matter


This book aims to provide a European perspective by collating different perspectives for social work research on migration and asylum. It is the result of a joint work developed by a group of social work academics and researchers across Europe, most of whom are members of the Special Interest Group on Social Work Research on Migration and Asylum of the European Social Work Research Association.

The authors of the different chapters are conscious of the importance of social work as a profession and discipline and aware of their responsibility towards society, the citizenry and migrants and refugees. They have written these chapters because they have previously developed a critical perspective and this has not been easy work, as the context – as it has been explained – does not favour any alternative position that challenges the current state of things. This is, by itself, good news and a reason for hope as it paves the way for future research and reflections.

This book can be read as a series of interconnected pieces of social work research exploring social work practice in the areas of migration and asylum across Europe. However, the aim of the volume is to produce a comparative analysis of contemporary social work practice in this complex and challenging area. It is also a reflection on how effective social practice is in the field and a source of reflection on how social work education programmes can contribute to training professionals.


Research in Social Work series

Series Editors: Anna Gupta, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK and John Gal, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Published together with The European Social Work Research Association (ESWRA), this series examines current, progressive and innovative research applications of familiar ideas and models in international social work research.

Also available in the series:

Social Work Research Using Arts-Based Methods

Edited by Ephrat Huss and Eltje Bos

Critical Gerontology for Social Workers

Edited by Sandra Torres and Sarah Donnelly

Involving Service Users in Social Work Education, Research and Policy

Edited by Kristel Driessens and Vicky Lyssens-Danneboom

Adoption from Care

Edited by Tarja Pösö, Marit Skivenes and June Thoburn

Interprofessional Collaboration and Service User Participation

Edited by Kirsi Juhila, Tanja Dall, Christopher Hall and

Juliet Koprowska

The Settlement House Movement Revisited

Edited by John Gal, Stefan Köngeter and Sarah Vicary

Forthcoming in the series:

Migration and Social Work

Edited by Emilio J. Gómez-Ciriano, Elena Cabiati

and Sofia Dedotsi

International Editorial Board:

Andrés Arias Astray, Complutense University of Madrid, Spain

Isobel Bainton, Policy Press, UK

Inge Bryderup, Aalborg University, Denmark

Tony Evans, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK

Hannele Forsberg, University of Tampere, Finland

John Gal, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

Anna Gupta, Royal Holloway, University of London, UK

Todd I. Herrenkohl, University of Michigan, US

Ephrat Huss, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel

Stefan Köngeter, Eastern Switzerland University of Applied Science (OST), Switzerland

Manohar Pawar, Charles Sturt University, Australia

Ian Shaw, National University of Singapore and University of York, UK

Alessandro Sicora, University of Trento, Italy

Darja Zaviršek, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

Find out more at:


Approaches, Visions and Challenges

Edited by Emilio José Gómez-Ciriano, Elena Cabiati and Sofia Dedotsi

First published in Great Britain in 2023 by

Policy Press, an imprint of

Bristol University Press

University of Bristol

1–9 Old Park Hill




t: +44 (0)117 374 6645


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© Bristol University Press 2023

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN 978-1-4473-6180-0 hardcover

ISBN 978-1-4473-6182-4 ePub

ISBN 978-1-4473-6183-1 ePdf

The right of Emilio José Gómez-Ciriano, Elena Cabiati and Sofia Dedotsi to be identified as editors of this work has been asserted by them in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

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  • List of figures ix

  • Notes on contributors x

  1. Introduction

    Emilio José Gómez-Ciriano, Elena Cabiati and Sofia Dedotsi 1

  2. 1The contribution of social work research to promote migration and asylum policies in Europe

    Emilio José Gómez-Ciriano 5

  3. 2Participatory art in social work: from humanitarianism to humanisation of people on the move

    Darja Zaviršek 25

  4. 3Grasping at straws: social work in reception and identification centres in Greece

    Marina Rota, Océane Uzureau, Malte Behrendt, Sarah Adeyinka, Ine Lietaert and Ilse Derluyn 47

  5. 4Migrant girls’ experiences of integration and social care in Sweden

    Elin Ekström 64

  6. 5“Come to my house!”: Homing practices of children in Swiss asylum camps

    Clara Bombach 80

  7. 6Transnational dynamics of family reunification: reassembling social work with refugees in Belgium

    Pascal Debruyne, Kaat Van Acker, Dirk Geldof and Mieke Schrooten 95

  8. 7Open or closed doors? Accessibility of Italian social work organisations towards ethnic minorities

    Elena Cabiati 112

  9. 8Refugee children and families in the Republic of Ireland: the response of social work

    Muireann Ní Raghallaigh 126

  10. 9Sense of place, migrant integration and social work

    Susan Levy and Maura Daly 146

  11. 10“If not now, when?”: Reclaiming activism into social work education – the case of an intercultural student-academic project with refugees in the UK and Greece

    Sofia Dedotsi and Ruth Hamilton 161

  12. 11EU border migration policy and unaccompanied refugee minors in Greece: the example of Lesvos and Samos hotspots

    Marina Rota, Ine Lietaert and Ilse Derluyn 177

  13. Epilogue: Time to listen, time to learn, time to challenge … because there is hope

    Emilio José Gómez-Ciriano, Elena Cabiati and Sofia Dedotsi 198

List of figures

  1. 1.1Four elements influencing knowledge 9
  2. 2.1Marko Kočevar, EU flag, 2015 27
  3. 2.2Marko Kočevar, Fences, 2015 28
  4. 2.3Marko Kočevar, ‘I feel Slovenia’, 2015 28
  5. 2.4IRWIN, State in Time, Lagos, 2010 38
  6. 2.5IRWIN, State in Time, London, 2012 39
  7. 2.6NSK passport holders, London, 2007 40
  8. 9.1The Indicators of Integration Framework 148
  9. 9.2New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy 2018–2022 153

Notes on contributors

  • Sarah Adeyinka is a researcher at Ghent University where she earned her Doctorate in Educational Sciences. She is part of the European Research Commission-funded ChildMove Project and conducted research on the impact of transit experiences on the wellbeing on unaccompanied minors. Her part of the project is focused on young female Nigerians who were trafficked into Italy for sexual exploitation. She has worked in the field of humanitarian aid for over 12 years with a focus on people in vulnerable situations. This included working onboard two Search and Rescue vessels in the central Mediterranean. Alongside a colleague, she conducted a study on the wellbeing of Nigerian and Ghanaian women working in prostitution in the Schaerbeek municipality of Brussels which resulted in a book. She is also Founder and Board Chair of CoCreate VZW, Belgium and CoCreate Humanitarian Aid Foundation, Nigeria.

  • Malte Behrendt graduated with a degree in Clinical Psychology in 2015. During an internship with an NGO in Colombia, he was able to gather first work and research experiences with minors in situations of extreme violence and displacement. Following his graduation, he started working in an emergency shelter for unaccompanied refugee minors in Berlin as a psychologist and social worker. Shortly thereafter he started training as a psychological psychotherapist at ‘Zentrum Überleben’ – an NGO specialising in the treatment of victims of torture. He worked as a PhD student in the ERC-funded research project ‘ChildMove’ at Ghent University for four years and has since graduated.

  • Clara Bombach has an MA in Social and Cultural Anthropology and is a doctoral student at Zurich University, and Educational Science and Senior Researcher at Marie Meierhofer Children’s Institute, Zurich, Switzerland. Bombach is a qualitative researcher in the field of family and childhood studies, doing biographical research on the life trajectories of formerly placed children in care. She is involved in the scientific reappraisal efforts regarding compulsory social measures and placements in Switzerland until 1981. For her ethnographic doctoral thesis she studies the everyday lives of children and their parent(s) in so-called refugee community centres. In her committee work (for example, interest group Quality4Children), she is committed to the implementation of the United Nations Children’s Rights in child and youth welfare services.

  • Elena Cabiati is Associate Professor at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Italy, where she coordinates the Bachelor Programme in Social Work. She teaches the methodology of social work, intercultural social work and the management of social welfare organisations. Her main research interests are: social work and migration, the involvement of experts by experience in social work education, child protection and management of social services. She is a registered social worker with fieldwork experience in child protection as both a practitioner and middle manager. She is Board Member of the European Social Work Research Association.

  • Maura Daly has worked as a social worker for 30 years. She completed her PhD on the social work professional identity in 2018 and has worked as a lecturer at the University of Dundee since then. She is the convenor for practice learning in social work and her main area of teaching is in preparing students for practice learning. Her main area of research for the past five years has been on a longitudinal study of the experiences of newly qualified social workers, which has just been completed. Maura and her husband are carers. They have provided respite care for a young man with disabilities since 2003 and have journeyed with him from pre-school to independent living. They have been foster carers since 2016 for a young man who fled war-torn Ethiopia as an unaccompanied minor and have written an autoethnographic account of this experience.

  • Pascal Debruyne has a PhD in Political and Social Sciences, Master’s in Moral Philosophy and a Bachelor in Social Work. His research focuses on themes such as asylum and migration, urban superdiversity and informal social work and the politics of social work. He is currently a researcher at the Odisee University College of Applied Sciences, at the Center of Family Sciences. His current research focuses on the family reunification of refugees in Belgium.

  • Sofia Dedotsi is Assistant Professor at the Department of Social Work, University of West Attica, Greece. She is a qualified social worker, with field experience in child protection and family support in the UK and Greece. She has been teaching different social work courses in universities in Greece and the UK since 2010. Her research interests include social work anti-oppressive practices, social work education, migration and social policy. She gained the Advanced Award in Social Work from the PQ Consortium for Wales (2009) and was also an elected Board Member of ESWRA (2014–19), where she took the position of Vice-Chair (2017–19). She is a member of the Editorial Board of the European Social Work Research Journal and she has published in several academic journals, books and conferences as well as given guest lectures in universities across Europe.

  • Ilse Derluyn is Full Professor at the Department of Social Work and Social Pedagogy at Ghent University. Her main research topics concern the psychosocial wellbeing of war-affected children, young refugees and migrants, unaccompanied refugee minors and victims of trafficking. She is widely published and is also active in training and support for practitioners. She also gives counselling to refugees. Ilse is European Research Council grant holder of the research project ChildMove and coordinates the H2020-project RefugeesWellSchool. She is Director of the Centre for the Social Study of Migration and Refugees at Ghent University and Co-director of the Centre for Children in Vulnerable Situations.

  • Elin Ekström is a PhD student in social work. Her research focuses on processes of inclusion and exclusion among youth. Part of her studies seek to explore how females, so-called ‘unaccompanied refugee minors’, experienced their first years after seeking refuge in Sweden.

  • Dirk Geldof is Professor of Sociology at the Faculty of Design Sciences at the University of Antwerp. He is Lecturer and Senior Researcher at the Centre of Family Studies, Odisee University of Applied Sciences Brussels and Lecturer in the International Crossing Border Program at the Karel de Grote University College, Antwerp. His research focuses on migration, super-diversity and refugees.

  • Emilio José Gómez-Ciriano is Associate Professor at the Department of Social Work, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, Spain. He was previously a lawyer and worked for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in migration and human rights issues at a Spanish level but also at a European and International level (United Nations). He has a PhD in Social Anthropology and a Bachelor in Social Work and specialised in economic social and cultural rights at Abo Akademi University, Finland. He is currently Head of the research group Alter-Accion. He has led some EU-funded research projects and others funded by the Spanish Government. He has done research as a guest researcher at the College of Europe and KU Leuven University, Belgium, Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Salford, the Pontifical University of Salamanca and the National Distance Education University, Spain. He has also lectured in universities in Ecuador, the Netherlands, the UK and Finland and is responsible for Human Rights of Justice and Peace Spain. Currently he is on the Editorial Board of three journals and is the Secretary of the European Social Work Research Association.

  • Ruth Hamilton is a registered social worker and practised as a social worker and probation officer before becoming a researcher and social work lecturer. She has worked in several higher education institutions (HEI) in England delivering pre- and post-qualifying programmes and worked as a social work consultant delivering continued professional development to social workers in local authorities across the UK. Most recently she has been Head of Subject for Social Work at Northumbria University and Chair of Social Work Education North-East, a collaboration of six HEIs. She has worked on a variety of local and national research projects in health and social care including projects focused on sexual violence and the use of arts in community health projects. Her current research interests include pedagogical issues in social work education focusing on widening participation, student identity, developing research minded practitioners and critical consciousness, social activism and the refugee crises.

  • Susan Levy is Senior Lecturer in the School of Humanities, Social Sciences and Law, and Director of Professional Doctorates at the University of Dundee, Scotland. Her research centres on the role of the arts and embedding cultural diversity within social work, along with making visible and integrating different knowledges into practice. She is a co-editor of the forthcoming Routledge Handbook of African Social Work Education (2023).

  • Ine Lietaert holds a PhD in Social Work, studying the return and reintegration processes of assisted return migrants. She works as Assistant Professor at the United Nations University-CRIS, where she coordinates the Migration and Social research cluster, and at the Department of Social Work and Social Pedagogy at Ghent University, Belgium. She focuses on the impact of international/regional and national policies on social work and social support practices, with particular focus on the governance of ‘mobile’ groups in vulnerable situations, such as asylum seekers, return migrants, (internally) displaced persons and refugees. She also focusses on the impact of mobility and different types of borders and policies on migrants’ lives, including their feeling of belonging, their copying strategies and their access to services, investigated through a socio-spatial research approach. She teaches international social work at Ghent University and is (co)supervising various research projects.

  • Muireann Ní Raghallaigh is Associate Professor of Social Work at University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland and programme director for UCD’s Professional Masters in Social Work. She worked previously as a social worker with unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. She has conducted research in relation to the experiences of unaccompanied minors in foster care, refugees transitioning from Ireland’s ‘direct provision’ accommodation system, refugee children arriving through resettlement schemes and refugee family reunification. She is currently involved in a project which explores ethical considerations in research with refugee populations. She previously served on the Board of Directors of the Irish Refugee Council and is currently co-chair of UCD’s University of Sanctuary Committee.

  • Marina Rota is Sociologist with Postgraduate Studies in Criminology in Greece and Belgium. She holds a PhD in Sociology from Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Athens, and completed graduate seminars in social street work. Marina has worked in the migration and asylum as a field worker since 1995, mainly with unaccompanied refugee minors and child victims of human trafficking. She has also worked with different organisations including Doctors of the World, Doctors without Borders and the International Organization for Migration Department of Migration and Health. For the last 16 years, she has been training frontline professionals in identifying and supporting people in vulnerable situations and victims of trafficking. She was part of the ChildMove project at Ghent University from 2017 until 2022 where she worked as a researcher.

  • Mieke Schrooten is Professor of Social Work at the University of Antwerp and Odisee University of Applied Sciences, Brussels. She is affiliated with the Center for Research on Environmental and Social Change, University of Antwerp and the Social Work Research Centre, Odisee University of Applied Sciences. Her main topics of interest are mobility, transnational social work and informal social work practices.

  • Océane Uzureau holds a Master’s in Migration Studies. She is a PhD candidate in Social Work and Welfare Studies at Ghent University and a researcher on the European Research Council-funded ChildMove project. She collaborated with the Observatory of the Migration of Minors, University of Poitiers in action research projects with unaccompanied minors in France. Her research interests focus on unaccompanied minors’ migration and mobilities within Europe, social support while on the move, border experiences and graffiti analysis in transit migration hubs.

  • Kaat Van Acker is a social worker and experiential psychotherapist. She obtained her PhD in Psychology at KU Leuven in 2012 for a study on acculturation attitudes of Flemish majority members. Between 2013 and 2015, she worked as a social worker with asylum-seeking families in individual housing facilities. In 2015, she joined Odisee University of Applied Sciences as a lecturer and researcher while maintaining a position at KU Leuven as a research fellow and lecturer. Her current research primarily concerns refugee families, in particular refugee family wellbeing and reception infrastructures. As a psychotherapist, she also regularly works with refugees facing trauma and adaptation difficulties.

  • Darja Zaviršek is Professor at the University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Social Work and Chair of the Department of Social Justice and Inclusion and Professor at the University of Applied Science Alice Salomon Berlin. She was the chair of the International doctoral network in social work, and founded the East European subregional Association of the Schools of Social Work as part of the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) and is President and Board Member of the IASSW. She published several books and articles related to disability and gender studies, the history of social work and critical social studies. In 2016 she was the Hokenstad Lecture Awardee and in 2022 she got the IASSW Eileen Younghusband Memorial Award for achievements in social work teaching and research.

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