Several authors have shown that Roma asylum seekers from Serbia and other Western Balkan countries have very realistic expectations when it comes to their chances of getting asylum protection Koricanac et al. As Maric et al. They applied for asylum because they were hoping to find themselves among the lucky ones Maric et al. Driven by these findings, I asked the informants in the study why they opted to request asylum, knowing that they had low chances of being granted asylum protection. The reason for asking this was to understand better if being aware of the small opportunities to get asylum is perceived as a barrier to deciding to seek asylum.
What I came to find out was striking not only because some Roma asylum seekers estimate their chances of getting asylum as high, but also because what asylum represents to them, is not necessarily similar to what asylum represents in legal terms. As it will be discussed in the following section, there are many ways to prolong asylum procedures, and those who manage to extend their stay up to 6 months or longer, are considered to have gotten asylum. Anka explained:. Long has pointed out the importance of considering discursive means that express values and points of view in interpreting the agency of social actors.
Thus, a better understanding of the decisions and social practices of Roma asylum seekers from Serbia requires understanding their discursive means, or rather the ways of verbally expressing their points of view. Even though some Roma asylum seekers see their chances of getting asylum as high, within their understanding of what asylum is, most research participants acknowledge that the increased tightening of asylum regulations creates considerable barriers in fulfilling their goals. All research participants who applied for asylum explained that asylum procedures have become a lot more rigorous for people coming from the Western Balkans over the past years.
The participants also believed that this is mainly due to large numbers of refugees coming from Syria and other war-affected countries. Goran pointed out to the significant differences in the strictness of status determination procedures when he applied for asylum in , and While in he had a formal interview, the last two times he was only asked to submit a written form where he explained his reasons for requesting asylum. Similarly, Feat explained that while in his first interview for asylum, status determination officers paid close attention to what he was saying, in his last interview they barely even listened to him.
In these accommodation halls, apparently aimed at demoralizing Roma migrants from making further attempts to seek asylum protection, people shared the beds and living space with unknown people. Their mobility also became severely restricted, as they had to report their leaving of the halls to the officers. Goran, who experienced being in a collective accommodation hall during his last asylum procedure, explained that 1 day an officer approached him and his family, telling them to pack all their belongings within 1 h, after which they were put on the bus to Serbia.
For Goran, this not only created enormous confusion and anger, as his wife and children were frightened, but it also caused the feelings of humiliation, as they were treated like criminals with no reason. This criminalization practice and enforcement of the regime of deportability was however not only reserved for those staying in collective accommodation halls, but for those in private accommodation as well. Even though Anka regarded her yearlong asylum procedure as successful, she mentioned random checks of police officers several times during our conversation.
While the first time Anka successfully managed to explain to the officer that her son was still under medical treatment, showing all the documentation from the doctors and lawyers, the second time she had no grounds on which to confront the officers. This is when Anka and her family were forced to leave Germany and were sent back to Serbia. Similarly to Goran, Anka felt frightened not only by the appearance of police officers but also by the fact that they could come for them at any time.
With an underlying intention of minimizing and controlling the unwanted movement of Roma, effective enforcement of restrictive measures also pushed the Roma migrants to the margins of legality. Roma asylum seekers perceive the regulatory instruments such as detention-like accommodation halls and random deportations as drawbacks and barriers in deciding to seek asylum protection. Participants in this study stated that they do not plan to seek asylum in the next few years until the numbers of asylum seekers from Syria and other war-affected countries decrease.
In other words, the interviewees understood the restrictive measures as a direct consequence of an increased number of war refugees. The example of Goran and other research participants suggest that although low chances of getting asylum protection might not necessarily be perceived as a barrier due to a particular understanding of asylum, other external factors are in most cases seen as obstacles. However, their narratives demonstrate that they do not rely only on luck, but they also use their agency in many different ways to pursue the set goals.
According to research participants, there are several bases on which most Roma asylum seekers from Serbia claim asylum. One of the bases is the argument of facing poverty and social and economic isolation in Serbia.
As research participants explained, claiming asylum based on health problems has in many cases ensured a successful procedure, that is, a procedure that lasts at least 6 months. Indeed, considering the difficult access to health services for Roma in Serbia, a large number of them often do not get appropriate medical treatment. Hence, it does not come as a surprise that a considerable number of Roma asylum seekers indeed suffer from some health issue.
According to research participants, if one of the family members suffers from a health problem, the whole family gets a chance to stay in the asylum procedure for the duration of the medical treatment. Since he had a surgery 6 months after they had made the asylum requested, the whole family got permission to stay in the asylum procedure during this period. Their procedure was extended for six more months after the surgery, for the period of post-surgery medical care.
In the same manner, Feat, another participant who claimed to have had a successful asylum attempt, requested asylum based on his health problems. Feat explained to status determination officers that he had a psychological disorder, as he was traumatized in the Kosovo conflict, from which he fled to Serbia in Although his request was rejected within only 7 days, Feat managed to extend his asylum procedure thanks to hiring a lawyer. Feat believed that had he claimed asylum based on other than health-related grounds, even a lawyer would not have been able to extend his procedure.
Some, like Srecko, were being sent back to Serbia right after their medical intervention was over, while others got rejected only after a few days or weeks. As the respondents testified, those Roma asylum seekers who are not happy with the length of their asylum procedure need to put more effort to prolong the process.
These efforts ought to be seen as acts of practicing agency within a severely restricted structural context. According to the participants, there are different tactics and strategies that Roma asylum seekers from Serbia employ to extend their asylum procedures. All these strategies imply exercising agency by using personal abilities and drawing upon available resources. Once Roma asylum seekers from Serbia have their asylum requests officially rejected, which is almost always the case, some of them try to extend the procedures by lodging appeals.
Strategies for extending the procedure vary from hiring good lawyers and translators for the Serbian language, to going to municipal and other courts and gathering adequate documentation from doctors. At the same time, he had to make sure to save enough money from the monthly allowance, so that he could invest in paying the lawyer.
Without further evaluating the risks that come with the tactics Roma asylum seekers employ, it is worth recognizing that the ability to rely on available resources gives Roma migrants an opportunity to become influential creators of their own lives and migration endeavors. Even though extreme tightening of asylum regulations make obtaining refugee status almost impossible for Roma coming from the Western Balkans, using the power they possess as social actors create a constant challenge to the restrictive regime.
She told him not to worry and found a good lawyer to represent him in the appeal process. After putting a lot of effort in gathering the documentation needed and investing a considerable amount of money as well other resources, Feat got three procedure extensions in total. After his last permitted stay expired, Feat decided to withdraw his asylum request and go back to Serbia. The reason for this was that the costs of hiring lawyers became too high, which made Feat decide to use the savings he had made in the procedure to buy some land in Serbia.
This research finds evidence against the arguments of some authors such as Andjelkovic et al. Although some participants have expressed satisfaction with the fact that they managed to save some money and were not disappointed by not being granted permanent asylum; some other claim that their only dream is to stay in Germany and never come back to Serbia.
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The variety of motives for and expectations of seeking asylum suggests that there is no one standard explanation of the nature of recent Roma asylum attempts. While for some Roma from Serbia seeking asylum represents a way to cope with life hardships temporarily, for others it is a way to escape life-threatening poverty and isolation permanently.
Thus, the tendency present in the contemporary discourse surrounding the phenomenon of recent asylum-seeking of the Roma from post-Yugoslav space, to identify one characteristic motive for their migration, appears to be oversimplifying. Based on the empirical data, this study argues that the reasons of Roma asylum seekers vary depending on individual perceptions of barriers and opportunities both in the home country and the country of destination.
The individuals and families that shared their stories experienced the regulatory instruments such as detention-like accommodation halls and random deportations as drawbacks and barriers in deciding to seek asylum protection. Nevertheless, their stories suggest that while severely restricting the space and mobility of Roma migrants, the obstructive regulations and instruments of control are always being challenged through acts of resistance that Roma asylum seekers exercise in their asylum attempts.
Using social ties and other available resources in pursuing asylum-related goals represent a way for Roma asylum seekers from Serbia to exercise their agency even within a very constricted context. Despite the slim chances of getting asylum, some Roma from Serbia choose to use their abilities to stay in asylum procedures as long as possible. The agreement was ratified in and stipulated the readmission of the citizens of Serbia that are residing in the countries of EU without having legal status.
By , the Republic of Serbia signed 18 agreements on readmission with 16 EU countries Andjelkovic et al. The data was collected in Serbia in , in the municipalities of Belgrade, Pancevo, and Cacak. The data was anonymised and names used in quotes are factious. The images or other third party material in this chapter are included in the chapter's Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the chapter's Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder.
Skip to main content Skip to sections. Advertisement Hide. Contesting the Structural Constraints. Open Access. First Online: 23 February Download chapter PDF. On the other hand, Goran, who requested asylum three times, has never managed to stay in the procedure for longer than 3 months. Only through looking at how Roma asylum seekers understand asylum, can we comprehend their practices, such as repeated asylum requests, despite low chances of being granted refugee status.
Forget victimisation: Granting agency to migrants. Development, 46 3 , 30— CrossRef Google Scholar. Andjelkovic, M. Challenges of the forced migration in Serbia. Belgrade: Group Google Scholar. Apap, J. Briefing: EU legislation in progress-safe countries of origin proposed common EU list. Briones, L. Empowering migrant women: Why agency and rights are not enough. Farnham: Ashgate. Carling, J.
Migration in the age of involuntary immobility: Theoretical reflections and Cape Verdean experiences. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 28 , 5— Cherkezova, S. Potential Romani migrants from the Western Balkans. Cvejic, S. Survey on the needs of returnee migrants in Serbia. De Genova, N. Annual Review of Anthropology, 31 , — Asylum applicants and first instance decisions on asylum applications in Giddens, A.
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Cambridge: Polity Press. Social theory and modern sociology. Oxford: Polity Press. Some of the housing that people lived in was of poor quality and lacking in facilities such as heating and cooling housing should have sound construction and offer basic services such as clean water and sanitation, and provide protection from climate changes , was crowded be of an adequate size , left people feeling unsafe provide safety and security , was too expensive be reasonable and affordable , far from social connections and services accessible to services and amenities and insecure offer reasonable security of tenure.
Addressing each of these elements is likely to improve the health and wellbeing of people from refugee andasylum-seeking backgrounds. In terms of practical recommendations, a key issue to emerge from our research is that of the impact of housing insecurity on the health and wellbeing of people with asylum-seeking and refugee backgrounds.
In this regard, policy changes to improve housing security and reduce mobility for refugees and asylum seekers would improve health outcomes. For example, ensuring that both asylum seekers and refugees are eligible for social housing this is not the case in South Australia would lead to greater housing security, and this supports findings of research concerning housing and health for refugees in Canada, which found positive benefits to social housing availability [ 46 , 47 ].
Similarly, supporting pathways to home ownership would be valuable, as would increasing time limits on initial supported housing options. A greater diversity of housing being made available to refugees and asylum seekers both in terms of tenure type and other features of housing such as size and layout would better meet the various needs of different groups e. While there are housing standards regulating housing in South Australia, and Australia more generally, these standards focus more on the physical aspects of housing, without consideration of the broader elements of housing that affect health, nor do they focus specifically on the needs of refugees and asylum seekers.
A great consideration of these other aspects of housing and the needs of particular population groups would strengthen the effectiveness of these regulatory mechanisms to promote healthy housing. Efforts to improve housing affordability, particularly for housing in good condition, such as granting full government benefits to asylum seekers, as well as raising social security benefits for refugees and asylum seekers more generally recent reports indicate for those on these benefits that almost no properties are affordable [ , ] would assist in improving health and wellbeing for asylum seekers and refugees.
Participants in our study also noted that they felt that they could not address housing issues due to their refugee or asylum seeker status and also highlighted issues in relation to feelings of safety in neighbourhoods. Both of these issues could be addressed in part by greater understandings of the impact of torture or trauma for those working with this cohort of people such as trauma informed training for real estate agents , ensuring that initial housing placements are in safe neighbourhoods, and making sure that people understand how to address behaviours that make them feel unsafe e.
In general, ensuring that service providers and policy makers are aware of the broad health impacts of housing on refugees and asylum seekers, particularly in relation to mental health, is key to improving health and wellbeing, as well as broader integration and resettlement outcomes for this group of people in countries such as Australia. Overall, our research provides further evidence concerning the importance of housing to both physical and mental health for asylum seekers and refugees living in resettlement countries.
Housing should be considered an important health issue when planning resettlement, and improving housing quality, affordability and increasing diversity in the type of housing available to asylum seeker and refugee families all have the potential to lead to more positive health outcomes and successful integration.
We would like to thank the research participants for their generosity in sharing their stories. We gratefully acknowledge the support of the project Reference Group and also the Working Party of people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds. Anna Ziersch conceived of and designed the study. Clemence Due managed the data collection. Clemence Due and Emily Duivesteyn undertook the interviews.
Moira Walsh undertook the data analysis. The authors declare no conflict of interest. The organizations providing cash and in-kind co-contributions to the project were members of the Reference Group offering assistance in the design of instruments and recruitment of participants. They were not involved in the analysis of the data, interpretation of the results, the writing of the manuscript nor decision to publish the results. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Published online Sep 8. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer.
Received Aug 10; Accepted Sep 5. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract Housing is an important social determinant of health; however, little is known about the impact of housing experiences on health and wellbeing for people from refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds. Keywords: health, wellbeing, housing, asylum seeker, refugee, humanitarian migrant. Introduction People from refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds represent some of the most marginalised and vulnerable groups in the world [ 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 ] facing a range of risk factors for poor health and wellbeing, including experiences of trauma, dislocation and violence, with associated loss of family and community support and ontological insecurity e.
Housing and Health for Refugees and Asylum Seekers Despite the provision of some housing in initial stages of resettlement in many countries including Australia , previous research indicates a range of housing issues for refugees and asylum seekers, including the cost of housing, experiences of discrimination, lack of available or appropriate housing stock, language barriers and a lack of familiarity with housing and sociocultural elements of resettlement countries [ 5 , 35 , 45 , 46 , 47 , 48 , 49 , 50 , 51 , 52 , 53 ].
Materials and Methods The results outlined in this paper form part of a larger study of the relationship between housing, social inclusion and health for asylum seekers and refugees who had been in Australia for seven years or less. Participants Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 50 participants, including 28 people from refugee backgrounds i. Results In this section, we outline the general links that participants made between housing and health and wellbeing, as well as discuss the impact of specific elements of housing that emerged from the analysis: housing affordability, the physical elements of housing such as cold and damp and space and layout, social elements of housing such as safety and disorder and social relations and insecurity of housing tenure.
Overall Health and Wellbeing Many asylum seekers and refugees have suffered a range of human rights violations, prolonged exposure to trauma and torture so that when they arrive in Australia, they often present with complex health issues [ 10 , 67 , 68 , 69 , 70 ]. Several respondents suggested the simple fact of having a house was important for mental health, as seen in the following quotes: When we have a home we live in peace of mind and relax without problems.
Affordability The cost of living e. Rather than the overcrowded conditions in which he is living, his preference would be for a place of his own: I like to have that kind of place own room but I cannot afford it. Physical Elements Mallett and colleagues refer to the hardware or physical elements of a dwelling and the space in terms of crowding and privacy, which all contribute to the suitability of a particular house. For example, Samuel, a refugee from Africa, stated: Housing affordability is an issue that affect diverse and linguistic people as we do not have referees and this cause most refugees and Asylum seekers to sign contracts for houses that are in bad condition.
Space and Layout An unsuitable layout e. Social Environment In addition to the physical features of a house, many participants noted that the social environment of their neighbourhood impacted the extent to which housing was experienced as suitable or otherwise and also influenced their broader resettlement experiences. Safety and Disorder The position in which a house is located is a key element of the impact that housing may have on health.
For example: So the most important thing for me is the security and peace of mind.
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Insecurity of Tenure Insecurity of tenure is a key characteristic of the private rental sector, particularly in Australia where standard leases are no more than 12 months [ 36 ]. Asylum-seeking males particularly noted a sense of insecurity in their shared housing arrangements: Your house is a place for feeling relaxed and peaceful. Discussion In this section, we discuss the housing issues identified by the participants and the impacts of these issues on health and wellbeing.
Conclusions Overall, our research provides further evidence concerning the importance of housing to both physical and mental health for asylum seekers and refugees living in resettlement countries. Acknowledgments We would like to thank the research participants for their generosity in sharing their stories. Author Contributions Anna Ziersch conceived of and designed the study. Conflicts of Interest The authors declare no conflict of interest. References 1. Fazel M. Prevalence of serious mental disorder in refugees resettled in western countries: A systematic review.
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