Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children: Childhood, Agency and Integration

  • Frances Mary Johnson

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This thesis investigates the practices and understandings of integration of asylum-seekers, under 18, who arrive in the UK without parent, guardian or carer. The recognition of children as active participants in society is widespread across the social sciences, yet this critical enquiry into the integration of unaccompanied minors brings new understandings concerning the form and complexities of agency. Unaccompanied minors are situated within the discursive grouping of ‘childhood’, conferring a position of inherent vulnerability and a statutory obligation to offer protection. Simultaneously, as asylum seekers, unaccompanied minors are subject to the exclusionary structures of immigration control. This thesis investigates how unaccompanied minors negotiate their own integration within this seemingly contradictory matrix.
Located within the qualitative, interpretive tradition, this thesis is comprised of a dialogue of methods, including reflexive participant observation, ethnographic tools and relational practices to produce an innovative and richly situated work. It follows the daily lives of a group of young men in and around a city in southern England over 11 months in 2017 as they negotiate systems of asylum, education and children’s services and as they build relationships with people and place. It argues for an understanding of agency that is relational, contextual and dynamic. It also argues for an understanding of integration as multiple in form and focused on the quotidian, seemingly ordinary interactions and assemblages practised by the young men.
Date of Award17 Feb 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorJason Hart (Supervisor) & Debbie Watson (Supervisor)


  • agency
  • childhood
  • integration
  • ethnography
  • assemblage

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