‘We hold on and have patience’ : perspectives and experiences of migrant fathers in Belgian asylum centres

Auteurs & affiliatie

Leni Linthout, Ines Keygnaert, Massil Benbouriche, Caroline Desombre, Ilse Derluyn


ABSTRACT On arrival in the European Union, most migrants who apply for asylum stay often for extended periods of time in asylum centres, putting parenting practices under pressure. Despite an increased interest in the functioning of migrant families, the perspectives of migrant fathers remain marginalized in practice, policy, and scientific research. Very little is known about how migration impacts fathering practices and how migrant fathers may best be supported in their parental role, especially in unique parenthood contexts such as when residing in an asylum centre. This paper aims to explore migrant fathers' parental practices, experiences, and perspectives while raising their children in an asylum centre in Belgium. Semi‐structured interviews with 21 fathers in asylum centres were conducted. The findings were thematically analysed. The analysis shows that staying in an asylum centre challenged fathers' ability to fulfil paternal tasks and responsibilities such as ensuring safe accommodation, providing food, fulfilling material needs, and bringing their children to school. Different coping strategies such as seeking (in)formal support and problem‐solving were expressed to answer the daily challenges and resist existing reception structures. For most fathers, the roles of provider and protector were the most important. We argue that migrants' unique voices, experiences, and understandings remain left unheard in the organization and the practical implementation of asylum reception initiatives, limiting support for fathers in these institutions and hindering the enjoyment of their roles as fathers during adverse and stressful periods.

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