30 / 2009
Marko Valenta

Family ties, female dependence and networking in exile

Little attention has been paid to the problems refugees and their families face while they try to reconstruct their social life and networks in exile. In this paper, refugees’ migration biographies and social integration in Norway is linked to broader issue of family membership and gender roles. Drawing on qualitative data and interviews with refugees, paper show how refugees’ family situation influence refugees’ social integration in exile, their perspectives on mainstream society and home country, inclusive their attitudes toward repatriation. It is argued in the paper that single refugees are more exposed to feelings of loneliness and social marginality in relation to the mainstream than refugees who are in exile together with their families and children. The paper maintains that in some cases, family members may facilitate integration into Norwegian networks. Among other things, family members may appear as family networking teams who simultaneously reproduce ties along the lines of a common family affiliation and bridge across ethnic groups. As members of such a team, family members will help to expand each other’s personal networks through joined networking activities. Finally, the findings also indicate that certain categories of refugee women who come to Norway through procedures for family reunion may be strongly dependant on their husbands, ending up in traditional gender roles and segregated social networks. The presented findings have potential implications for repatriation schemes and integration policies.
KEY WORDS: refugees, family relations, female dependence, family reunion, social integration