Young migrants standing on a world map
Photo from Drawing Together art exhibition in Scotland, photo by Emily Macinnes

Young refugees build their new lives with endurance, talent, and hard work

In a new publication, Relational Wellbeing in the Lives of Young Refugees, featured as a special issue of the journal Social Sciences, scholars focus on the ways young refugees co-construct a sense of wellbeing for themselves and other people in countries where they have sought sanctuary.

The articles are centered around the insights from the NordForsk funded Drawing Together project, and provide fresh ways to think about the causes of wellbeing in refugee lives.

Read/download publication:
Relational Wellbeing in the Lives of Young Refugees
A special issue of Social Sciences.
Editors: Ravi K. S. Kohli, Marte Knag Fylkesnes,
Mervi Kaukko and Sarah C. White.

The researchers seek to re-story existing narratives of refugee suffering, so that endurance, talent, and hard work, add to the ways young refugees are represented within discourses on refugee integration within the policies, practices and public perceptions of receiving countries.

In the ways used here, wellbeing is seen as relational – as existing between, as well as within people. Here, people are relational subjects and wellbeing is fundamentally bound up with caring for and sharing with others.

Poster for a Drawing Together art exhibition
Art has been an important part of the Drawing Together project, and art exhibitions have been organised in Finland, Norway and Scotland. Here is a detail from the exhibition poster, created by one of the young participants. Photo: Drawing Together.

As a whole, the contributing authors illuminate the relational complexities of forced migration and integration as young refugees settle into new communities of (un)belonging. They scope the ways in which local, national and transnational relationships resonate for young refugees. They also consider how relational wellbeing changes over time and across contexts, as memories of the past, current experiences and the aspirations for the future all intertwine in the construction of life after a successful asylum claim.

In the Drawing Together project, researchers have been working with groups of young refugees in Finland, Norway, and Scotland over a period of three years to examine how they draw and describe their networks and relationships. Through a series of art workshops and interviews, the researchers explore how their social networks flow and evolve over time. By focussing on visual arts methods and film-making, the researchers offer ways of engaging with young refugees beyond the spoken word, where creativity finds an important place in their lives.

Finally, they also consider the weight of policy and legal structures that provide the possibilities and constraints for young refugees growing a sustainable life over time.

This publication not only contributes to the academic discourse on refugee well-being but also offers valuable insights for policymakers, practitioners, and anyone interested in fostering a more inclusive and supportive environment for young refugees.


Thomas Jacobsson

Thomas Jacobsson

Senior Adviser