Families on Hold: How the Context of an Asylum Centre affects Parenting Experiences

Publication Date: 
12 November 2019
Wiley Online Library
Publication Language: 
Appearing in: 
Child & Family Social Work

Migration, especially under stressful circumstances, places pressure on parental capacities. At the same time, being part of a supportive family is of prime importance for the well‐being of migrating children and parents. In this paper, we highlight the impact of the living conditions in a collective asylum centre on asylum applicants' parenting experiences through in‐depth interviews with and participant observations among parents in a Belgian asylum centre. Differentiating between the influences of the organizational and physical environments of the centre, our results reveal that various organizational aspects limit parental agency and well‐being and often render parents powerless in raising and protecting their children. Their physical environment, consisting of a dilapidated building, is experienced as a non-welcoming, dangerous environment that leaves insufficient opportunity to establish a safe and stable home.

We conclude that there is almost no attention paid to asylum applicants' parental role within the collective reception facilities. Further, their individual parental responsibility is emphasized, whereas the difficult environment of the asylum centre in which they have to raise their children is not criticized. 


asylum reception conditions, collective asylum centre, family support, parenting experiences, parents' and children's well-being, physical and organizational environments, seekers, politics, ethics