'Identity, Asylum Seekers, Gender and Citzenship' Seminar

Issue date: 08 February 2005

Issue date: 08/02/05

The story of a young Nigerian woman who sought Asylum in Sweden under very difficult circumstances will be a key case study presented at a special seminar focusing on ‘Identity, Asylum Seekers, Gender and Citizenship’ on 25 February at the University of the West of England.

The seminar is part of a series sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), which brings together international speakers on important contemporary social issues.

‘The Story of Aminatu Bello a Young Nigerian Woman, Sharia Law and the Swedish Asylum Process’ is the title of the talk to be given by Gunnel Hedström, Manager of the Hallsberg Psychiatric Clinic, Sweden and Chair of the Hallsberg Social Democratic Women’s Association.

This paper will cover the Swedish asylum process based on the author’s experiences in the field, as a psychiatric nurse, local politician and as a member of refugee support groups. To illustrate how the Asylum process works in Sweden, Hedström will present a recent case study, “The case is that of a 19-year old pregnant woman arriving alone in Sweden; claiming to face prosecution, under a variant of sharia law, in her native Nigeria as a result of that pregnancy. The paper will then focus on issues such as: How has the asylum process affected this young woman? How do the authorities come to make their decisions? How do volunteers engage with the asylum seeker-process and how can such engagement affect the political decision-making process? To what extent does the law reflect political and social reality? Finally, the paper will make comparisons with other asylum regimes.”

A second session in the afternoon will compare the experience of women refugees in Canada, France, and Ireland.

Leah Bassel, of the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford will present a paper entitled: ‘Citizenship and Refugee Women’s Agency: Does theory meet practice?’ The paper will examine the experience of refugee women and multicultural citizenship in Canada, compared to refugee women in France in which assimilation on a republican model is the official model of citizenship.

Leah Bassel says, “Refugee women’s identities are complex and multiple. They integrate simultaneously as members of ethnic minorities and as women within these groups and this complexity combines with previous experiences of persecution in the country of origin. Using interviews conducted with members of the Somali community (women, men and youth), NGOs, and government officials in France and Canada, I will look at the impact on refugee women of resettlement in a country with a multicultural model of citizenship, Canada, compared to a country with a citizenship model of assimilation, France.”

The second paper for the afternoon is entitled, ‘Babies, Bodies and Entitlement: gendered aspects of citizenship in the Republic of Ireland’ by Dr Steven Garner of UWE’s School of Sociology. Garner’s discussion focuses on the Irish debate over the entitlement to citizenship for children born in the Republic, a debate which has been the focus of much parliamentary attention for the past 15 years with a backdrop of increasing migration. Since 1996 Ireland has been a country of net immigration. In June 2004, this debate appears to have culminated in a referendum, which opened the way to a constitutional amendment that attaches residence qualifications to the unfettered entitlement to citizenship enjoyed by children born there. The arguments for this amendment were couched in terms of a threat posed by Third World women having babies in Ireland simply to obtain residence.

Anyone interested in attending the seminar must register on the website:
http://www.uwe.ac.uk/hlss/politics/esrc/seminar1.shtml or contact Jamie Munn on: 0117 32 82375 e-mail: Jamie.Munn@uwe.ac.uk


Editor’s notes

‘Identity, Asylum Seekers, Gender and Citizenship Seminar’,
University of the West of England, Friday 25 February 2005, 10.30 - 16.00.
This seminar is part of the ESRC funded Research Seminar Series: Gender, Participation and Citizenship –Political World(s) in Crisis.
For further information on the seminar contact: Jamie.Munn@uwe.ac.uk

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