From a human rights perspective, the family is considered the cornerstone of society and therefore needs to be respected and protected. When people are forced to flee their country, their families fall apart. This applies to the 37,000 Afghans who found refuge in the Netherlands. Many of their extended families got scattered over different countries and continents as a result of conflict, war, and the necessity to flee. The vulnerability of migrants in general, and refugees in particular, with regard to their family life is reflected in several international treaties that offer protection in this respect, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Convention on Human Rights. The qualitative research of author Paulien Muller - focusing on Afghans in the Netherlands and their families - gives insight in how these refugees (re)construct and perceive their family life within and across borders, at the nuclear family level, within the Western diaspora and with family members who stayed behind in Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Iran. An important finding was that, besides the negative impact of a restrictive immigration policy on constructing a transnational family life, socio-economic and socio-cultural factors also played a role. Not only did the weak economic position of the Afghans in the Netherlands undermine the former function of the extended family as a support network, the Dutch and Western culture was also perceived as a threat to the familial cohesion. The paradox of the often rather intensive transnational family ties that these refugees created was that they formed a continuous confrontation with the distance and borders between them and their family members elsewhere and with the loss of their former family life.
Publication Date: 5/1/2010