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Volunteers working to support migrants in Glasgow: a qualitative study

Caitlin Jones (Medical Student, based at Department of General Practice and Primary Care, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK)
Andrea E. Williamson (Clinical University Teacher, based at Department of General Practice and Primary Care, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK)

International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care

ISSN: 1747-9894

Publication date: 9 December 2014

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the roles, motivations and experiences of volunteers who work to support asylum seekers (AS), refugees and refused asylum seekers (RAS) in Glasgow.

Design/methodology/approach

Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight volunteer participants who worked to support migrants in Glasgow, two of which were AS. Purposeful and theoretical sampling was used and data were analysed using the framework approach.

Findings

The roles of participants were broad included providing “destitution relief” (providing shelter and food for destitute asylum seekers (DAS)) and acting as advocates for AS to help them access services. The most common reported motivation of participants was a humanitarian interest in the situation of migrants in Glasgow and the UK. In contrast, participants who were AS, volunteered because they could not work and it helped to improve their mental well-being. The complexity of the circumstances of some migrants was seen as the most challenging aspect of volunteering. Participants were involved first hand in the difficulties migrants had in accessing health and social services.

Research limitations/implications

This exploratory study confirmed the vital role voluntary organisations have in supporting migrants in Glasgow. It highlights the essential role volunteers have in supporting DAS and sets out some volunteer support needs. This has important implications for this context in Glasgow. Further work in other dispersal settings in the UK would help elucidate if this is replicable across the UK.

Practical implications

Volunteer's role as lay advocates should be recognised and then supported by statutory services such as primary care and social services.

Social implications

The overall view was that the system of claiming asylum poses numerous challenges for both migrants and the volunteers working to support them. AS can become completely reliant on the volunteers and the services they provide.

Originality/value

This is the first research study examining the roles, motivations and experiences of volunteers who support migrants.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Thanks to all the voluntary organisations who recruited participants on the authors behalf and the participants themselves for agreeing to take part. Research was funded by General Practice and Primary Care, School of Medicine, University of Glasgow. Authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Citation

Jones, C. and E. Williamson, A. (2014), "Volunteers working to support migrants in Glasgow: a qualitative study", International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care, Vol. 10 No. 4, pp. 193-206. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJMHSC-10-2013-0034

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited