SIHMA | Scalabrini Institute For Human Mobility In Africa

Pathways of well-being and belonging among migrant youth in Cape Town

“Pathways of well-being and belonging among migrant youth in Cape Town” research

Children and young people with experiences of migration in South Africa are building their

lives in contexts of deep insecurity. The process of finding a sense of home in their new

environments is complex, and through this research, SIHMA aim to build an understanding

of the barriers to and facilitators to building their sense of belonging and how this affects

their well-being. Previous research identified the need to further understand the lives of

migrant youth (including refugees and asylum seekers) who have left or were close to

leaving alternative care institutions. Civil society, too, has identified this group as almost

invisible in South African Government immigration and child protection policies, making the

process of legalising their stay in South Africa very complex. This study set out to

understand the experiences of young migrants leaving alternative as they try to access

documentation, how they live and strategise around legal insecurity and what impact this has

on their sense of identity and emotional wellbeing.


Following the approval from University of Cape Town Human and Social Sciences Ethics

Committee, SIHMA in collaboration with a consultant researcher and an artist conducted two

separate sets of workshops with two groups of young people (aged 16 to 18) and (over 18

years). The workshops were conducted from November 2023 to March 2024. The young

people who participated in the workshops were identified from or referred by contacts from

Child and Youth Care Centres in Cape Town as youth who were struggling to access

documentation. Using a participatory art-based approach the research privileged the young

people’s own experience, giving them choice to represent their world in the way they chose.

The young people made art-books around the theme of ‘My belonging story’. After the young

people were done with their art-books, those who wanted to share their stories were given a

platform during the discussion. The young people over the age of 18 also participated in

follow-up workshops in April and May 2023 where they used their stories to create a video

that will be used for advocacy purposes. The art-based method used in this research gave

the young people a voice and an opportunity to contribute and drive change towards

ensuring access to documents and other fundamental rights for young people with migration

experiences. The report and the video created by young people is in the process of

finalisation and will be shared on the SIHMA website by September 2024.


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