Forced Migrant Youth’s Identity Development and Agency in Resettlement Decision-Making: Liminal Life on the Myanmar-Thailand Border

Jessica Ball, Sarah Moselle

Abstract


Migration and refugee studies have elaborated upon themes of voice, subjectivity, and agency of mobile adults while comparatively neglecting forced migrant children and youth. Decades of armed conflict and economic collapse in Myanmar resulted in millions of forced migrants living in neighboring Thailand, China, and Malaysia. This article focuses on the experiences of forced migrant youth aged 12 to 17 from Myanmar who have grown up as temporary residents along the northwest border of Thailand. They are often stateless and disconnected from their families, communities, and cultures of origin and excluded from the formal economy and institutional affiliations, living in a liminal state on the edge of society. This article sets out a rationale for prospective research exploring how forced migrant youth may be both vulnerable and resilient, both victims and agents, and carriers of both their cultures of origin and globalized identities shaped by displacement. Exploring the issues raised in this article can challenge foundational theories of child development regarding normative development and necessary conditions for thriving, which underpin international law and settlement practices. This paper provides a contextual overview and charts a program of research with the intention to better understand the capacity of youth on the move and contribute meaningfully to decision-making about their repatriation or resettlement.

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.18357/mmd22201616157

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University of Victoria
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