New report examines lessons of 1930s child refugees for young sanctuary seekers today
A report by researchers at Aberystwyth University looks at how the experiences of children who fled from Nazi Germany to Britain in the late 1930s can help inform and develop strategies for supporting young refugees in Wales today.
18 June 2020
The experiences of children who fled from Nazi Germany to Britain in the late 1930s could help young refugees today.
A new report by researchers at Aberystwyth University examines how these children coped with separation from their family and culture, and how they adjusted to life in Britain.
Using oral testimony, interview transcripts and other historic sources, Dr Andrea Hammel and her team have studied the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on the 10,000 mainly Jewish children who escaped National Socialism and fled to the UK, some as part of the Kindertransport rescue mission in the 1930s.
Their findings will help inform and develop strategies for providing social and psychological support to young refugees in Wales today.
Entitled Adverse Childhood Experiences and the Child Refugees of the 1930s in the UK: History informing the future, the report will be launched on Thursday 18 June during Refugee Week 2020 and is sponsored by the ACEs Support Hub at Public Health Wales, which is developing a trauma-informed approach to supporting refugees and asylum seekers in Wales.
The findings of the report will also be presented at a meeting of Welsh Government’s Ministerial Taskforce for Refugees and Asylum Seekers on 25 June 2020.
Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, Jane Hutt, said: “I welcome this research from Aberystwyth University. It is vital that we learn from the past, so that we develop trauma-informed services which support those who seek to rebuild their lives here. I want to say to refugees here in Wales today that the Welsh Government is here to stand by you, to work with you, to learn from you, as we recommit to making a real difference. Welsh Government remains committed to making Wales a Nation of Sanctuary, where people of every race, faith and colour are valued for their character and actions.”
Dr Hammel, Director of Aberystwyth University’s Centre for the Movement of People (CMOP) said: “Many of the child refugees suffered great trauma – experiencing persecution and witnessing violence in their home countries, leaving their homes, often without family, and feeling disorientated upon arrival without the right linguistic skills or knowledge about British society.
“What we have done in this study is identify the protective factors that encouraged resilience during this challenging and formative period in their lives. Our aim is to provide enlightening historic context that will help contemporary policy making and inform current strategies being developed to support young sanctuary seekers in Wales today.”
Dr Hammel’s report builds on a report published in by Public Health Wales in February 2020, which identified a range of factors promoting resilience.
These included individual traits (the ability to think positively), family factors (positive attachment) and community factors (friendships, school, good community resources).
The University’s study has focused on five additional aspects identified as crucial protective factors in the post-migration period:
- The fostering of strong stable relationships with adults
- Communal living for older children (hostel setting)
- A cultural connection to both home and host countries
- The role of schools, education and skills development
- The importance of open communication about their experiences throughout their whole lives.
Welcoming the report, Joanne Hopkins, Director of the ACEs Support Hub at Public Health Wales said: “This important research comes at a time when more than ever we need to learn the lessons of the past to ensure all those arriving to make Wales their home are able to access the support they need. The historical experience of children who were child refugees in the 1930s -and especially those who were part of the Kindertransport - is a vital area of work, and provides valuable learning for our developing work on trauma informed approaches to supporting refugees and asylum seekers under the Welsh Government Nation of Sanctuary Plan.”
The report is publicly available on the ACE Aware Wales website: www.aceawarewales.com.