The experience of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in the UK: migration and identity

PhD Thesis

Warren, J. 2021. The experience of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in the UK: migration and identity. PhD Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University School of Psychology and Life Science
AuthorsWarren, J.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification nameDoctor of Philosophy

Sri Lankan Tamil refugees (SLTRs) have lived in the UK in relatively large numbers for more than two decades. However, little is known about their experience of migration and adaptation. This study aims to address part of this gap and explore their lived experience, with special attention paid to their identity and acculturation.

This thesis comprises three studies. Study 1 focuses directly on SLTRs who fled Sri Lanka due to the conflict. Study 2 explores the lived experience of their children, the so-called ‘second generation’. Study 3 offers a complementary perspective on adaptation from Sri Lankan Tamil migrants (SLTMs) who moved to the UK voluntarily before the conflict.

To understand their experience, a qualitative methodology was adopted and – as the most suitable approach for this research – Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was selected. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews and then analysed. Studies 1 – 3 had four, six, and two participants respectively.

The unique contribution of this thesis is in elucidating the lived experience of conflict and migration of SLTR participants. SLTRs’ experience of conflict continues to shape – through the erosion of certain social identities – their experience of adaptation and meaning-making processes related to their current life. Moreover, the first generation’s experience indirectly affects the second-generation refugee participants. The meanings the second generation ascribe to their family stories contour their identities. Their heritage and host culture acculturation vary across different domains, with important implications for their daily lives. In contrast, the non-refugee participants of Study 3, being voluntary migrants, conceptualised their migration experience differently – which in turn contoured their adaptation rather differently. Due to methodological limitations, these findings need to be interpreted and potentially transferred with caution. Suggestions for future research and practical implications are discussed.

KeywordsSri Lankan Tamil refugees in the UK; Experience; Migration; Identity
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Deposited13 Dec 2021
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