Open laptop and a magnifying glass

2016-09-30 09:52

New research on how refugees navigate the information landscape

’Where can my children go to school? How do I receive healthcare? How do I find a place to live?’ To establish oneself in a new society requires a lot new information, but how a refugee adapts to a new culture and actually finds information is so far an unexplored area. That’s what a newly-created research team at the University of Borås wants to change.

­’There is a lot of research on refugees, and that creates a lot of information that is directed at refugees. But nobody has previously studied how this group actually takes in and relates to the information. We are here at the cutting edge’, says Professor Annemaree Lloyd, leader of the new research team.

Annemaree Lloyd and her colleagues have interviewed refugees and spoken with those within various organisations who provide information to those coming to Sweden. They have been able to see that the information needs are large and complex, and simultaneously, that those who work with the information are not familiar with those needs.

’The information that is directed at refugees doesn’t always reach them, and it happens sometimes that incorrect information is spread, which is worrying. The research we are conducting now is incredibly important both for refugees and for those who work within different authorities and organisations.’

Missing big picture

One of the biggest problems the research team shows is that different organisations and authorities have not coordinated their information efforts; therefore, there is no good way for anyone searching to get an overview of how the different parts of society are interrelated and in what order one should review different types of information.

’We see clearly that those refugees we have spoken with will contribute to society as soon as possible. They want to work and study, to live a regular life. Thus it is frustrating with long wait times, and it becomes even worse if there is no clarity in how society works and interrelates’, says Ola Pilerot, one of the researchers in the project.

The research team has also found that refugees have information needs of different types. Ola Pilerot continues, ‘It can naturally have to do with information about how you find housing, where you can receive healthcare, or where your children can go to school. But it can also deal with other things that, for someone who has been in Sweden a long time, can seem small and insignificant—social codes such as not sitting beside someone else on the bus if there is an empty spot elsewhere, or how you queue up in different contexts.

Experienced researchers

The researchers in the group have not previously worked together, but when they speak, it’s clear how they complement one another with their different strengths. Annemaree Lloyd notes that the group’s composition has been enormously important for the project.

‘For example, we have a colleague who speaks Arabic. She has been able to understand our interviewees both linguistically and culturally. It is invaluable to have had a colleague who has not only functioned as an interpreter but also works within our research field.

’At the Swedish School of Library and Information Science, we have a lot of experience in researching information practices, and this is our way to contribute to what is happening in the world today. The studies we have done so far are a good beginning, but now we are in search of more research funding to be able to go deeper into these areas in a way that can benefit society’, she concludes.

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The project SpIRIT (Supporting Information Practices in Refugees in Transition) includes the following resarchers: Annemaree Lloyd, Professor, Frances Hultgren, Senior Lecturer, Ola Pilerot, Senior Lecturer, Gustaf Nelhans, Senior Lecturer, Ameera Mansour, doctoral student and Amanda Glimstedt, Lecturer.