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You are here: Home Research Resources Expert Guides Sahrawi Refugee Children in a Spanish Host Program Aims and Organisation of the Research Programme

Aims and Organisation of the Research Programme

This research project aimed to document the experiences of Sahrawi refugee children taking part in the summer hosting programme known as Vacaciones en Paz (Vacations in Peace) in Madrid, Spain, during the summer of 2005. It is part of a larger research programme funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation which focused on the experiences of youth living in situations of prolonged conflict and forced migration in the Middle East and North Africa region.

The research programme comprises three core case studies: 1) Young Palestinian refugees in households located in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip [1999-2001]; 2) Afghan youth living in Iran [2002-2005]; and, 3) Sahrawi young people living in the refugee camps near Tindouf, Algeria [2002-2005]. The Sahrawi and Afghan components of the research programme are collectively referred to as SARC, shorthand for Sahrawi and Afghan Research on Children. SARC emerged from the previous Palestinian study and drew on many of the latter’s core research questions and methods.

Case studies on Palestinian, Sahrawi, and Afghan youth examined:

  • a) the coping strategies of children and youth in refugee households.

  • b) the effects of forced migration on the members of these households.

  • c) the social context of the direct and indirect effects of conflict.

  • d) the attitudes to and incidence of violence within and outside households.


Dawn Chatty, Deputy Director of the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford, was Principal Investigator for the Palestinian, Sahrawi and Afghan projects. Gina Crivello, an anthropologist, worked as the research assistant on the Sahrawi and Afghan project. She and Elena Fiddian, a graduate student at the University of Oxford, carried out the fieldwork in Spain among Sahrawi refugee youth.

The research project among Sahrawi children visiting Spain aimed at supplementing the pool of data which had already been collected in the Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria on the broader issues of coping, politicisation, education, and gender and family dynamics.

Randa Farah, a Palestinian anthropologist based in Canada was the team leader of the Sahrawi research team in the refugee camps.

In the camps, some fifty households, distributed among the five camps, agreed to take part in the study. Children (between the ages of eight and eighteen) and their significant caregivers within these households were interviewed in their homes. These were semi-structured, open-ended, interviews in family-group settings.


The research in Spain differed from the research in the camps in a number a ways. First, it was a three-week project linked specifically to the Vacaciones en Paz programme. Interviews in the camps took place over a two-year period and developed through the existing neighbourhood and family networks of local researchers. Second, unlike the more family-oriented interviewing approach that took place in the camps, the interviews in Spain were largely one-to-one with the children, although host parents often remained nearby or sat in during the interviews. In Spain, around fifty children were interviewed. In the camps, fifty households participated in the study and family-style interviews sought to capture the views of children and their significant caregivers within this sample. In contrast, the Spanish study used an open-ended questionnaire with individual children, similar to one devised by Homa Hoodfar, the team leader of the Afghan study, and her research team. The questionnaire covered relevant topics, including migration history, gender, and family dynamics.

It was thought that the administration of a questionnaire would enhance the potential for comparability across the Sahrawi and Afghan cases. The questionnaire was modified to reflect the circumstances of the Sahrawi case, the children’s experiences in Spain, and their involvement in the Vacaciones en Paz programme. Finally, the interviews in Spain are unique from the other research efforts because they were collected in a “third” country – neither the ‘homeland’ (Western Sahara) nor the host country (Algeria). We embarked on the study in Spain with the hope that such circumstances would elicit responses perhaps difficult to draw out while interviewing in the context of the refugee camps in Algeria.

Last updated Sep 23, 2011