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An Ethnographic Study of Deaf Refugees Seeking Asylum in Finland

Centre for Applied Language Studies, University of Jyväskylä, PL 35, 40014 Jyväskylän yliopisto, Finland
Societies 2019, 9(1), 2;
Received: 29 September 2018 / Revised: 21 December 2018 / Accepted: 23 December 2018 / Published: 9 January 2019
PDF [227 KB, uploaded 9 January 2019]


Deaf asylum seekers are a marginalized group of people in refugee and forced migration studies. The aim of this paper is to explore and highlight the experiences of deaf asylum seekers in the asylum procedure in Finland. The data come from linguistic ethnographic methods, interviews, and ethnographic observation with 10 deaf asylum seekers. While living in the reception centers, the study participants have faced a range of linguistic and social challenges. The findings show that language barriers appeared from day one after the participants’ arrival in Finland. The investment and initiatives of deaf volunteers played a crucial role for deaf asylum seekers in their access to and participation in Finnish society. In addition, receiving formal Finnish sign language instruction had a positive effect on their well-being. Drawing on content analysis of deaf asylum seekers’ experiences, I argue that greater awareness, recognition, and support of deaf asylum seekers are needed in the Finnish asylum system. I conclude this paper with a discussion of and suggestions for a better asylum system for deaf individuals. View Full-Text
Keywords: deaf asylum seeker; ethnography; experience; language barriers deaf asylum seeker; ethnography; experience; language barriers
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Sivunen, N. An Ethnographic Study of Deaf Refugees Seeking Asylum in Finland. Societies 2019, 9, 2.

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