An exploration of the meaning of occupation to People who Seek asylum In the United Kingdom

Helen Claire Smith*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)



Seeking asylum creates circumstances that impact significantly on occupational opportunities, leading to negative outcomes for individuals, families and the host community. Understanding the specific meaning of occupation during this major life transition provides valuable insights regarding occupation cross-culturally, during transition or under socio-legal restrictions. 

Method: This study employed a phenomenological approach, using a series of in-depth interviews to illuminate the role of occupation in the everyday lives of 10 participants. 

Findings: All participants spoke of the challenges of the asylum process, and the powerful drive to keep busy. They each identified the special role of occupations done for the benefit of others - family, network or community - linking these with cultural ideals and their own desired outcomes of value and purpose. 

Conclusion: Occupation has enormous potential for enhancing post-migratory experiences, but the choice of occupation is also important. People strive to move beyond simply 'keeping busy' to find occupations of real meaning that foster connections and purpose, and in particular feed their need to feel valued. Occupations undertaken for the benefit of others connect with culturally appropriate collectivist ideals, and seem to do more to promote 'doing, being, belonging' and 'becoming'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)614-621
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Journal of Occupational Therapy
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes

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