Transnational Families

Gradually, the concept of transnational families (TNF) is appearing in public and political debates where TNF ties are seen as both a challenge and an opportunity. While research has acknowledged TNFs as an important societal actor in both sending, transit and receiving countries, migration politics and policies as well as the general public are not yet aware of their central role in different migration regimes and their outcomes. One of the main goals of our Action is to address the relative invisibility of TNFs and to raise awareness among the general public, institutions and policy makers of their existence and multiple realities that impact not only on the lives, well-being and decision-making of migrants and their families but also on various aspects and policies of the societies in which they live, such as the allocation of social protection and healthcare.

After an initial, rather narrow focus on families from lower social classes and disadvantaged contexts, recent research has revealed a wide range of TNFs’ realities that cut across social class, reasons for migration, and geographical distribution.

Starting from this broad perspective, this Action includes for example families that are geographically dispersed due to economic migration (including migrant domestic workers, caregivers and seasonal workers) or forced migration (including refugees for political, war or climate reasons, unaccompanied minors and persons trafficked across international borders); families in which a member works abroad almost continuously (including fly-in-fly-out, frequent flyer and expatriate families); families dispersed across different countries after marriage or divorce; families in which a (mostly) young person lives abroad for a longer period for study or internship; families in which (mostly) the older generation migrates for life-style reasons to, for example, warmer places, the so-called “sunset” migrants (Baldassar et al., 2016). Obviously, the realities of TNFs are very different, ranging from highly educated, privileged families with high social capital to families in very distressed and disadvantaged situations. The geographical distribution can also vary, from families spread across just two – sometimes even neighbouring – countries, to families dispersed over different countries and continents (Bryceson, 2019) and families that include highly mobile migrants (Schrooten et al., 2016).

Gradually, the concept of transnational families (TNF) is appearing in public and political debates (gremlin/

Several factors in society indicate that the profile of TNF and the realities they face are changing sharply and rapidly, affecting not only TNF itself, but also European, national and local social policies and the whole social and societal field.

Without being exhaustive, important events and trends are: (1) Migration waves due to political instability, war and climate change. The so-called ‘refugee-crisis’ in 2015-2016 and certainly the response of national and supra-national policies has shown how restrictions, dispersal actions etc. may create, differentiate and change the face and dynamics of transnational families (Agustín & Jørgensen, 2019). Global media coverage of the last years has revealed the frequent occurrence of family separation during difficult escape routes. Not only does this often leave family members scattered across different countries leading to transnational lives, but it also increases their vulnerability, especially when children and young people are separated from other family members. (2) The Covid-19-pandemic has confronted TNF with the ban on travelling and physically meeting each other in the context of a growing concern for each other (Popyk & Pustułka, 2021). It has also led to a much more frequent and systematic use of video-conferencing tools.

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