The International Journal of Restorative Justice


Restorative justice, refugees and criminal harm in places of asylum

Keywords refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, restorative justice
Authors Steve Kirkwood
Author's information

Steve Kirkwood
Steve Kirkwood, Senior Lecturer in Social Work, The University of Edinburgh, UK. Corresponding author: Acknowledgments: this research was supported by funding from the Leverhulme Trust (RF-2022-366). I would like to thank all of those who supported me with this research, participated in interviews, and suggested potential contacts. I presented this work at the European Society of Criminology Annual Conference in Florence, Italy, September 2023, and would like to thank the audience members for their helpful responses. Thanks also to Lucy Jaffe and the anonymous peer reviewers for helpful comments on an earlier version of this article.
  • Abstract

      People who have had to flee their homes and seek asylum are often vulnerable and experience harm and trauma. Restorative justice offers a way of addressing the criminal harm that people of a refugee background may experience in places of asylum, and yet there is very little literature or visible practice on this topic. This article presents an exploratory study to address this issue, reviewing existing literature and presenting an analysis of interviews with restorative justice practitioners, representatives from organisations supporting refugees and asylum seekers, and people of a refugee background. Findings suggest restorative justice is a potentially beneficial response to address harms experienced by people of a refugee background, as it can be responsive to trauma, facilitate understanding and connection and address racism and antagonism. Barriers and challenges for restorative justice in this context include language, communication, interpretation, mistrust, insecure immigration status, the impact of trauma, and access to basic resources. Cultural difference ought to be taken into consideration, but it was not considered to be a barrier to engagement in restorative justice. The potential for restorative justice to address the structural issues that impact on people of a refugee background requires further exploration.

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