Understanding perceptions of migration transit and identity (trans)formation of unaccompanied migrant youth in Mexico
Unaccompanied minors are children or adolescents under 18 who migrate without a parent or guardian. In a context of unprecedented rise in migration of unaccompanied minors along the Central America-Mexico-United States route, with 78,513 intercepted at the Southwest US border just in the months October 2020-May 2021, it becomes urgent to understand the implications of this risky travel in the absence of direct parental support. My project, "Shaping Transit: Understanding perceptions of migration transit and identity (trans)formation of unaccompanied migrant youth in Mexico", aims to explore the impact that an extremely unstable experience such as migration transit has on psychosocial aspects of mental health – especially during an age of transition to adulthood. The project will utilise interviews, photo-elicitation and drawings to engage directly with unaccompanied youth – aged 14 to 24 – hosted in different migrant shelters along the Mexican migration route in Mexico City (CAFEMIN), Guadalajara (FM4) and Monterrey (Casa Monarca, to be confirmed). As most unaccompanied minors are in the ages 14 to 17, thus close to age of majority and to losing benefits normally granted to children, youth over 18 is included to emphasise the importance of considering transition to adulthood as a process and not an age sequence. The option of using images along with interviews enables to include different forms of expression, elicit different thoughts/memories and to differentiate the research interview from more formal interview processes that could create distrust in evoking previous interviews with authorities. The images that will be used for the photo-elicitation technique have been created from pictures taken by youth at the shelter CAFEMIN of objects symbolic to them of their migration: either those that were not lost or robbed, symbols of faith or objects that enabled to pass the time in the shelter. These pictures have then been illustrated to decontextualize the objects from the shelter.
Finally, the focus on psychosocial aspects of mental health – such as identity and resilience – enables to shift the perspective from trauma and victimisation to the agency these young people have, the transformation they go through as they experience drastic changes and the symbolic, material or relational entities that give them strength and resilience. The experiences and images that will have permission to be shared will be made public (with confidentiality) to create awareness and engage in discussions on how to improve or create services that can actively protect and accompany this youth into a more just and fulfilled development.
Susanna Corona Maioli