Paths and ways: a study on migration of Brazilian children to Switzerland

  • Flávia de Maria Gomes Schuler
  • Cristina Maria de Souza Brito Dias


Migration is a social phenomenon that is increasingly present in our daily lives. The news about migrants is generally alarming. For Cernadas, García and Salas (2014), there are today more people living outside their country than at any other time in history. Growing economic inequalities across countries, ethnic, political and religious conflicts have increased the flow of migrants around the world. One of the aspects little portrayed in the literature on migration and little considered in country policies is the participation of children in migratory movements. For Bhabha (2014), child migration is part of a contemporary phenomenon that changes and shapes the world in which we live. Currently, according to data from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA, 2014), 10 to 24 years old international migrants represent 12% of the 232 million migrants residing outside their country. In Brazil, when women migrate, they carry with them the desire to stay abroad and bring their children to live with them. As a result, many get married so that they can stay legally in the destination country and bring their children, with the aim of providing them with a better life (Schuler & Dias, 2015). Despite the new range of opportunities that are offered to these children, they will be faced with several challenges to be overcome. According to Marcelli and Cohen (2010), the child, due to its own fragility, dependence on its parents, as well as the ongoing socialization through the schooling process, is at the center of the problems imposed by migratory movements. In this context, this article integrates an ongoing research whose general objective is to understand the experiences and repercussions of migration in the lives of young people who migrated to Switzerland as children. Specifically we seek to understand the experience of migration, the difficulties faced in school and relationships, and issues of identity and belonging. The methodology was based on a qualitative approach. The participants to date were eight young Brazilians, of both sexes, aged 20 to 25 years old who migrated to Switzerland as children. As a research tool we used the interview Life Story. The Life Story has as its main point to allow the informant to resume his experience retrospectively. These reports provide extremely rich material for analysis (Boni & Quaresma, 2005). In them lies the reflection of the collective dimension from the individual view. The interviews were held in Switzerland. The interview script was approved by the Ethics Committee (CAEE: 66930917.0.0000.5206). The interviews were done individually, recorded and then transcribed. We followed Minayo's (2004) guideline on anonymity, so all participants had their names changed. The interviews were analyzed according to the Thematic Content Analysis (Minayo, 2004), which consists of three phases: pre-analysis, corpus organization, interpretation and analysis of the material obtained. From the analysis of the material obtained, three categories were made. The first feelings experienced in the migration, where although participants eagerly waited for this moment to reunite with their mother, there is also an affective ambivalence about leaving their grandparents, family, school, and others. In the second category adaptation to school and profession, we can say that in childhood difficulties appeared at school, especially with language and in relationships with other children, in some cases even with teachers. As a result of these difficulties at school, career choice seems to be limited to professional-level courses, not allowing some of them to have the desired profession. Finally, in the latter category Identity and belonging, the majority of participants declare themselves Swiss, although they explicitly or implicitly leave a certain division in their identity and belonging.

It can be concluded that the migration at first seems pleasant to the children, as they want to be close to their mother, although they feel the separation of the grandparents with whom they stayed, until they could migrate. Over time the children become aware of the reality and feel the difficulties of those who migrate, especially regarding the differences in culture, language, food, customs, among others. The school becomes a mirror and reflects the difficulties experienced, especially in relation to language and relationships. In general, they feel different and in order overcome these barriers they need to adapt. Learning the language as perfect as possible and integrating in school, making friends, among others, are the biggest challenges. As a result of the difficulties, allied to the local school system, all participants went to secondary school and had no opportunity to try to achieve their professional dreams at a higher education level. Regarding the issues of identity and belonging, most of them opt for Swiss identity, although we can implicitly say that they have a hybrid identity. In general, there is a constant search for belonging to the society in which they live. Given the complexity of the topic at hand, it would be pretentious to find that we have exhausted the possibilities for research on it. We are aware that the limitations and originality of this research do not allow us to make generalizations. However, we believe it can provide us with a starting point for the discussion on child migration and its long-term consequences. We consider that we were able to make a brief mapping of the issue and further investigations are needed.