Salvadoran Migrants in Australia: An Analysis of Transnational Families’ Capability to Care across Borders

Date01 December 2015
Published date01 December 2015
AuthorLaura Merla
Salvadoran Migrants in Australia:
An Analysis of Transnational Families
Capability to Care across Borders
Laura Merla*
In this paper, I focus on the transnational care practices of Salvadoran refugees living in Perth
(Western Australia) and who care for their ageing parents who have remained in their home
country. The analysis is based on a conceptualization of transnational care as a set of capabili-
ties that include, but are not limited to, mobility, social relations, time allocation, education
and knowledge, paid work and communication (Merla and Baldassar, 2011). I focus in particu-
lar on the impact of Salvadoran refugeesdiff‌icult access to, and use of, these capabilities on
their capacity to fulf‌il their culturally def‌ined sense of obligation to care for their ageing par-
ents. Results show that extended transnational kinship networks play a major role in helping
migrants overcome obstacles to transnational caregiving.
Transnational families have been def‌ined as families that live some or most of the time separated
from each other, yet hold together and create something that can be seen as a feeling of collective
welfare and unity, namely familyhood, even across national borders(Bryceson and Vuorela,
2002b: 18). Research has shown that, contrary to the assumption that geographical distance nega-
tively affects kin relationships (Joseph and Hallman, 1998; Morgan, 1975), transnational families
exchange all the forms of care and support that are exchanged in proximate families (Al-Ali, 2002;
Baldassar et al., 2007; Zontini and Reynolds, 2007). These not only include f‌inancial assistance,
but also emotional and practical support that can be exchanged transnationally through the use of
communication technologies, and personal care and accommodation that require co-presence and
can only be exchanged during visits (Baldassar et al., 2007). Goulbourne et al. (2009) see the
exchange of care across boundaries as a key factor for the maintenance of transnational families.
Baldassar et al. (2007) def‌ine transnational caregiving practices as being mediated by a dialectic
encompassing the capacity of individual members to engage in caregiving and their culturally
informed sense of obligation to provide care, as well as the particularistic kin relationships and
negotiated family commitments that people with specif‌ic family networks share (Baldassar et al.,
2007). Power relations and inequalities shape transnational caregiving practices. Factors such as
gender, social class or ethnicity create inequalities within and between transnational families
* Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium.
doi: 10.1111/imig.12024
©2012 The Author
International Migration ©2012 IOM
International Migration Vol. 53 (6) 2015
ISSN 0020-7985Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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