Grantee: 2006 - present

Funded:  IELTS, Immigration Advisory Service exams, MSc course fees, PhD course fees, childcare, travel, IT equipment

Before being forced to flee from her home and job, Latefa Guemar had built up a successful career as a Lecturer and Researcher in Electronic Engineering at a research centre in Algiers.  She lived with her husband, a prominent journalist and political writer, bringing up their two young children and expecting a third.

The Algerian civil war began in 1991, when, fearing the increasing popularity of the Islamic Salvation Front, the Algerian regime cancelled elections.  Conflict between the state and fundamentalist groups spread over much of the country; journalists, government workers, communists, foreigners and feminists were targeted.  Following a series of massacres between 1997 and 2000, the war subsided; insurgent groups splintered and were hunted down by government forces.  Assaults against journalists, human rights activists and tourists continued.  Latefa’s husband was targeted, and in 2002 their flat was attacked.  He fled the country. Latefa decided to follow six months later after receiving a number of strange calls and threats.

Latefa arrived at Heathrow airport with her children.  With the help of Refugee and Asylum at Port (RAP) she was reunited with her husband and given accommodation.  The family was resettled in Swansea and fifteen months later Latefa’s husband’s refugee status was granted.  Integrating with their new community proved hard despite Latefa’s efforts to learn English by taking an intensive course through Swansea University’s DACE (Department of Adult Continuing Education).  The family faced difficult attitudes from their neighbours, often suffering racist abuse and on occasion having eggs thrown at their house.  Nevertheless, the family saw engagement as the best way to improve the situation, appearing in the BBC documentary ‘Asylum’, which won an Amnesty International Media Award in 2006.

Latefa became a committee member at the Swansea Bay Asylum Seekers Support Group in 2004 and became fascinated by the women she encountered there.  Like her, many had been forced to leave their homes and communities due to political unrest and persecution because of their gender.  This experience was to have a profound effect on the course of her academic career.

Finding that there were few opportunities to re-enter the field of industrial research in South Wales and drawing on her experiences working in trade unions in Algeria, Latefa undertook Immigration Advisory Service Accreditation exams in order to become an immigration advisor.  It was to fund these that she first contacted CARA.  She also began a BA in Humanities at Swansea University with the support of her Local Authority and a Welsh Assembly Lifelong Learning grant.

Before finishing her BA, and while working for the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, Latefa met Professor Heaven Crawley, with whom she helped found the Centre for Migration Policy Research at Swansea University.  Latefa worked at the Centre as a Research Associate and began to make plans to continue her academic work in the field.

After receiving a distinction in her MSc in Migration and International Development, Latefa began a PhD, researching Algerian women in the diaspora. CARA funded tuition, childcare and conference costs for the first two years of the course, and has negotiated a fee waiver from Swansea University for the remainder of her studies.  Latefa has published academic articles in journals and attended international conferences in India, Northern Cyprus and Oxford.  Following acceptance onto LSE’s Reconnect with Research programme, an English language course aimed at helping refugee and asylum-seeking scholars re-enter academia, she was appointed as a Visiting Fellow at the institution’s Gender Institute.  She is also a Founder Member of the Global Research Forum on Diaspora and Transnationalism.

On top of her heavy academic workload, alongside which she is raising three children, Latefa continues to be an advocate for women refugees and asylum seekers.  She is also Swansea University President of STAR (Student Action for Refugees), a national network of student groups working to improve the lives of refugees in the UK.

Latefa intends to remain in academia for the rest of her career in order to contribute her knowledge and experience to the field of diaspora studies.  Her supervisors continue to be impressed by her work and her involvement with the Centre for Migration Policy Research.  Her eldest daughter, who was just 8 years old when she arrived in the UK, has continued in her family’s formidable footsteps, receiving 3 A*s and 5 As in her GCSE results last month.  Although Latefa feels she has a long way to go before her life in the UK is completely settled, her achievements in the last nine years are quite remarkable.

You can find out more about Latefa’s work at the LSE Gender Institute at:

She has recently contributed an article to The Guardian: