Integration of refugees: social workers and residents in action
- Duration: September 2017 - September 2022
- Status: ongoing
The flow of refugees into Europe, also noticeable in Utrecht, poses a challenge to both newcomers and receiving society in terms of integration. Social workers and local residents (volunteers and citizens’ initiatives) play a role in promoting the integration process. In doing so they encounter the complexities of integrating into a new society and the social tensions this may cause. Another challenge concerns citizens’ shifting role, with the new notion of ‘the participation society’ assigning a greater responsibility to citizens.
This study examines the question how social workers and active residents stimulate the integration process of so-called status holders (people with a refugee background who have received a residence permit for at least 5 years).
We compare two areas, namely the Utrecht district of Overvecht and the municipality of Houten, which differ in terms of social class, available resources and ethnic density. Through in-depth interviews, participative observation and focus group interviews, we examine how social workers and active citizens stimulate the integration of status holders.
This research aims to contribute to policy development to help improve the integration process and the support thereof. The research also aims to supplement and expand existing research on the subject.
- Neeltje Spit (PhD researcher)
- Houten: Vluchtelingenwerk (Council for Refugees), Houten&co.
- Overvecht: DOCK, Buurtteamorganisatie Utrecht, Wijkraad, Bewonersplatform, Wijkbureau Overvecht.
Kennisplatform Utrecht Sociaal (kUS) remunerates expenses.
First results from the case study in Houten:
- The volunteers are the principal mainstays. They often fulfil the role of a family member or friend. At the same time, there is a limit to their support capacity, and are not necessarily able to recognise and indicate their limits in time. In that case, the dependency relationship can hinder the refugee’s overall integration process.
- The social workers mainly act as supervisors. Newcomers are grateful for their assistance. However, integration-related problems are inadequately recognised and reported in the media and at the policy level. Support is generally provided at the individual level and not collectively. Integration in the long term receives limited attention and effort.
- Citizens’ initiatives offer stimulation and opportunities. They provide practical support, personal encounter and interest advocacy. Still, personal encounters remain incidental. There is no or inadequate facilitation, and to organise reciprocity costs (more) time and effort.
The study will be repeated in the district of Utrecht-Overvecht in 2020, as part of a comparative case study.
- Interview on kennisplatform Utrecht Sociaal (kUS) about the initial results of the study in Houten (in Dutch).
- Report by Omroep Houten (December 2019) (kUS) about the initial results of the study in Houten (in Dutch).
Neeltje Spit, Neeltje.Spit@phd.uvh.nl
PhD research by Neeltje Spit into how social workers and active residents stimulate the integration process of refugees awarded resident status.