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  • Emanuele Politi

Innovative research lines to advance refugee perspectives on migration and integration

Updated: Oct 20, 2021

The growing number of refugees worldwide calls into question how to facilitate their early adjustment and long-term integration to the receiving societies. Yet, scholarly investigations lag behind the timely issue at stake. As compared to other immigrant minority groups, refugees’ trajectories are often marked by greater stressors, such as broken family ties, loss of social support, as well as cumulative and often prolonged social exclusions. Such heightened vulnerability requires viable strategies to support refugees (understood in a broad sense) in gaining necessary resources to face challenging life course transitions.

To fill this gap, contributed to the annal conference of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues with a symposium. Four scholars tackled personal, relational and socio-structural affordances to facilitate refugees’ adjustment and integration. Slides and conference recording are made openly available here.

First, Judith Knausenberger presented how refugees’ individual perceptions of forcedness and perils affect their satisfaction and regret. Second, Michaela Hynie, expanded the level of analysis to assess integration outcomes for family units. Third, Antoine Roblain focused on social network support and secured legal status as protective factors to overcome difficulties due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Fourth, Meta van der Linden examined refugees’ trajectories as a function of different integration policies. All four empirically grounded research programs altogether offer an integrated socio-ecological view on refugees’ adjustment and integration.

Talk 1

How forcedness and perils affect refugees' migration satisfaction and regret

Judith Knausenberger, Mana Arian, Jens H. Hellmann, & Gerald Echterhoff

The number of forcibly displaced people has continuously increased over the last decade. Understanding factors that influence refugees’ coping with their flight and adjustment to receiving societies is therefore of utmost importance. Refugees typically experience stronger migration forcedness and higher migration-related perils (harm, adversities, and hardship) than do non-refugee migrants. We explored how refugees’ and non-refugee migrants’ perceptions of their own forcedness of migration and related perils before and during migration covary with regret about leaving their country of origin, their confidence in integration, and their motivation to adapt to the receiving country. In two studies conducted with refugee and non-refugee migrants in Germany (total N = 336), regret about migration was predicted by an interaction effect of forcedness and migration perils: Perils encountered during migration only increased regret about having migrated when forcedness was low. When migration forcedness was high, regret about having migrated was generally low, regardless of experienced migration perils. We also assessed discrimination experienced in the receiving society (Study 1) and resilience (Study 2). Forcedness of migration had important moderation effects: Higher forcedness perceptions buffered negative effects of low resilience on current distress. We discuss implications of our findings for integration into the receiving society.

Slides Judith Knausenberger
Download PDF • 554KB

Talk 2

Whose integration? Analyzing family-level integration of Canadian Syrian refugees.

Michaela Hynie, Anna Oda, Jonathan Bridekirk, Ahmed Bayoumi, Farah Ahmad, Neil Arya, Marcela Diaz, Nicole Ives, Jennifer Hyndman, & SyRIA.lth

Settlement challenges and resources are shared among members of refugee family households. They rely on each other’s skills and income and can delay personal goals to support other members’ needs. Nonetheless, we rarely assess integration outcomes for family units. Using data from a longitudinal study of Syrian refugees (SyRIA.lth), we examine integration outcomes by household level challenges and resources. A Latent Class Analysis identified four clusters of households. GAR-Large-Families was primarily government sponsored (GARs), with large families, lower levels of education, and limited English/French language skills. GAR-Health-Issues was also mostly GARs, with large families, limited language skills, relatively high education, and at least one member with a disability or chronic illness. PSR-Young-Families was mostly privately sponsored (PSR), small families, with young children, relatively high education, and moderate language skills. PSR-Older-Families was mostly PSRs, older, without young children, relatively high education, moderate language skills, and some chronic illness. All groups were moderately successful in accessing employment and services, but GAR-Health-Issues reported high levels of poverty and unmet healthcare needs despite relatively high levels of education, reflecting the impact of caregiving on the entire household and the need to assess family level dynamics when measuring integration outcomes.

Slides Michaela Hynie
Download PDF • 1.73MB

Talk 3

Refugees’ coping with COVID-19: Supportive networks and secured legal status

Antoine Roblain & Emanuele Politi

In many regards the COVID-19 pandemic constituted an unprecedented threat to individuals, communities, and entire societies. This situation is particularly acute for people fleeing from persecution, war or poor living conditions who are mostly excluded from safety nets and support schemes. Based on a partnership with UNHCR on a community-based project to support the three largest refugee communities in Brussels (i.e., Syrian, Iraqi, and Afghan) dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, we collected unique social network data to investigate the effects of social support and secured legal status in coping with the pandemic (N = 355). Using an ego-centered network approach, we highlight that respondents expressed fewer difficulties in dealing with the pandemic and symptoms of depression when they had support from persons who were physically present in Belgium, as opposed to persons outside of the country, including in the refugees’ countries of origin. What is more, network support differed significantly as a function of legal status, people with secured legal status being less isolated and more supported, and therefore reporting fewer difficulties and less severe depression symptoms. Overall, our findings advance literature on refugees’ resilience, by also offering an innovative community-based methodological approach to social psychological science.

Slides Antoine Roblain
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Talk 4

Is policy effective for refugee integration? A quasi-experiment in Rotterdam

Meta van der Linden & Jaco Dagevos

By Emm By Em By m Bym ByBRefugees now form a large but distinct immigrant group who may face more or different problems during their integration than traditional migrant groups. Subsequently, there is a growing need for knowledge of appropriate and effective approaches to refugee integration. Yet, the fundamental question of how specific policy types influence the policy target group has rarely been addressed in integration studies. The current study breaks new ground by examining the extent to which refugees’ structural and socio-cultural integration is shaped by integration policy. The study is situated in Rotterdam; the second largest city in the Netherlands, which features two parallel integration programs varying in scale, resources, and intensity. We employ a quasi-experimental design using the representative two-wave Bridge panel survey (Nnalyswave I&II=1004, response rate 85%), which includes detailed information on predominantly Syrian refugees from the moment they were granted asylum status up to two years later. After accounting for treatment assignment bias using coarsened exact matching, random effects analyses show a significant increase over time in refugees’ language proficiency, identification, self-reliance, and participation in volunteer or paid work. However, we did not find a significant interaction effect showing that integration developed differently depending on the integration program. Possible explanations are discussed.

Slides Meta Van der Linden
Download PDF • 794KB

By Emanuele Politi & Antoine Roblain

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