Topic: Refugee integration and rural resilience
Most research on integration of migrants has focused on urban destinations. Our project focuses on rural places, many of them have long experienced significant outmigration. The influx of refugees in 2015 implied settling of refugees in rural and peripheral areas. This might represent new opportunities for challenged communities, possibly halt the population decline and increase municipal economic space of action. Our project(s) explores into everyday life practices of refugees placed in small towns and rural areas in Denmark and Norway and examine what role local communities have played in their integration.
The empirical material is mainly based on fieldwork and qualitative interviews with refugees and local volunteers that have started activities for refugees in the local areas. The project builds on two key theoretical approaches; the socio-economic development of rural localities: resilience; and integration and refugees’ sense of belonging to the rural places they are in.
Preliminary results show that local integration is challenged by structural factors such as lack of cheap rental housing, few and expensive transport options, busy everyday lives and different social practices. Many refugees come from urban areas where social practices and their use of the local area was more informal and characterised by an outdoor life which can clash with local social life being more formalised in associations and limited by the cold climate, as well as lack of education and work opportunities. Local integration and belonging seem to be stimulated by other migrants in the areas, refugee children going to school as well as active local people helping newcomers to navigate in their new everyday life.