Refugees’ Integration in the Built Environment: The Sweden Case
Summary, in English
The resettlement and integration of a displaced population into a new society faces a plethora of challenges. These range from lack of national legal frameworks to plan and implement planned relocation, to the absence of a long-term vision, inadequate funds, and poor institutional structures. The 3-year EU Erasmus+ funded REGARD Project (REbuildinG AfteR Displacement) set out to address some of these challenges and develop guidance with a focus on the roles and responsibilities of the host and the resettled community in order to understand the needs of both. This paper focuses on the Swedish experience (one of four case studies in the project) in the aftermath of the mass influx of Syrian refugees in 2015. A needs assessment conceptual framework of both host and displaced communities guided the multi-method approach applied in the Sweden case where data was drawn from a scoped literature review on issues related to integration and social cohesion complimented and validated by in-depth interviews with a number of municipalities and non-governmental organizations all working with asylum seekers resettlement. The results of the research indicate that while the Swedish case was a relative success by comparison to others in Europe, there was still systemic shortcomings that needed attention. First, cooperation and coordination between government and non-governmental actors and at different levels up and down the chain of services provided for resettled refugees is still lacking where the reality on the ground is not fully grasped by centrally driven policy and decision-making. Second, what determines the effectiveness of resettlement and integration efforts is focusing on the individuality of each displacee’s needs and circumstances where one-size does not fit all, and recognizing that integration is a two-way process that has to involve both host and guest community and not simply the absorption of one into the other. Finally, the paper concludes that the pressured and often highly politicized situations both host and guest community are put into usually force rapid responses, while long-term visions and sustainable solutions when adequate time is taken to establish trust and build viable networks between the two communities can lead to far better results.