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Refugees and Social Integration in Europe

Publication Illustration
Robila, Mihaela.
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) Division for Social Policy and Development
Year of Publication

A theoretical framework that has been used frequently when understanding immigrants’ adaptation to the new society is Berry’s (1997) conceptual framework of immigrants’ acculturation to the host society and it includes four strategies: assimilation - when individuals do not wish to maintain their cultural identity and seek daily interaction with other cultures; separation - when individuals hold on to their original culture and wish to avoid interaction with others; marginalization - when there is little cultural maintenance or having relationships with others; and integration - when there is maintaining of one’s original culture while engaging in daily interactions with other groups (Berry, 1997).

Considered to be the best approach, integration is considered a two-way process and can only be successfully pursued by migrants when the host society is open and inclusive in its orientation towards cultural diversity (Berry, 1997). Inclusiveness means that refugees should be provided with equal access to housing, health care, education, training and employment. Post-migration experiences are also impacting health and adaptation.

Research shows that asylum seekers present higher rates of PTSD and depression than other refugees, due to post migratory stresses, delays in the application process, conflicts with immigration officials, denial of work permits, unemployment, and separation from families (Stenmark et al , 2013). Forced migrants often arrive in places where they have no contacts and or knowledge of the language which contribute further to increased isolation and limited opportunities. The goal of this paper is to examine refugees’ social integration in Europe with a focus on psychosocial functioning and wellbeing. The following sections review the demographics of recent refugees in Europe, social policies and their integration into society.