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Malmö University involved in research project focussing on refugee integration


As part of the biggest research project in Europe dealing with refugee integration, 15 European countries will study the process of integrating refugees into society. Representing Sweden are two researchers from Malmo University. 

Conflicts tend to become very protracted, and at present it takes an average of 17 years before refugees who flee a civil war eventually have the opportunity to return to their home country. In light of this reality, long-term integration of new arrivals who have been granted protection is vital, and it represents an immediate challenge to the European nations involved.

How can refugee and integration policy be improved? What are the requirements for refugees to be granted citizenship in the individual EU countries? From the point at which an application for asylum is submitted, what is the average waiting time in Poland or Italy before a child begins school? What are the rules and approaches adopted in the different European countries relating to refugees being permitted to access the labour market? These are just some of the questions the research project National Integration Evaluation Mechanism (NIEM) hopes to answer.

Improving the integration process

The project is the biggest research project in Europe dealing with refugee integration. Work commenced in 2016 to improve the quality and efficiency of the integration process for refugees in 15 European countries, including Sweden, France, Spain, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Hungary. The project is part-funded by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF).

Sayaka Osanami TrngrenOver the next six years, researchers from three European universities and several leading NGOs will conduct an extensive evaluation of the current integration policy for asylum seekers and refugees. 

“In an era of increasingly stricter refugee policies, and in an EU with significant variations in policy and practice regarding refugee reception and integration, it is particularly interesting to study these issues over time,” said Sayaka Osanami Törngren, a researcher at the Malmö Institute for Studies of Migration, Diversity and Welfare (MIM), a research centre at Malmö University, and the project leader for NIEM in Sweden. Researcher Henrik Emilsson at Malmö University is also involved in this work. 

Comprise many research areas

The study comprises 150-160 indicators, ranging from health, citizenship, work, housing and family reunion to how many refugees there are in the country and the degree to which refugees are involved in civil society. Each of the participating nations will add facts and prepare national reports about the situation in their country.

Gaps even in Sweden

Compared with the other countries taking part in the project, Sweden is well to the fore when it comes to knowledge and research dealing with integration. However, Sayaka Osanami Törngren states that the study is still of interest for Sweden as there are knowledge gaps that need to be filled.

“We know, for example, a great deal about citizenship, schools and issues related to jobs. But there are areas in which we can still improve in Sweden, such as the clear shortcomings in the health sector, and the need for more coordination and information about how civil society works and how it is possible to improve the level of engagement. 

“We also need to identify the gap between policy and practice. Where are the challenges? Sweden has a good policy base but there are discrepancies in practice when it comes to asylum reception. There is an obligation, for example, to offer a health check but what does this mean in reality? There are lots of rules but there is also scope for interpretation. A great deal is left up to those who are working with these issues to decide how they are to solve the issues in practical terms. Nor is there any control or coordination to follow up the outcomes of the policies.” 

New web portal for gathering research

On the new web portal 'Forintegration.eu', the research results from the project will be presented alongside information about refugee and integration policy in Europe. In line with Mipex, the portal will bring together all related information and relevant data in one place.

“Integration of refugees is the next major challenge for Europe. It is regarded as a challenge as we have yet to develop common European integration policy standards for refugees. There is also a lack of knowledge about the instruments available to enable refugees to integrate and whether those instruments facilitate or counteract integration into different European societies,” said Sayaka Osanami Törngren.

Text: Adrian Grist

Last updated by Adrian Grist