When refugees flee their countries of origin in search of safety, they often end up living below the poverty line in each of the countries that they settle in. These refugees lack the financial resources for a stable livelihood with or without their families. However, there are also some refugees who seem to flawlessly integrate into the host society and become an accepted member of society. There seems to be a key factor that is causing the difference in whether a refugee can integrate successfully into the host society or not. This article will explore the link between poverty and integration.
The Link Between Poverty and Integration
Dr. Dogus Simsek, a professor who teaches sociology at University College London, has researched the matter within the context of the Syrian refugees in Turkey post-2011. She looked into the Turkish policies regarding migration and developed an argument through her sociological analysis of the literature. She looked into the concepts of market citizenship, refugee economics and the concept of methodological individualism while conducting fieldwork with around 120 Syrian refugees all throughout 2016. Upon concluding her hypothesis, she argued that poverty and integration interlink because the refugees who lack financial resources often lack the stability in their lives that they need to begin the integration process into the host society. When The Borgen Project interviewed her about what made her believe that there was a link between poverty and integration, she replied saying that the laws, rules and policies on migration were in favor of those who were investing in Turkey. The Syrian refugees themselves also backed this up when they talked about their daily life.
Integration and Market Citizenship
In everyday life, the public uses the word integration every day without settling on its definition. To fix that, Alistair Ager and Alison Strang operationalized the definition of integration and have attempted to conceptualize a framework with four domains: markers and means, social connection, facilitators and foundation. Markers and means include the key measurements of employment, housing, education and health. The social connection includes social bridges, social bonds and social links. Facilitators include language, cultural knowledge, safety and stability whereas the domain of foundation includes rights and citizenship. Ager and Strang argue that this conceptualization of integration can be the foundation of how people should define integration.
Simsek also tries to contextualize the concepts of market citizenship, refugee economics and methodological individualism while reaching her hypothesis. She defines the concept of market citizenship as an instance where access to rights and citizenship depends on the economic resources and access to the labor market, given the neoliberal globalized world, such as the case in the Burmese refugees in Michigan.
Market citizenship hindered their integration process economically, socially and linguistically. Countries start to view refugees as a possible case of investment in the economy. Additionally, refugee economics refers to when the government conducts a separate resource allocation system for the refugees that is fundamentally different from the generic model that countries use for the host society. This perpetuates the notion that refugees lead to complex economic lives. Lastly, it is important to not take the concept of methodological nationalism with a grain of salt because the concept itself argues that when one attempts to analyze the cases of refugees, the primary unit of analysis is the nation-state rather than the lives and experiences of the refugees themselves, which already establishes a power inequality between the two.
The main argument remains that poverty and integration greatly interlink. Simsek attempts to develop the notion of class-based integration in the case of Syrian refugees in Turkey, which she has defined as when the availability of economic resources allows the refugee to relax on the domain of means and markers and the chance to start expanding on the other domains of the integration framework mentioned above. This argument also highlights that each refugee has its integration process and that people should not see them as a single unit of analysis. The concept of class-based integration also encapsulates that the allocation of rights, “especially the labor market and citizenship rights, is easier for refugees who can invest in the receiving country compared to those without.”
Simsek said that the NGOs in Turkey are aware of such policies that favor those who can invest in the country and that they try to run their organizations in line with the policies. The events or activities that they organize usually allows refugees to become aware of these policies. Simsek also said that some NGOs might not be aware of the situation if they only attempt to assist the refugees in poverty and integration is a far road for them, unlike the more well-off refugees for whom integration can be like a slide in a playground. When The Borgen Project asked Simsek if she believes that the world can apply the concept of class-based integration to refugees and migrants across the globe, she answered saying that it is a possibility since the world is globalized in a neoliberal context which leads to nation-states viewing refugees as an investment.
Overall, the idea of class-based integration acts as a missing link or bridge between poverty and integration and allows for more scholars, NGOs and governments to obtain a clearer image of what is going with the Syrian refugee crisis. Furthermore, one can possibly extrapolate this notion to other refugee waves around the world given that the policies of the country also view refugees as an investment into their societies within a neoliberal context.
– Nergis Sefer