The Refugees in Towns project (RIT) supports towns and urban neighborhoods in becoming immigrant- and refugee-friendly spaces that take full advantage of the benefits brought by refugees while finding ways to manage the inevitable challenges of immigrant integration.
We focus on achieving two outcomes:
- Increased understanding of refugee integration through refined theory. This includes making contributions to narratives of how urban communities—including refugees and hosts—may co-exist, adapt, and struggle with integration. RIT commissions locally-researched case studies in towns and urban neighborhoods of refugee destination and resettlement countries (e.g. the United States); transit countries (e.g. Greece), and countries of first asylum (e.g. Turkey).
- Support of community leaders, aid organizations, and local governments in shaping policy, practice, and social interventions. RIT engages policymakers and community leaders through town visits, workshops, conferences, and participatory research that identifies needs in their communities, encourages dialogue on integration, and shares good practices and lessons learned.
Routes & Regions
RIT gives a unique perspective that is both transnational—capturing all of the complex forces and trends behind migration—as well as local, sharing neighborhood-level perspectives on the impact of migration and individual experiences with integration.
Join the Project
Ideas for new case studies are welcome.
RIT is looking for local researchers including refugees, aid workers, academics, and community members to contribute commissioned case studies of their experiences. Researchers should have a personal history, social presence, and contextual knowledge of a town or urban neighborhood that hosts forced migrants. If you are interested in contributing a case or know someone who may be, visit our website for more information.
Aarhus, Denmark: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns
Aarhus is Denmark’s second largest city with a population of 336,411. The Refugees in Towns Aarhus case report looks at the integration experience of refugees within a Nordic welfare state....
Against the Norm: Religion, Witchcraft, and the Re-Integration of Elderly and “Socially Dissident” Returnees
This report explores lived reintegration experiences of Malawian returnees from Johannesburg, living in Mzuzu, Malawi. In this study, Mwaona Nyirongo explores the challenges and opportunities that the returnees face reintegrating...
Albany Park, Chicago, USA: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns
Amidst rhetorical headlines about refugees and borders in the United States, this report takes a step back to take the long view of how immigrants in a suburb of Chicago...
Amman, Jordan: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns
This case report focuses on Amman, Jordan, which has for years been at the center of prolonged refugee experiences.
A Picture of Central American Mobilities
In this case report, Victoria Ríos Infante and Cordelia Rizzo, who grew up in Monterrey, Mexico, explore how their neighborhoods have been transformed as a home to migrants from across Central America.
Athens, Greece: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns
Amidst an economic crisis, Greece’s cities found themselves host to thousands of refugees stuck in transit along the Balkans Route on their way to Northern Europe. This case study attempts...
Augusta, Maine, USA: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns
The Augusta report explores primarily Middle Eastern refugees who arrived as "secondary" migrants to a small town in Maine.
Austin, Texas, USA: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns
The Austin case report looks at Syrian refugees living in the deep American southwest, and how their wellbeing impacts their experiences with integration.
Beirut, Lebanon: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns No Rainbow, No integration: LGBTQI+ Refugees in Hiding
This case report explores the ways members of the LGBTQI+ Syrian refugee community survive in Beirut, Lebanon amidst extreme prejudice from much of the Lebanese population, the Lebanese government, and other Syrians.
Belgrade, Serbia: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns
The Belgrade case report explores the relationship between the European migrant crisis and political movements in Serbia.
Bloemfontein, South Africa: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns Finding a new life in the City of Roses
The Bloemfontein case report explores the way migrants from across Africa have succeeded and struggled with integration to a major urban center in South Africa.
Cairo, Egypt: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns
The Cairo report shares the experiences of Egypt's largely overlooked Sudanese, Ethiopian, Eritrean, South Sudanese, and Somali refugees, as well as their impact on the several neighborhoods in the city.
Cape Town, South Africa: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns
The Cape Town report focuses on the educational integration of 15-20-year-old first-generation immigrant pupils in four different schools of Cape Town, and their difficulties with permits, language and cultural barriers, and views of prejudice toward them.
Concord, New Hampshire, USA: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns
The Concord report looks from the eyes of a lifelong resident on a city that has worked to make itself a local bastion of inclusiveness against anti-immigrant rhetoric at the national level.
Coping with Microaggressions: Migrant Servers in Upscale Restaurants
Barnabas Ticha Muvhuti discusses the microaggressions that foreign restaurant servers face in their workplaces in South Africa and how they learn to cope with them. Most African migrants living in...
Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns
This report examines the vulnerabilities of urban refugees, and the difficulties they encounter in accessing basic services in Dar Es Salaam.
Delhi, India: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns
The Delhi case report considers food as an element of social and economic integration.
Detroit, Michigan, USA: A Case Study of Refugees in Towns
When the American auto industry took a downturn in the 1990s and 2000s, it left numerous neighborhoods in and around Detroit impoverished and neglected. This case report looks at the...
East Boston, Massachusetts, USA: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns
The East Boston report explores a rapidly changing neighborhood that is being transformed both by immigration (largely from Hispanic populations), and by gentrification including the skyrocketing cost of rent, particularly along certain streets.
“Education is a protection”: Refugee Parents’ Involvement in their Children’s Schools
In this case report, Abdullah Alsmaeel writes about the difficulties refugee parents face in being involved in their children’s education, from interacting with teachers to openly hostile Danish policies towards...
Hamburg, Germany: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns
The Hamburg case report focuses on the domain of housing in integration.
Harare, Zimbabwe: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns
This case report explores the voluntary return to Zimbabwe, the impact the returnees' have on the city of Harare, and their experiences of reintegration.
Integration Concerns of Parents about Syrian Children
In this case report, Zahed Mukayed, a Syrian refugee living in Istanbul, and Ezgi Irgil, a Turkish PhD student living in Sweden, discuss their research with Syrian refugees in Ezgi’s...
Irbid, Jordan: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns
Irbid, Jordan is now inhabited by more Syrian refugees than Jordanian hosts. Yet the most profound changes in the city—affecting and being affected by refugees’ integration—are megatrends affecting cities the world over
Islamabad, Pakistan: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns
Pakistan has experienced several waves of refugees due to recurring conflict in neighboring Afghanistan, as well as repeated internal displacement caused by complex emergencies within the country. This case report...
Izmir, Turkey: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns
This case report explores what happened to a coastal Mediterranean city in Turkey that was transformed from a smuggling transit hub to Greece and the EU into a home for tens of thousands of Syrian refugees after the closing the Balkans Route in 2015.
Jalalabad, Afghanistan: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns
This case report explores the challenges faced by Afghan refugees who had been living in Pakistan and returned to Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan. It explores the returnees’ experience of reintegration...
Johannesburg, South Africa: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns
The Johannesburg case report looks at Malawian migrants in one of South Africa’s largest cities. It explores the ways value transfer and financial obligations back home both obstruct integration into new neighborhoods and maintain integration with old villages.
Kyiv, Ukraine: A Case Report for Refugees in Towns
This case report reviews the ways internally displaced persons (IDPs) from eastern Ukraine both struggle with integration to the capital, but also become agents of change to transfer the culture and economy of the city.
Makhanda, South Africa: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns
The Makhanda case report compares the experiences of migrants integrating to a small African town named Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) to the experiences of those living in South Africa’s major urban centers like Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban.
Mombasa, Kenya: A Case Report in Refugees in Towns
This report examines experiences of somalis in Mombasa, Kenya. The case study also examines how Somali-Kenyans navigate their identities and access opportunities.
New Britain, Connecticut: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns
New Britain, Connecticut has a long history of immigration. This report focuses on the experiences of newly arrived Arabic-speaking immigrants and refugees from Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Yemen, and Morocco. The...
Pokrovsk, Ukraine: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns
This case report examines the impact of internally displaced persons (IDPs) on the social life and culture of an eastern Ukrainian town: Pokrovsk. It explores the impact on this town...
Precarity and the Sustainability of Livelihoods
In this case report, Ankara resident Allan Cooper Dell explores the neighborhoods of Turkey’s capital city being transformed by Syrian refugees. He notes “It seems that the lives of the...
Sultanbeyli, Istanbul: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns
The Sultanbeyli, Istanbul case report focuses on social capital as a resource for integration of Syrian refugees.
San Jose, Costa Rica: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns
This case report looks at migration to Costa Rica and explores the main opportunities for and obstacles to integration in terms of migratory status, access to public health, jobs, education, and recreation.
Tel Aviv, Israel: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns
Fleeing persecution, discrimination, and lack of economic opportunities, thousands of Eritrean, Sudanese, and other sub-Saharan African asylum seekers arrived in Israel’s cities after making a dangerous crossing through Egypt’s Sinai...
Tripoli, Lebanon: A Case Report of Refugees in Towns
This case study explores how the Syrian influx has affected Tripoli, including how relationships between Lebanese and Syrians have deteriorated as competition over jobs intensifies, security concerns increase, and decrepit public infrastructure has been further strained.
Thessaloniki, Greece: A Case Report in Refugees in Towns
This report attempts to shed light on the integration process for the most recent wave of refugees in Thessaloniki.
Cities of Refuge
This policy note focuses on urban forced displacement from the perspective of receiving towns and cities.
The Cowardly Man Raises his Children: Refugee Gang Violence and Masculine Norms in Cairo
This report analyzes gang violence affecting African refugee communities in Cairo, Egypt to promote understanding of why violence occurs and local grassroots efforts to prevent violence. It makes recommendations for how humanitarian organizations can support community efforts.
by Karen Jacobsen
In countries of first asylum, transit and destination it is increasingly towns and cities that are absorbing refugees. We must look at what is happening at a local level to better understand urban integration as a process shared by refugees and host communities alike.
Read the article here.
Find the full table of contents of this issue of FMR here.
“Cities and Towns” in Forced Migration Review (FMR 63, February 2020)
Edited by Karen Jacobsen and Charles Simpson
Cities and towns are on the frontline of receiving and welcoming people who have been displaced. In this issue of FMR, policymakers, practitioners, researchers, representatives of cities and international city-focused alliances, and displaced people themselves debate the challenges facing both the urban authorities and their partners, and the people who come to live there.
Read the full issue here.
This webinar recording shares findings from three Refugees in Towns cases exploring local experiences with integration in developing cities: Cape Town, Dar es Salaam, and Delhi. The webinar features local...
This webinar recording shares the findings from three Refugees in Towns cases exploring local experiences with integration in three cities along the Balkans migrant route: Istanbul as a source city,...