Tracing the Aspirations of Syrian Refugees

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The future of Syrian refugees in general is hotly debated in and outside of Europe. The unsteady situation in Syria, risks of persecution and the lack of economic perspectives for potential returnees suggest that the presence of Syrian refugees in receiving countries mustbe framed within a long-term perspective.This research project intends to contribute to the debate on refugee integration by exploring its interrelation to migration. I contend that precious insights can be gained on the subject by studying the evolution of refugee aspirations during migration and their actualizability in destination countries. To explore the topic, in the first months of 2018 I conducted field research in Sweden, where I interviewed 18 newly settled Syrian refugees. By investigating their experience as asylum migrants and their aspirations, I tried to find an answer to the following question: what are the correlations between the original migration aspirations of Syrian refugees settling in Sweden and the dynamics of their integration? Findings suggest that even in the case of conflict-led involuntary mobility, migration aspirations function as projects for life-making, of which safety is an essential element but not the only one. Achieving self-realisation, guaranteeing stability and a better future for one’s family, and reuniting with one’s spouse are other elements that emerged from informants’ narratives. These primary aspirations are what informants hope to achieve in their destination country, the emotional drivers of their migration and integration. Whether or not informants developed aspirations to settle and integrate in Sweden largely depended on the perceived possibility to realise primary aspirations, regardless of the changes these may have undergone in the migration process.
Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen