Asking refugees about integration proves a success

The municipality of Skanderborg has turned integration upside down, now involving refugees themselves in the integration work

In 2011 in Skanderborg municipality, many refugees were not doing so well. They were often on welfare allowances and outside the labour market. So the municipality decided to find out which expectations refugees themselves have to the challenge of integration. It turned out that there was a big difference between how they saw the situation on arrival and only three months later. 

During the first round of interviews, the newly arrived refugees expressed joy and gratitude, a sense of belonging and a strong wish to have a good life in the municipality of Skanderborg. 78 percent of the interviewed answered upon arrival that they felt responsible for becoming integrated. The wish to become self-supporting was a matter of course.

Already at the second round of interviews three months later, a significant change had taken place. Most of the refugees had during this period gone somewhat down and felt frustrated, disappointed and lonely.

"Something happened between the first and the third month. Only a few of the interwieved were still filled with a desire to be independant from the municipality. Most of them had become passive and resigned," Bitten Holmer Flansmose says. 

After three months, 60 percent felt that the municipality had taken the responsibility from them. They were not masters of their own fate and had no saying. 

"We realized that the residents were not included in the decisions. How could we bring back some of the responsibility, for instance in the choice of day care center for the children?" asked Bitten Flansmose.

The interview rounds are still continuing, and they have led to a course of introduction with focus on preparing the refugees on how to be active citizens. It has focus on how democracy is working, where are the money coming from, what does a job center do, and how is a Danish company working.

Whether the new practice has lead to more refugees being self-supporting has not yet been analyzed. But one visible effect so far is that cases where the municipality are concerned over children in a family has been cut in half.

Read the Danish article here.