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Refugees in Towns

Supporting integration by understanding the experiences of refugees and host communities


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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.

Key Points

RIT defines "refugees" broadly.  We appreciate the complex social and legal context of forced migration, and while we focus on refugees, we are interested in the integration experience of all migrants who have been forcibly displaced.

RIT seeks to develop sustained relationships in the communities where we work. We want to help build partnerships based on trust between refugees, community leaders, government representatives, and aid workers who contribute to and benefit from the project.

RIT is funded through a grant from the Henry J. Leir Foundation.

Why now?

The United States — among other refugee destination and resettlement countries, transit countries, and countries of first asylum — is undergoing a shift in its refugee policies through travel bans and the suspension of parts of its refugee program. Towns across the U.S. and around the world are responding differently: some are resisting national policy changes by declaring themselves to be “sanctuary cities," while others are supporting travel bans and exclusionary policies.

In this period of social and political change, it is critical to understand how refugees and their local hosts interact for mutual gain or loss. RIT contributes to a better understanding of this interaction through a balanced view of both refugees' and hosts' experiences with integration in the United States and around the world.