Refugees in Towns

Supporting integration 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 and long-term challenges of immigrant integration.


RIT focuses on achieving two primary objectives:

  1. Increasing 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. Supporting 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.

For more information, you are encouraged to read the latest article on the RIT project by Prof. Karen Jacobsen:

"Refugees in towns: experiences of integration," Forced Migration Review Issue 56.


RIT is positioned within the Feinstein International Center (FIC) of Tufts University's Friedman School of Nutrition, and benefits from the FIC's global reach, world-renowned professional network, and institutional expertise with humanitarian crises. RIT also benefits from the research capacities of the Institute for Human Security within Tufts' Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy.

  • Principal Investigator Prof. Karen Jacobsen has built the RIT project on her 25+ years of internationally-recognized expertise in the field of forced migration. Karen provides the project with leadership, strategic vision, and sets the project's objectives.
  • Program Administrator Charles Simpson provides RIT with organization and structure, drawing on previous managerial and field experience with transnational forced migration research projects in the Middle East, the Balkans, and Western Europe.
  • A diverse range of forced migration experts in the RIT Advisory Group provide the project with guidance, regional and local expertise, and an expansive professional network of individuals who contribute toward the project's objectives.
  • RIT relies on the input of a global network of case study researchers - including refugees and practitioners - who provide localized expertise of refugee-hosting communities around the world. Case study researchers also give practical relevance to the project's work by serving as a link to aid organizations, refugee and host communities, and municipal governments.

    Other 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 explores integration as a multifaceted, adaptive process, not only including refugees' adoption of new systems in new places, but also refugees' and hosts' efforts to preserve community and identity amidst change.

    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.