Case Studies

RIT develops cases of refugee integration with host communities in towns and urban neighborhoods around the world

Case Study Overview

Each of RIT's case studies are specific to their local context and the reflexive experiences of the case study's researcher(s), while also addressing three general cross-cutting themes:

  1. Mapping the refugee population - including the distribution and size of different refugee nationalities in the town, clustering or distribution in space, changes in spatial organization over time, and transnational networks that extend beyond the immediate town or neighborhood.

  2. The urban impact - including the economic impact (if any) of refugee communities, changes to the job market or housing market, social and political effects, changes to quality of public services like hospitals and schools, how locals perceive and interact with refugees, how other migrant populations perceive and interact with refugees, and how governments have responded to refugees.

  3. The refugee experience - including refugees’ sources of income and support,  financial obligations, political activity, self-definitions of integration, factors considered important in enabling or preventing integration, attitudes toward the future, and development of social networks over time, both with other refugees and with hosts.

Case Study Map

  • Augusta, ME, USA
  • Austin, TX, USA
  • Belgrade, Serbia
  • Cape Town, South Africa
  • Delhi, India
  • East Boston, MA, USA
  • Ettumanoor, India
  • Hamburg, Germany
  • Sultanbeyli Municipality, Istanbul, Turkey
  • Tripoli, Lebanon

All maps are interactive, click to explore - Case study details below

Case Study Details

This case study provides a composite view of reflections by refugees, host community residents, and municipal level administrators in Augusta, Maine on their experiences with the integration process. It draws on interviews with refugees, the host community, and city municipality and service providers. Self-reliance is an explicit aim for the future for the refugees in Augusta; refugees are not complacent in their situations. However, many are unsure whether or not Augusta will be their final destination. A sense of instability seems to permeate the various communities; families are apprehensive about long term planning due to the fear that they may lose their benefits and have to move.



Austin, Texas, USA

This case study examines the relationship between waiting and the well-being of Syrian refugees. Waiting is the period between the refugees leaving their homes and the time they find some kind of permanent resettlement. This research examines refugees’ experiences during the asylum-seeking process, which took place outside of the US, and the integration process after arrival.


The Belgrade case study explores the relationship between the European migrant crisis and political movements in Serbia, particularly the extreme right. It looks at the role of Belgrade as a transit hub for waves of forced migrants, and at the effects of policies to manage migration flows (e.g. counter-smuggling, camp shut-downs, and restrictions on humanitarian agencies) on the lived experiences of migrants, Serbians, and aid workers who live, work, and pass through the city.


Cape Town

Cape Town, South Africa

Most of the Zimbabwean immigrants who arrive in Cape Town are highly skilled individuals. However, when they arrive many shelve their certificates and take up menial jobs. Some get employed in the food industry, others become taxi drivers, and some even humble themselves to work as domestic servants. This case study focuses on Zimbabwean immigrants who have begun work as gardeners, farmers, musicians, writers, and craft-makers for the tourism industry. Despite all their efforts in creating opportunities for themselves, these migrants still face challenges in communities that have negative perceptions of migration.



Delhi, India

Food, when unavailable, is a human security concern―from famine and food riots at the community level, to malnutrition, stunted growth, and deficiency diseases at the individual level. When available, food can be an emotional experience, a community identity, or an economic industry. Refugees in Delhi, India are bridging these two aspects of food when they cook dishes from their hometowns and sell it as a livelihood strategy.


East Boston

East Boston, Massachusetts, USA

This East Boston case study explores the urban space appropriation in several neighborhoods of Boston with large Central American Northern Triangle refugees, and the integration process over a series of years. It examines how immigrants have been transforming the spaces and the community life of both the migrant’s families and the host population. The question of status across generations is also explored: looking at the experiences of first, second, and third generation forcibly displaced people.



Ettumanoor, India

This case study looks at the migration of nurses from the state of Kerala in India. Nurses from predominantly Christian families have been migrating for more than two generations to the Gulf, Western Europe, and North America for better paying jobs. This project explores how families and, in turn, communities are affected when women become the primary bread winners.



Hamburg, Germany

Since the beginning of 2015, Germany has received more than 1.3 million refugees. The national government approved an unprecedented land use policy enabling the construction of refugee and asylum seeker accommodation in non-residential zones. This policy was intended to offset the existing affordable housing shortage and provide temporary and long term housing units for refugees and asylum seekers. This case study explores the spatial implications of Germany’s new refugee housing policy and its impact on integration.



Sultanbeyli Municipality, Istanbul, Turkey

Turkey has experienced the biggest influx of Syrians, almost 3 million refugees, since 2011. Different than many refugee-receiving countries, where refugees are placed in camps upon their arrival, in Turkey, more than 90% of all refugees live in cities. In the early stages of the conflict, Syrians were mostly clustered in Southern Turkey, at areas close to the Syrian border. As the protracted nature of the crisis has become apparent in time, they started to move to the big cities such as Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir.



Lebanon has experienced an influx of 1.5 million Syrians since 2011, representing almost a quarter of its population. The challenges this influx creates have been particularly intense in Tripoli―Lebanon’s second largest city and the urban center of the northern governorate. This case study explores how the Syrian influx has affected Tripoli, with a focus on urban poverty.