Case Studies

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


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:

    RIT Case Studies

    • Aarhus, Denmark
    • Athens, Greece
    • Augusta, ME, USA
    • Austin, TX, USA
    • Belgrade, Serbia
    • Cairo, Egypt
    • Cape Town, South Africa
    • Concord, MA, USA
    • Delhi, India
    • East Boston, MA, USA
    • Ettumanoor, India
    • Hamburg, Germany
    • Izmir, Turkey
    • Jalalabad, Afghanistan
    • Lynn, MA, USA
    • Stuttgart, Germany
    • Sultanbeyli, Turkey
    • Tripoli, Lebanon






    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.

    RIT World Map All maps are interactive, click to explore. Case study details are below.

    Case Study Details

    Aarhus is Denmark’s second largest city with a population of 336,411. The RIT Aarhus case study looks at the integration experience of refugees within a Nordic welfare state. On the one hand, the welfare state provides services and support that may be unimaginable in many other urban displacement settings. On the other hand, the national debates and policies on refugees and immigration have become focused on restricting access and conflation of debates on refugees and radicalization. How are refugees experiencing integration in this tension between welcome and welfare? According to the policies and procedures in place in Aarhus Municipality, refugees are assigned by the central government integration authorities from one of the official asylum centers in the country. When arriving at Aarhus Central station, they will be met by a municipal "integration officer." The initial steps of enrollment into the municipal welfare system include receiving IDs to get the digital identity to opening a bank account to receive refugee-tailored social welfare transfers. Refugees arriving in Denmark are deliberately housed outside of neighborhoods with a concentration of non-western migrants.



    Athens, Greece

    Since the start of the European "refugee crisis" in 2015, Greece has experienced an unprecedented inflow of migrants and refugees, most of them traveling through Greece's islands and mainland on their way towards Western Europe. After the 2016 closing of the Balkan Route and the implementation of the E.U.-Turkey Deal, more than 60,000 migrants have remained in Greece. Today, many refugees and their families live in apartments across Athens, and while some of them have applied for asylum in Greece, others are waiting to be reunited with their families elsewhere in Europe. "Integration" has therefore become the goal for humanitarian agencies and the Greek government. This case study examines the integration processes through the perceptions of locals, relief workers, religious leaders and community members in the neighborhoods where refugees build new lives in Athens.


    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. 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, transit center 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.



    Cairo, Egypt

    While often overlooked in favor of Jordan, Lebanon, or Turkey in the discussion on the current refugee “crisis,” Egypt is a major host of refugees: approximately 211,000 refugees and asylum seekers live in Egypt, the vast majority of whom reside in Cairo. Cairo has long taken in refugees from a diversity of countries and currently hosts large communities from Syria, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, and Yemen. Cairo’s refugees have lived in the city for years, and some for decades. With next to no meaningful opportunities for local integration, minimal assistance from the international community, and no path to citizenship, future prospects for refugees in Cairo are dim. Yet, despite enduring high levels of racist and xenophobic harassment, abuse, and violence, Cairo’s refugees make the most out of a difficult situation and persevere to develop and sustain their communities. This case study will explore refugee integration in Cairo, including the role of social prejudices, political instability, and livelihoods.


    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.


    Concord state house.jpg

    Concord, New Hampshire, USA

    Concord is the third biggest city in New Hampshire, with a population of just over 42,000 people, with just over 90% of the Concord community being white. This case study takes an in-depth look at the integration process for high school age refugees. It is a collection of personal experiences from refugee and American students, as well as their teachers and administrators at the city's only public high school, Concord High. This period of ages 15-18 marks an important phase for both refugees and hosts in the development of identity, cognition, socialization, ethics, reasoning, and the sense of belonging to various socioeconomic groups, and is therefore a critical phase to long-term integration of communities.  This research will examine the effects that the increasingly diverse student body has on the Concord High School community as a whole.



    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.



    Izmir, Turkey

    Izmir's recent experience with refugee integration began not as a host city but as a transit city - a launching off point for Syrian refugees preparing to cross the Mediterranean by smuggler on the way to European destination countries. However, the closing of the Balkans Route, word of relatively poor reception for Syrians in the E.U., and deterrence legislation like the E.U.-Turkey Deal caused many refugees to settle in Izmir, rather than continuing onward. Today, whole neighborhoods of Izmir are almost entirely Syrian, with pre-2012 migrants establishing businesses, apartment complexes, schools, community centers, and other services for more recent arrivals. The Izmir case study will explore how a transit city adapts to become a host city to refugees as geopolitical dynamics change.



    Jalalabad, Afghanistan

    Afghanistan has been highly mobile population with strong nomadic roots, and seasonal migration as a main feature in the lives and livelihoods of many rural Afghans for centuries. Nevertheless, the dynamics of migration has changed, and the scale of mobility has increased due to conflicts that erupted in the late 1970s. Since then, mobility became a significant survival strategy, and millions of Afghans have been on the move either seeking refuge abroad or displaced internally. Nangarhar province has received the highest number of returnees, the majority of whom have failed to go back to their place of origin due to deteriorating security, lack of jobs in rural areas, and lack of access to land. Access to land and regular housing has been recognized as a main pillar of the reintegration strategy for landless refugee returnees and IDPs by the government of Afghanistan. Therefore, a Land Allocation Scheme was launched in 2005 with the endorsement of the presidential decree 104 issued in the same year. The Jalalabad case study aims to provide a detailed picture of the returned population in Nangahar province with focus on landless returnees, distributed plots, and the role of providing land to landless returnees in facilitating integration.


    Lynn, MA

    Lynn, Massachusetts, USA

    Lynn, a gateway city to Boston located on the North Shore, has historically been a city that has welcomed immigrants. Today, the city plays host to one of the most diverse populations in Massachusetts. Refugees began arriving in Lynn in the late 1980s, primarily from Cambodia, and have since arrived from over twenty different countries. Roughly ten years ago, Lynn witnessed a surge in refugee arrivals, leading to the establishment of multiple agencies designed to address the service needs of the refugee population. However, in the last few years Lynn has seen increased economic development, and the cost of living has in turn risen drastically. Refugees and immigrants are facing displacement now more than ever, and little is being done at the local level to protect this population from being forced to search for new homes once again.



    Stuttgart, Germany

    Waiel Yassin

    When Germany opened its doors to refugees in 2015, hundreds of thousands of Syrians, Iraqis, and Central Asian mixed migrants crossed into the country. Despite positive humanitarian intentions, Germany has struggled to provide the housing, language training, employment opportunities, schooling, and social connectivity that refugee integration requires, while reception among German host communities has covered the full spectrum of responses from welcoming, to cold, to complete xenophobia. For refugees stuck in the backlog of the settlement process, integration means prolonged holding on the outskirts of urban centers in crowded temporary housing with limited connectivity to German communities. This case study compliments the Hamburg, Germany, case study by revealing conditions of refugees struggling to find belonging in a city unequipped for dealing with the long-term challenges of integration.


    Sultanbeyli, 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.


    Claire Wilson & Nathan Cohen-Fournier