Case Studies & Reports

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


Each of RIT's cases are specific to their local context and the reflexive experiences of the case's participants, while also addressing three general cross-cutting themes:

    RIT Case Locations See details below

    • Aarhus, Denmark
    • Athens, Greece
    • Augusta, ME, USA
    • Austin, TX, USA
    • Beirut, Lebanon
    • Belgrade, Serbia
    • Cairo, Egypt
    • Cape Town, South Africa
    • Concord, NH, USA
    • Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
    • Delhi, India
    • Detroit, MI, USA
    • East Boston, MA, USA
    • Ettumanoor, India
    • Grahamstown, South Africa
    • Hamburg, Germany
    • Islamabad, Pakistan
    • Johannesburg, South Africa
    • Izmir, Turkey
    • Jalalabad, Afghanistan
    • Lynn, MA, USA
    • Milan, Italy
    • Monterrey, Mexico
    • San José, Costa Rica
    • Stuttgart, Germany
    • Sultanbeyli, Turkey
    • Tel Aviv, Israel
    • Tripoli, Lebanon
    • Washington, D.C., USA






    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 details and city-level maps are below.

    Case Site Details

    Aarhus is Denmark’s second largest city with a population of 336,411. The RIT Aarhus case report 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.


    Beirut, Lebanon

    The Beirut case report seeks to share the experiences and challenges of integration for Syrian refugees, especially minority refugee groups at special risk including the LGBTQI+ community. Integration is particularly challenging for these groups who face regular discrimination from employers, and risk imprisonment from Lebanese security forces and experience only limited protection in daily life from international actors like UNHCR.

    Refugees living in Beirut are distributed widely across the city from Borg Hamood to Al Dawra Street. The distribution of Syrian refugees depends on many complex factors as wide ranging  financial constraints to religion that influence capacity and form of integration to the urban fabric. Christian refugees, for example, are settling in the Ashrfeah Porg Hamod area, while Muslim refugees are staying more readily in Shaiah Cola Dawra.

    Livelihoods presents an additional factor on where and to what extent refugees can integrate to the city: facing a jobs deficit, some Syrian refugees leave the city to find jobs in the surrounding countryside as farmers or day laborers. Meanwhile, Lebanese law presents challenges for refugees seeking employment without adequate documentation.

    For more quality research on forced migration in the Middle East, visit the Middle East Research Information Project (MERIP).


    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.

    For more quality research on forced migration in the Middle East, visit the Middle East Research Information Project (MERIP).

    RIT partners with the Center for Migration & Refugee Studies at the American University in Cairo to present case studies and other reports written by or related to refugees' experience in Cairo.


    Cape Town

    Cape Town, South Africa

    This report focuses on the educational integration of 15-20-year-old first-generation immigrant pupils in four different schools of Cape Town. These immigrants have already completed their primary education in their home countries (Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Malawi, Lesotho, Swaziland, Rwanda, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and other African countries), and are now enrolling for secondary and high school classes in English-medium institutions in Cape Town, with a second language option of Afrikaans or Xhosa. For some of the pupils, this is their first experience of a multiracial and multicultural environment. Some of them are from French-speaking nations like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo Brazzaville. Others are from the former Portuguese colonies of Angola and Mozambique. Their main challenges are the cultural environment and language barriers. Moreover, they face difficulties obtaining the relevant permits and paperwork to keep them in the schools. Further, their schoolmates have certain prejudiced views of them. The report offers some recommendations that to improve the integration of these children in the schools of Cape Town.


    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 report 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.


    Dar es Salaam

    Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

    Dar es Salaam is the largest city in Tanzania, and host to urban refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and other countries in the region. The RIT Dar es Salaam case study examines the vulnerabilities of these urban refugees, and examines the difficulties they encounter in accessing basic services in the city. It also considers their integration with the Tanzanian urban poor who they live side by side in the informal settlements of the city. It draws on interviews with the refugees themselves, the host community, and other relevant stakeholders including UN agencies, NGOs and local authorities. It also considers what is next for Tanzania in the wake of a growing displacement crisis in the Central and East African regions, and considers recommendations that could be enacted to improve the lives of the urban refugees of Dar es Salaam. For more updates on the situation for refugees in Tanzania, see reporting from IRIN.


    The first Delhi RIT report by Protiti Roy focused on cooking as an element of cultural and economic integration. 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.

    Currently, Roy's work is being expanded upon by Gauri Khanduja and Ali Johar, examining educational integration of Rohingya refugees among other migrant populations in Delhi.


    Detroit, Michigan, USA

    While extensive research has been conducted on refugees and other migrants in areas surrounding Detroit such as Dearborn, this case report seeks to bring attention to the small portion of refugees from Syria and Iraq living in the city proper of Detroit at a time of rapid change as well as the experiences and changing roles of elders among them.


    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.

    For more quality research on migration and Latin America, visit Wola.



    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.


    Grahamstown, South Africa

    Grahamstown is a small city with a total population of about 92,000 with Rhodes University at its heart. The city comes to life when the students are around, and in winter when it hosts South Africa’s National Arts Festival. Interestingly, this small city has a notable number of small businesses owned and operated by immigrants. These range from clothing shops owned by Somalis, barbershops operated by Zimbabweans and Ghanaians, and other foreign nationals living and working in the town. Compared to the larger metropolitan cities of Johannesburg or Cape Town which are the preferred destinations for most immigrants, most people outside South Africa have never heard of Grahamstown. As such, this report will explore where immigrants first arrived when they came to South Africa, and why they then opted to come to Grahamstown. Thus, the project focuses on immigrant decision-making. The author, himself a new migrant to Grahamstown, looks at whether the city has met migrants' expectations or allowed their integration to the city.  



    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.


    Islamabad, Pakistan

    Islamabad has some of the fastest growing slums in Pakistan, due to the influx of communities displaced by conflict and disaster as well as trends of rural-urban migration. It has received two waves of refugees from Afghanistan–first after the Soviet-Afghan war in the 1980s, and again after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. This case report will aim to examine the way that Afghan refugee children living in informal settlements have interacted with the local education system, the opportunities they have had, and what their options look like now that there has been a push towards repatriation.



    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 report will draw from the experiences of Syrians living in Izmir, and their views on how a transit city has adapted 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 report 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.


    Johannesburg, South Africa

    Johannesburg is one of the 50 largest urban agglomerations in the world with a population of 4,434,827. It attracts immigrants from all over the world, some of whom are forced immigrants from Malawi. Though separated by distance, forced immigrants from Malawi try to keep connected with their homes by sending financial help to people left behind. This case report examines the significance of the financial help they send home through mobile money. The report seeks to describe economic activities that Malawi refugees engage in, and how mobile money providers are used to send money from Johannesburg to Mangochi. The case will also look into the economic significance of the value transfer to Mangochi.


    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.


    Milan, Italy

    Due to its geographic position, since 2014 the city of Milan has been a transit hub for people seeking to reach European countries in the north. However, since 2016, European laws and the closing of borders made Milan a de facto destination place for asylum seekers.

    In 2017, Milan was hosting more than 6,000 asylum seekers, whose main goals is getting a job to have an income and support families in origin countries. However, these migrants face a wide range of obstacles to integration: bureaucracy, language, access to information, education, and culture are major preventive factors. For some refugees, integration into the labor force can be a long process taking years. Involvement in the grey market of informal jobs may present an opportunity to overcome these hurdles. As a result, new networks and projects have arisen with the aim of facilitating entry in the labor market.

    This case report will explore these barriers, and the experiences of refugees in search of employment. It will describe services provided in Milan by public institutions, private companies, associations, and non-profit institutions. Which factors are perceived as obstacles for refugees to get actively involved? To what degree do refugees rely on informal networks such as their own community or local friends versus formal institutions? I seek to answer these questions to improve integration in Milan, the participatory approach, and service delivery of Milan’s humanitarian community.


    Since the 90s, Monterrey, Mexico has been a transit point in the migratory route of Central Americans to the United States. The conditions of poverty and violence in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala have intensified the exodus of people from their communities of origin. On the other hand, the externalization of borders and policies of interdiction in destination and transit countries has modified the routes and destinations of migrants.

    As a result, cities such as Monterrey—very close to the border with the United States—are now perceived by migrants as a new point of arrival because of the economic opportunities that the city offers. In recent years Monterrey's residents have encountered different faces of migration: those who transit, who remain (without regular documentation, with visas, or as refugees). Through this case we observe the strategies that people who stay in the city develop to face the trauma of violence; the resources they use to integrate to the labor dynamics of the city; the strategies they use to access medical and health services; and the local actors who facilitate these integration processes. 


    In San José a group of young people started organizing gastro-cultural exchanges all over the city with the goal of providing a new experience, which they call “citizenship of the world,” in support of the belief that Costa Rican cities should be places that integrate refugees, immigrants and citizens. During the turbulent 1970s and 1980s, when civil wars roiled much of the region from El Salvador and Nicaragua to Colombia, Costa Rica remained a haven of peace, keeping its doors open to those at risk.

    The country has developed a standout system of protection allowing refugees to flourish, with legal guarantees of two asylum appeals and the right to work and attend schools while their petitions are processed. Through the “Living Integration” program, refugees and asylum seekers are also given employment skills training, access to job fairs, and support to set up their own businesses. While Costa Rica has traditionally welcomed South American asylum seekers, it is increasingly receiving applications from Salvadorans, Hondurans, and Guatemalans fleeing extreme gang violence. Asylum requests from these countries have increased 319% in the last two years alone. This case report explores integration from the perspective of one of San José’s “Citizens of the World,” experiencing the challenges and opportunities for migrant integration at the local level.



    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 report of refugees' personal experiences with integration compliments the Hamburg, Germany, case study by revealing conditions of refugees struggling to find belonging in the city.



    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.


    Tel Aviv, Israel

    Tel Aviv, a thriving metropolitan city on the Mediterranean coast of Israel, is home to half of the Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seeking population in Israel that currently totals about 37,000. The Tel Aviv case report focuses on Levinsky Park (pictured above), that the writers consider the geographical and symbolic capital of the city's refugee community. When asylum seekers first arrived in Israel, they were sent in the direction of Tel Aviv’s central bus station down the street from this park. It is where many asylum seekers settled during their first days in Tel Aviv, and started to build their lives. Today, asylum seekers rent apartments, run businesses,  religious institutions, community centers and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the surrounding streets and neighborhoods of South Tel Aviv.


    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.

    For more quality research on forced migration in the Middle East, visit the Middle East Research Information Project (MERIP).


    Claire Wilson & Nathan Cohen-Fournier

    This case report explores two unique and yet overlapping experiences with integration: Syrian refugees resettled in the U.S., and Central and South American migrants (many of them under Temporary Protected Status) living in the same or bordering neighborhoods of Washington, D.C. among other diverse migrant groups, urban residents, and the thousands of commuters from the surrounding suburbs of Maryland and Virginia. Washington, D.C. is then both the home of recent exclusivist migration policies, and home to thousands of migrants from a diversity of backgrounds.