Qualitative Data Sources for Interpretivist Research

I am studying refugee integration because I want to find out why Bosnian refugees were able to integrate so well into Swedish society, in order to help my reader understand the changing dynamics of the refugee question and the symbiotic relationship between Sweden and refugees. Additionally, why does Sweden view Bosnian refugees as the most successfully integrated into Swedish society and what potential problems does this cause for following refugee groups?

One data source I will be examining is an article from a Swedish English-language newspaper discussing what lessons Sweden can learn from its Yugoslavian refugees.[1] It’s an article written by a Spanish footballer, includes excerpts from an interview with the President of a Bosnian and Herzegovinian interest and advocacy group in Sweden as well as Jasenko Selimovic a Yugoslavian-Bosnian born Swedish writer and politician. It compares the Syrian and Bosnian refugee processes in Sweden. It does not include any Syrian refugee perspectives, but does include a former Bosnian refugee’s perspective. The article shows that there’s an ongoing conversation about refugee integration in Sweden which began with the first significant wave of refugees, post-WWII.

Another data set I will examine is the Swedish Immigration and Alien law from 1990 as well as the revised version from 1997, which was changed following the Bosnian refugee influx of the ‘90s.[2] The language of the document is very formal, like one would expect from government laws, using terms to refer to people or groups of people as “authorities,” “aliens,” “the Government,” “the Minister,” etc. Additionally, the Aliens Act was amended following the 2015 Syrian refugee crisis only to meet the minimum standards outlined by the European Union. This revision illuminates a discourse surrounding the text and whether or not it should just be revised every time Sweden opens its borders, then is overwhelmed by the number of refugees who have come, and then the government decides to shut the borders.[3]  Researching and understanding the popular discourse on Bosnian refugees during and after the refugee wave as well as the changing legal and governmental response to these refugees will help me explore the Swedish idea of refugees and how it’s formed and reformed.

 

[1] Lee Roden, „What lessons can Sweden learn from its Yugoslavian refugees?,” The Local, Swedish Edition, 18 September 2017, (accessed 11 November 2018) https://www.thelocal.se/20170918/what-lessons-can-sweden-learn-from-its-yugoslavian-refugees

[2] “Aliens Act (1990, updated 1997),” OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights,  (accessed 11 November 2018) https://www.legislationline.org/documents/id/3712

[3] “Gov’t:  Sweden’s Aliens act to be adapted to EU’s minimum levels,” Sveriges Radio AB, 24 November 2015, (accessed 11 November 2018) https://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=2054&artikel=6310138

Qualitative Data Sources

My goal for the small-n case study is to examine the result of the local refugee integration programs following the 2015 refugee wave using the “indepthness” of the program as my dependent variable. I would operationalize this variable through the use of the UK’s Home Office’s “Indicators of Integration”[1] which draws many of its points from the Council of Europe’s “Measurement and indicators of integration.”[2] Specifically, the factors I would look at to determine the program indepthness are access to employment, housing, education, and health services as well as refugee language acquisition and the government programs dedicated to this gal, additionally, refugee social connections with the local population and refugees’ rights and their path to permanent residency or citizenship. I would explore countries refugee laws and policies to help operationalize the D.V. For this operationalization, I would access the presence or absence of these refugee programs and services and, if present, the level of the program (low/moderate/high). Similar to Lise Howard’s article and operationalization, I would ask several questions of the different variables to determine the level which the variable is ranked for the individual case.[3]

Two countries I am currently thinking about for this small-n research are Sweden and Germany because Germany took in the highest number of refugees and Sweden took in the highest number of refugees per capita and both countries had welcoming stances towards the refugee influx at the onset of the 2015 wave.[4] I will use the countries’ official laws and policies[5] [6] as well as independent research and reports like the Migration Policy Institution’s.[7] [8] If I wanted to do a larger small-n project, this topic would also lend itself well to more of a typology like the one referenced in the lecturelet[9] in which I look at the top ten EU nations which received refugees following the 2015 wave[10] and the different factors which lead to the success/failure of their programs.

[1] Alastair Ager and Alison Strang, “Indicators of Integration: final report,” Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate, Development and Practice Report 28, (2004), accessed 3 October 2018.

[2] “Measurement and indicators of integration,” Council of Europe, accessed 26 October 2018, https://www.coe.int/t/dg3/migration/archives/documentation/Series_Community_Relations/Measurement_indicators_integration_en.pdf; Thomas Huddleston, Jan Niessen and Jasper Dag Tjaden, “Using EU Indicators of Immigrant Integration,” report for the European Commission, (March 2013), accessed 27 October 2018, https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/sites/homeaffairs/files/e-library/documents/policies/legal-migration/general/docs/final_report_on_using_eu_indicators_of_immigrant_integration_june_2013_en.pdf

[3] Lise Morjé Howard, “UN Peacekeeping in Civil Wars,” Cambridge University Press, (2007): 347-357.

[4] Joshua Keating, ”Even Germany and Sweden Are Cracking Down on Refugees Now,” Slate.com, (published 31 December 2015), accessed 27 October 2018, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2015/12/even-germany-and-sweden-are-cracking-down-on-refugees-now.html

[5] “Refugee Law and Policy: Germany,” Library of Congress, (last updated 21 June 2016), accessed 26 October 2018, https://www.loc.gov/law/help/refugee-law/germany.php

[6] “Refugee Law and Policy: Sweden,” Library of Congress, (last updated 21 June 2016), accessed 26 October 2018, https://www.loc.gov/law/help/refugee-law/sweden.php

[7] Susan Fratzke, “Weathering Crisis Forging Ahead: Swedish Asylum and Integration Policy,” Migration Policy Institute, (June 2017), accessed 27 October 2018, https://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/weathering-crisis-forging-ahead-swedish-asylum-and-integration-policy

[8] Patrick Joyce, “Newcomers in the North: Labor Market Integration of Refugees in Northern Europe,” Migration Policy Institute, (27 February 2018), accessed 26 October 2018, https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/newcomers-north-labor-market-integration-refugees-northern-europe

[9] Aaron Boesenecker, “Making Comparisons,” SIS, (Fall 2017), accessed 24 October 2018.

[10] “Migration to Europe in Charts,” BBC, (11 September 2018), accessed 27 October 2018, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-44660699

Quantitative Data Sources

During my last meeting with my mentor, I mentioned to her that we had an assignment to find datasets for the large-n methodology which would eventually be used for an outline of large-n research. She informed me that she was unaware of any large-n analysis that had been done in the field of refugee studies. So, going into this stage of research, I was worried I would not be able to find any data for my hypothesis, my fears were not assayed by the research I did. I could not see any worldwide or even regional data looking at refugee populations demographics, so I was forced to change my question.

Given these limitations, I shifted my question to look at whether or not an increase in refugees leads to a rise in far-right activity. My dependent variable for this question would be far-right activity shown through the number of hate crimes in a country and election results. Since there is no international database on hate crimes, I would determine if there has been an upward trend in the number of hate crimes through looking at individual countries data on hate crimes, expanding on the research done by the Fundamental Rights Report, which only covers nation which have agreed to work with them, mainly Western countries.[1] Additionally, I would look at election results, specifically if any far-right parties have been elected to any level of government, if there has been an upward trend in the percentage of votes that far-right groups receive, and if there are any alt-right grassroots movements in the country—the current data I found for this variable focuses on the Western world.[2] However there, if the term “alt-right” is expanded to include more populist movements with racist elements, more nations can be covered in the data.[3] One limitation of looking at hate crime statistics is that different organizations and countries collecting data on this have different definitions of what a hate crime is and therefore are not exactly comparable although the big picture is comparable. A limitation of looking at alt-right groups is that “alt-right” does not have a set definition and therefore is up to researcher or reporters’ determinations.

The independent variable is the number of refugees entering a country[4], one limitation of this data is if it a refugee is counted but they are in transit or if the country is not traditionally a host nation. The control variables are GDP per capita[5], religion[6], and country/region.

 

[1] “Racism, xenophobia and related intolerance,” European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, accessed 14 October 2018, http://fra.europa.eu/en/publications-and-resources/publications/annual-reports/fundamental-rights-2017#racism

[2] “Europe and nationalism: A country-by-country guide,” BBC, accessed 14 October 2018, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36130006

[3] Christi van der Westhuizen, „South Africa’s white right, the Alt-Right and the alternative,” The Conservation, accessed 14 October 2018, https://theconversation.com/south-africas-white-right-the-alt-right-and-the-alternative-103544

[4] “Population Statistics,” UNHCR, accessed 14 October 2018, http://popstats.unhcr.org/en/overview#_ga=2.260496072.433466411.1539549315-482120770.1536177183; “The number of displaced people in the world just hit a record high,” World Economic Forum, accessed 14 October 2018,  https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/06/there-are-now-more-refugees-than-the-entire-population-of-the-uk/

[5] “GDP per capita (current US$),” The World Bank, accessed 14 October 2018, https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.CD

[6] “Population by religion, sex and urban/rural residence,” UNData, accessed 14 October 2018, http://data.un.org/Data.aspx?d=POP&f=tableCode%3A28

Research Topic Post

I am proposing to research refugee programs because I want to find out why some integration programs succeed or fail in order to help my reader understand whether these programs are applicable in other protracted integration scenarios in developed nations.

One puzzle I found points to a larger puzzle in developed nations approaches. Two developed nations—Sweden and Norway—with similar histories, economies, societal structures, and nations which have, historically, been viewed as “liberal” and “welcoming” towards refugees have had two different outcomes from their integration programs. Both countries have seemingly well-rounded, albeit different integration programs yet unemployment is three times higher in the refugee population than in the native population and “refugees are over-represented in low income/low status occupations.”[1]  The article notes “more proactive measures [are needed] to increase employment among immigrants and refugees,”[2] however, it’s possible the issue has been fixed in the eight years following the article’s publication.  This case study represents two governmentally involved local integration programs which have flaws but are on the way to being comprehensive plans for protracted refugee situations. It is worth noting though, during the most recent migrant wave to Europe in 2015, Norway has decreased the number of refugees they are willing to take in and have even tightened border security,[3] unlike their neighbor, Sweden, who is one of the bigger receivers of refugees in Europe.

Two different European nations—the Netherlands and Italy—with different histories, economies, and cultures, also have different approaches to long-term refugee situations. In the Netherlands, there is a structure reception and integration program for refugees.[4]  If refugees gain “F” statues they are entitled to three years of housing and a small allowance “but no provision directed at integration into Dutch society, such as compulsory professional language training, the right to re-train and work.”[5]  Therefore, most refugees interviewed by Korac found the process a “waste of time” due to the almost institutionalized isolation from the outside world.[6]  Even employed refugees feel disconnected from society.[7] These refugees want to become a part of Dutch society but were unable to form close ties with the Dutch so instead “their social networks were primarily based on family and kinship ties or establish along ethnic lines” and experienced “the Dutch system of integration as the state control over their lives by imposing on them demands to conform”.[8]  The Dutch approach needs serious reconsidering and retooling to help refugees and allow them the opportunity to become contributing members of society.

In Italy, there is basically no state assistance, since “it is assumed that those in need will be assisted primarily through self-help systems established within refugee and migrant networks, which will encourage them to become self-sufficient in a short period.”[9] The lack of assistance meant, for the first few years, refugees in Rome struggled to survive and most of them felt they had established themselves enough to feel a sense of security living in planning their future.[10]   However, in this scenario and unlike in the Netherlands, the refugees in Rome were able to develop “considerably strong social ties outside their ethnic groups established through many informal day-to-day contacts”[11]  this points towards the lack of any program forcing refugees to forge their own way forward in Italian society. As refugees in Rome gained economic security, their ethnic ties decreased.[12]  Neither of these approaches can be considered generally successful; they do point out some general lessons one must keep in mind when regarding integration programs.

The refugee wave which occurred in 2015 to Europe is not the first big refugee wave the developed world has faced, nor is it likely to be the last. As the effects of climate change impact communities and violence continue to tear nations apart, the numbers of refugees will only increase. In 2017, in Germany alone there were almost one million refugees, amounting to about one percent of their population, in Sweden about 2.5 percent of their population is refugees, Austria, 1.3% and so on.[13]  These developed nations face an influx of refugees unpreceded since WWII. These numbers, protracted refugee situations being the norm not the exception, and the increasing number of situations with the potential to lead to more refugee waves, illustrate the need for integration programs as a solution leading to the long-term stability and prosperity of the refugees as well as the host nation. As nations age, such as Germany, allowing immigrants and refugees to solve part of the problem; by 2015’s end, “the influx of young migrants [had] brought down the average age in Germany for the first time since reunification”[14] and as the population continues to age and jobs go unfilled “Germany is going to need even more…immigrants to keep its economy on track and cover growing pension outlays”.[15]  Integration programs encourage the development of ties with the local community rather than refugees becoming isolated from the nation. The isolation of refugees along with poor integration programs has the potential to lead to the radicalization of refugees in developed nations, a problem no country wants to have to face but will if they do not invest in and develop their integration programs.[16]

My two draft research questions are as follows: what explains the success or failure of protracted refugee integration programs? What defines the success or failure of prolonged refugee integration programs in European welfare states after the Yugoslav Wars wave?

 

 

[1] Valenta, Marko and Bunar, Nihad. “State Assisted Integration: Refugee Integration Policies in Scandinavian Welfare States: the Swedish and Norwegian Experience”. Journal of Refugee Studies, Vol. 23 Issue 4, 2010. Pp. 470

[2] Ibid, 472

[3] Morrison, Julia. “10 Facts About Refugees in Norway”. BorgenProject.org. https://borgenproject.org/facts-about-refugees-in-norway/ (accessed 29 September 2018).

[4] Korac, Maja. “Integration and How We Facilitate it: A Comparative Study of Settlement Experiences of Refugees in Italy and the Netherlands”. Sociology, Vol. 37 Issue 1, 2003. Pp. 7-8

[5] Ibid, 7-8

[6] Ibid, 8

[7] Ibid, 9-11

[8] Ibid, 12, 13

[9] Ibid, 14

[10] Ibid, 15

[11] Ibid, 16

[12] Ibid, 17

[13] “A Welcoming Europe?”. Europarl.Europa.eu http://www.europarl.europa.eu/external/html/welcomingeurope/default_en.htm (accessed 29 September 2018)

[14] Deutsche Welle. „Germany’s aging population: Births up, deaths down in 2016”. DW.com. https://www.dw.com/en/germanys-aging-population-births-up-deaths-down-in-2016/a-41391651 (accessed 29 September 2018)

[15] Hockenos, Paul. „Germany’s Secret Labor Experiment“. NYTimes.com https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/09/opinion/germans-secret-labor-experiment.html (accessed 29 September 2018)

[16] Barber, Tony. “The roots of radical Islam in Belgium”. FT.com https://www.ft.com/content/afd98486-f110-11e5-aff5-19b4e253664a (accessed 29 September 2018).

Article Comparison

The first article I read, “Integration and How We Facilitate it: A Comparative Study of Settlement Experiences of Refugees in Italy and the Netherlands”[1], looked at the impact of the government’s approach to long-term refugee integration and the “success” and integration as defined by the refugee(s). Korac does this through a small-n, neo-positivist approach. She has two cases (Italy’s and Netherlands’ integration policies, respectively) and she analyses these two cases. Then, using the “Chicago school tradition…[in terms of] ethnographic research and case study”[2], Korac used extensive interviews with refugees in the two different nations to analyze and critically engage with the different integration models. Korac used refugee interviews, government and NGO data, an informal survey, and previous writings on the topic to inform her research and interaction with her research and the refugees.

The second article, “State Assisted Integration: Refugee Integration Policies in Scandinavian Welfare States: the Swedish and Norwegian Experience”[3], looked at how two nations with similar political trajectories facing similar ambivalences in their refugee integration policies[4] have different “changes, disparities, and ambiguities”[5] in their governmental refugee integration programs. Moreover, they looked at how can we understand the “limitations of extensive state assisted integration measures”[6]. The authors did a comparative analysis of these two nations through a small-n, neo-positivist lens. Valenta and Bunar used documental and archival findings to inform their research.

There are a few points of overlap between the two articles since they are dealing with different cases and questions. However, after reading the first article one may draw the conclusion that the high level of government support in the integration process, which accompanies the majority of the European “welfare” states, can leave refugees ill-prepared to join the workforce or even society at large and therefore refugees will remain separated from society as a whole[7]. This is not the same conclusion that the reader draws from the Valenta and Bunar article, they do not suggest that the welfare states they analyzed have “failed” regarding integration. Valenta and Bunar do concede, however, that there are improvements to be made to the Norwegian and Swedish integration processes since housing and training help facilitate a successful integration to a point and a larger discussion “relating to the ambitions and focus of integration policies”[8] is needed. Valenta and Bunar also cited Korac’s article in their article which I found amusing.

One way these articles can help inform my research is giving me more questions, nations, and integration programs to investigate further to help better inform my research. For example, have any new tactics been developed to address the issues raised in the articles since the publication of these articles? What new problems have come up with the new wave of immigration into Europe? Another helpful aspect of these articles is that the “success” of these nations’ overall programs and takes on the refugee issue can also be used to compare against other nations and the “success” of their refugee integration programs.

 

 

[1] Korac, Maja. “Integration and How We Facilitate it: A Comparative Study of Settlement Experiences of Refugees in Italy and the Netherlands”. Sociology, Vol. 37 Issue 1, 2003. Pp. 1-26. DOI 10.1177/0038038503037001387

[2] Ibid, 4

[3] Valenta, Marko and Bunar, Nihad. “State Assisted Integration: Refugee Integration Policies in Scandinavian Welfare States: the Swedish and Norwegian Experience”. Journal of Refugee Studies, Vol. 23 Issue 4, 2010. Pp. 463-483. DOI 10.1093/jrs/feq028

[4] Ibid, 479.

[5] Ibid, 463.

[6] Ibid, 463.

[7] Korac, 19.

[8] Valenta and Bunar, 479.

Philosophical Wagers

I see ontology as being about how and what we believe about the nature of being and reality. This is a reasonably hard concept for me to wrap my head around because it is such a metaphysical concept and wants me to question notions that I always just assume as truths because you get into too much a spiral of breaking everything down into its components, and at the end of the day we’re all just a ton of atoms piled on top of each other and should a pile of atoms really question the essence of being and what is identifiable and what is knowable in the world. But, in reality, ontology is just that: a way to say what things are and how those things can be grouped.

Methodology is the process by which we get to a conclusion and the reason why we used that logic. Methodology also varies across disciplines and in daily life. In an academic setting, no matter what discipline, there is an expectation that you will record your procedures and methods and that there was a specific reason for the methodology you choose. This methodology selection is crucial because it allows people to understand how you got to the point that you did, and even if they disagree with the hypothesis or some of the assumptions made, they can understand how that impacted the data and results in certain ways. Methodology is also crucial because it dictates what we view as important versus unimportant, for example, large-n methodology doesn’t care about individual cases it’s looking at the overall patterns that emerge from the cases to tell a story whereas interpretivism cares very much individual cases rather than the overall trends.

I think that as humans, we can never be a true impartial observer of the social world because we enviably apply our own biases and life experiences to everything we see. But we can try to minimize our unobjectively by either accounting for it when we interpret our data, and we must also understand that there are several ways to account for bias. Some of these ways include substantiating your data against other similar data, have peers review your data and work, recognize different types of researcher bias and actively work to make sure they don’t infiltrate your work. But at the end of the day, we are inevitably a co-producer of the reality we inhabit. As Abbott discusses our positions in the social world very much affects our research, for example, if you are too self-confident that you will disregard the work others have done before you and the help your peers are likely to offer (1). I think that anything you can put into words and still have others understand what you’re talking about is something that can be measured. So, this means both visible and invisible phenomena are measurable.

  1. Andrew Abbott, Methods of Discovery (W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2004), 240.

Primary Research Interest

My current research project is looking at refugee resettlement programs, particularly in Germany and Sweden, seeing what they entail, how “successful” they were/are, and determining if they could be applied elsewhere. One guiding question is how applicable are small-scale programs to a larger implementation? Another guiding question will be: is there anything that can be done to mitigate the resentment towards migrants and refugees that seems always to follow them?

One aspect that requires additional detail and attention is what I define as “successful.” Another issue is the timeframe I look at as well as the countries I focus on, particularly because recently Germany and Sweden have seen a revival of Neo-Nazis and anti-immigrant sentiment following their relatively welcoming immigrant stance and the influx of Middle Eastern refugees. There has been a growing presence of far-right, anti-immigrant political groups in both Sweden (Swedish Democrats) and Germany (Alternative for Germany, “AfD”). For the upcoming Swedish elections, the Swedish Democrats are getting high support numbers in the polls, about 1/4 of the nation[1], and were they to receive these votes in the next elections they would become the second largest political group in the Swedish Parliament.  In Germany, there is also a rise in the popularity of the anti-immigrant, fascist-leaning AfD party, which is now the third largest party in the Bundestag and Germany[2]. Especially in the eastern districts of Germany is this anti-immigrant sentiment most strongly seen. For example, in the past week there have been several anti-immigrant, pro-white Germany protests, and more are planned for this weekend, in Chemnitz following the stabbing of a German man[3]. These growing hostile feelings towards anyone deemed “unfit” for a nation present a severe issue for refugees everywhere and are just one of the many problems facing my research towards immigrant programs.

[1] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/sweden-democrats-election-results-nationalist-populist-party-anti-immigrant-refugees-a8515576.html

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/world/ng-interactive/2017/sep/24/german-elections-2017-latest-results-live-merkel-bundestag-afd

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/30/world/europe/germany-neo-nazi-protests-chemnitz.html