The Role of Civil Society in the Integration of Newly Arrived Refugees in Sweden
Type of text: Book chapter included in Newcomer Integration in Europe : Best Practices and Innovations Since 2015
Published by: Foundation for European Progressive Studies
Author: Sayaka Osanami Törngren, Klara Öberg & Erica Righard
Short description of text
The chapter discuss the role of and future challenges for Swedish civil society in relation to the reception, and “integration”, of asylum-seekers and newcomers, as well as how it relates to the Swedish welfare state, by discussing responses by the civil society to the so-called “refugee crisis” 2015.
Most important results
– ‘The governmental policy on integration identified civil society as an actor that should participate in the introduction and integration programmes. Moreover, the government also adopted a policy in 2010 explicitly aiming at engaging civil society organizations in the production of social services. More recently, an agreement between the state, civil society organisations and the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions was also established that further identifies civil society as an important actor in the integration efforts’ (p. 15-16).
– ‘So far, civil society’s involvement mainly is targeted towards asylum seekers and those who have received residency permits but are still living in reception centres and waiting for their relocation into a municipality, where previously the publicly provided integration services were not sufficient. Early Activities for Asylum Seekers is one such example in which the County Administrative Boards are expected to promote collaboration between public institutions, civil society organizations and other relevant actors on the regional level. This state funding aims at engaging civil society organizations in activities promoting knowledge of Swedish language and society, labour market integration, and health. Another arena of involvement is connected to leisure time and adult education activities, which civil society has a long tradition of providing support for’ (p. 16).
– ‘According to the government official report on what happened in the fall of 2015, civil society’s engagement can be broadly categorized in two types of activities. The first was to give immediate help, such as support and assistance to those asylum seekers that arrived at train stations and ferry terminals … When thousands of refugees in need of food, health care, hygiene products, mobile phones and a place to sleep, arrived at the Malmö central station, civil society’s involvement was at a historically unprecedented high. The second type of engagement was in facilitating integration. These efforts were made through organizing language training and study groups in different subjects, and can be seen as part of an introduction to Swedish society. Related to this second type of engagement, the government provided grants to civil society organizations for them to be able to ensure these services … The government also revised the budget and gave approximately 20 million euros to civil society organizations to strengthen their support work for asylum seekers and newly arrived refugees’ (p. 17).
– ‘The official government report identifies that a functioning collaboration between municipalities and civil society organizations prior to 2015 was of crucial importance during the crisis. One problem that the government official report highlights was that there was a gap between the authorities’ capacity to provide the right information and people’s need to get the right information. Although there were knowledgeable lawyers, other legal advisers, doctors and other occupational groups that made voluntary efforts and provided adequate and accurate information, many volunteers did not have sufficient and correct knowledge in all areas, which led to people getting different and sometimes incorrect information’ (p. 18).
– ‘Today there are several ways that civil society organizations can acquire funding such as project-based funding, commissioned funding, or partnership funding. Project-based funding requires organizations to produce results and achieve goals, and commissioned funding is based on the market bidding process, which places the civil society organization in a customer-executor relation with the state. On the other hand, partnership funding is built on an agreement between the civil society organization and the public sector, which deviates from the market mechanism. One conclusion to be made from this is that the availability and type of funding is of high relevance for an efficient involvement of civil society’ (p. 19), it is further argued that civil society representatives ‘preferred a partnership funding model, while they were more critical about the project funding and commissioned funding systems’ (p. 19).
– ‘The challenges raised by civil society representatives reflect the differences between the public and the third sector’s principles. For example, the representatives from civil society organizations stressed that they work with integration more comprehensively. While the public sector divides the responsibility towards integration in different areas such as housing, employment or language learning, there was a resistance among the representatives of civil society against dividing the subject of integration into different domains’ (p. 20).
Discussions with twelve representatives from ten different civil society organizations involved in reception and integration support activities for asylum seekers and refugees in the Scania region.