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Jutvik, 2020 🔗

Governing Migration – On the Emergence and Effects of Policies Related to the Settlement and Inclusion of Refugees

Year: 2020

Type of text: Doctorial Dissertation

Published by: Uppsala University

Language: English

Author: Kristoffer Jutvik

Pages: 72

Available at: http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-404108

Short description of the text 

“This thesis seeks to add to the current state of knowledge by providing four individual papers with insights from the Swedish context. Although globally Sweden is often associated with a high refugee intake and an inclusionary approach to migration, there is significant inter-municipal variation in local refugee reception as well as a couple of recent regulatory changes concerning the residency status of refugees. This thesis focuses on these internal differences in refugee reception and a specific policy alteration concerning residency status implemented in 2013 in attempts to learn more about the emergence and effects of differences in migration policy. More specifically, two of the papers (Papers I and II) focus on the emergence of differences in refugee reception policy in Swedish municipalities. The other two papers (Papers III and IV) focus on the effects of a sudden policy change implemented in 2013 concerning residency status on the movements of asylum-seekers and labour market participation.” (p. 14-15)

Most important results

“Concerning the theoretical discussion about the capacity of nation-states to control migration, the summarised conclusions of this thesis suggest that nation-states remain a central actor in migration management. However, it is also clear that several contemporary processes, such as globalisation, increased mobility of refugees, and technological advancements, challenge the capacity of nation-states. This thesis suggests that refugees (in this case from Syria) are informed about changes in national migration policies and, to some extent, select host-destination in reaction to these alterations.” (p. 54) 

“This thesis also suggests that nation-states depend on each other in matters of refugee reception. More specifically, this thesis suggests that the 2013 policy change in Sweden had a substantial impact on the inflow of Syrian refugees into Sweden but also on the number of Syrians going to Germany. Hence, since a decision made in a specific nation-state may have consequences in other countries, nation-states may not independently control migration flows.” (p. 54)

“The policy change under scrutiny in this thesis and the rights attached to it (in family reunification) is associated with an increased inflow of Syrian males making the journey to Sweden without their families. As these individuals could later apply for family reunification, such a trend in migration seems understandable and gives further credibility to theories emphasising the household as the unit to decide whether or not to migrate. Importantly, this conclusion indicates that the structure of migration policies affects not only the number of asylum-seekers coming to specific places but also who makes the journey.” (p. 55)

“In terms of economic inclusion, it seems that insecure modes of residence are beneficial, as temporary residents earn more and are unemployed less in the short-term. This result is expected theoretically from a duty-based perspective. However, in terms of inclusion in education, it seems that secure modes of residence are beneficial in the short-term, as permanent residents are more likely to spend time in education, which is expected theoretically from a rights-based approach.” (p. 55)

“Within the existing literature, there are theoretical assumptions that left-wing parties are more willing to accept refugees. This assumption has been supported empirically in several existing studies (e.g. Bucken-Knapp et al., 2014; Han, 2015; Odmalm, 2011). In the Swedish context, it seems that the composition of political parties has little relevance in the understanding of differences in refugee reception policies. The limited influence of political parties gains resonance in the quantitative assessment in Paper I as well as in the interviews with stakeholders in Paper II. In comparison to studies performed on other national contexts, the thesis points to a distinctive characteristic of the Swedish party system, where the theoretically expected ideological traits about migration are missing, at least in terms of refugee reception.” (p. 55)

Theoretical perspective/framework

“The approach taken in this thesis is motivated by the increased mobility of migrants and refugees and the subsequent effects of migration on host destinations, most notable in growing ethnic and cultural heterogeneity. The approach is further motivated by a rising public discontent with migration, which is reflected in the electoral advancement of anti-immigration parties in Europe and elsewhere, and by proliferating cleavages between residents and newcomers which contribute to alienation and segregation in many urban contexts. From a Swedish perspective, the papers in this thesis are especially relevant following some changes in migration policy introduced in 2016, which, as I will argue further on, constitute significant shifts in migration management in Sweden.” (p. 15)

“Firstly, although with a focus on somewhat different aspects, migration policy is a central concept in all four texts. As briefly stated above, the papers focus on policies regarding municipal refugee reception and residency status. These policy types can broadly be incorporated under the umbrella of migration policy.” (p. 16)

“This thesis relies on the definition provided by Hammar (1985) and defines the specific policies under scrutiny here to belong in the immigration regulation category, which restricts access to a territory. More specifically, in regards to municipal refugee reception policy, the papers focus on the system pertaining from 1994 to 2016, which enabled municipalities to negotiate the level of municipal refugee reception.5 This system can be compared to the current regulations, implemented in March 2016, under which municipalities are obliged to receive refugees in accordance with set quotas.” (p. 17)

“In regards to policy concerning residency status, the papers focus on a regulatory change introduced in Sweden in September 2013. The policy change introduced permanent instead of temporary residency as the general rule for Syrian asylum-seekers. The policy is thus considered as an example of a liberal change in migration regulation policy, which suddenly and swiftly increased access and security of residency for this specific group.” (p. 17)

“There are thus many categories of migrants. The specific focus and category of interest in the papers in this thesis revolves around forced migrants.6 As opposed to other categories of “voluntary migrants” such as labour markets and students, refugees and their families are “forced migrants” who moved to escape persecution (Castles et al., 2003, pp. 102-03).” (p. 17)

Method

“In a more general methodological contribution, the papers provide quasi-experimental as well as qualitative assessments of research problems that have not yet been assessed by these particular research designs in the Swedish context.” (p. 18-19)

Policy suggestions

“Although many European nation-states are favourable to increased harmonisation, some countries heavily deviate from the current regulations. On the contrary, other countries more than fulfill the prevailing regulations. These countries may potentially lower their commitment to harmonise with the minimum standard to reduce the number of asylum-seekers. In order to maintain a high standard in the reception system and avoid a race to the bottom, it may, therefore, be essential to control that nation-states follow common regulations and do not deviate negatively. The failure to do so may risk setting aside the humanitarian obligations of nationstates and counteract international agreements intended to safeguard the rights of refugees.” (p. 59) 

“Another important note for policymakers is that individual rights connected to asylum, such as family reunification, may affect who is making the journey to apply for asylum. This aspect constitutes a critical point for policymakers and politicians to have in mind when developing a common system of refugee reception, not least following the hazardous and irregular routes refugees are forced to take in order to apply for asylum.” (p. 60) 

“[…] while faster labour market inclusion may lead to stronger attachment in other spheres of society, it may also capture individuals in less attractive employments segments without the possibility to advance. Such development may potentially counteract the rehabilitation progress and increase segregation in the labour market as well as in other parts of society. Higher participation in education, on the other hand, may lead to weaker labour market attachment in an initial phase but generate higher pay-off in the long run. It is thus crucial that policymakers and politicians reflect upon these patterns when designing and implementing policy and direct resources to the research community to facilitate further scrutiny of these regulations.” (p. 61)

Suggestions for further research

“The results from Paper I and Paper II, suggesting that the composition of mainstream political parties on a traditional left/right scale has little impact on the level of municipal refugee reception, also open up possibilities for future research.” (p. 57)

“Since many rural and suburban municipalities in Sweden are relatively new to refugee settlement, it would be interesting to map and describe institutional developments and capacities in this area after the implementation of the dispersal law in 2016. It also remains to be studied in what way Swedish municipalities addressed the situation brought about by the high reception in 2015. Do, for instance, municipalities provide refugees with first-hand housing contracts or temporary accommodation? Are there local programs (such as municipal internships) available for refugees to facilitate labour market inclusion?” (p. 57)

“One promising avenue for future studies is, therefore, to investigate the short and long-term effects of other similar policy changes to corroborate the results reported in this thesis. Do, for instance, policy changes directed towards other groups of refugees have the same impact, or should one expect a lower (or higher) response? Within this potential line of studies, the temporariness of any potential policy effect is of great interest given the result discussed here. Furthermore, the suggested interdependence between nation-states calls for more studies on spillover effects of policy changes both on a regional and a European level.” (p. 58)

“A promising venue for future research is, therefore, to perform a long-term analysis to address whether the effect remains, declines, or increases. It also remains to assess the impact of residency status on other outcomes than strictly socio-economic outcomes (as in the paper). For instance, what is the effect of residency status on mental health and well-being? How does residency status affect family planning or the division of labour within families? Such questions are important for future research to investigate, not least with the current regulations regarding residency status in Sweden (implemented in 2016) and many other European countries.” (p. 58)

Summarized by: Josefine Carlsson