Research into the Social Integration of Refugees

The aim of the research conducted in 2005 was to provide a more subtle picture of the social integration of refugees living in Hungary than the one in pre-existent research findings. The research was funded by the European Refugee Fund.

The research is made up of three main parts: The first part analysed the social-demographic conditions of refugees in Hungary using quantitative means and based on questionnaires; the second part provided a deeper insight into the labour market integration of refugees living in Hungary based on qualitative interviews; and the third part outlines some policy recommendations to help the social integration of refugees living in Hungary.

The quantitative analysis was based on 105 questionnaires completed by refugees living in Hungary, providing data on a total of over 300 persons including the family members of the original respondents. Beyond basic demographic information (age, sex, level of schooling, place of residence) the questionnaire also asked about information regarding integration (is their work adequate to their qualification, knowledge of Hungarian, composition of households).

The qualitative research was based on interviews conducted with 39 respondents of the questionnaire. The questions regarding their position on the labour market and „life path” in Hungary were aimed at understanding the role of relationship networks, social capital and personal skills in their integration and other factors thereof such as institutional problems experienced, importance of relationship with different assisting organisations and discrimination. The integration of the refugees participating in the study is mainly determined by their positions along the following lines: social capital, proficiency in Hungarian, schools and qualifications, and the openness of the host society.

The last part of the final study of the research, a few general points are made, which can serve as a basis for the development and implementation of programmes to improve the social integration of refugees.

The main recommendations are:

  • The reception centres should provide more than accommodation only. They should serve as the primary location for the provision of social integration programmes. It would be even more effective, if the refugee authority provided accommodation to refugees in places other than reception centres from the beginning (after recognition). Contribution to the rent for private accommodation or placement in small hostels would much better serve the purpose of becoming capable of self support and social integration.
  • It would be also important to offer labour market training programmes, orientation programmes and language courses in combination with subsidised employment, thus increasing the chance to achieve long term results.
  • The difficulties of obtaining earlier diplomas and other documents which are important for employment and further education and the cumbersome procedure of their recognition constitute additional problems in the process of labour market integration. A single procedure should be developed and adopted for replacing the missing and inaccessible documents of refugees.
  • Therefore, the social workers specialised in refugee affairs must involve in the solution of the problems of their refugee clients the general system of social benefits and services and the widest circle of the local community providing natural support. It should be clear that the relationship with helpers is not a substitute but a – possibly short term – tool for the social integration of refugees.
  • In the process of integration, it is essential to support both the refugees and the host communities in the process of acculturation. Publications, training and events in the field of cultural orientation may help refugees to learn about the daily life and specific features of Hungarian society as easily as possible. It is important to involve as extensively as possible refugees or former refugees in this process, including the development of the content of programmed and the implementation of programmes.
  • It is essential to provide sufficiently flexible language learning opportunities with adequate quality as part of the integration services for refugees.