This project has been funded with the support from the European Commission in the framework of the Erasmus + Programme. This promotional page and its content reflects the views only of the project partners, and the Commission cannot be held responsable for any use which may be made of the information contained therein. Erasmus plus

First intellectual output. Loyola Andalucia University

First intellectual output. Loyola Andalucia University

3. Integration of refugees and forced migrants in the hosting societies

3.1. Integration from an ecological perspective8

Integration is a complex process that implies starting from the generally oppressive conditions of the context in order to reach a situation of personal autonomy. Watts and García-Serrano (2003) point out that this occurs through a process of empowerment of oppressed groups, which requires awareness of their situation of inequality, obtaining control and the ability to carry out effective actions to end with the structural, social and personal conditions that maintain the conditions of oppression. This process of empowerment has a socio-political character and involves the acquisition of rights and responsibilities to be politically active members and contribute to the development of the new society. It is, in short, a process of achieving citizenship in a multicultural society (Montero, 2009; De la Mata et al. 2010; García-Ramírez et al., under preparation).

According to data found by Berry (2005) and other authors, integration is the preferred strategy for people who are in the process of acculturation. In addition, this strategy is the one that produces less acculturative stress, contrary to marginalization. But integration is only possible if the receiving society is inclusive in its orientation towards cultural diversity. It implies, on the part of both groups, the acceptance and tolerance of others and their right to live culturally differently. Therefore, society must be prepared to adapt its institutions to the particular needs of the different groups that make up the community (De la Mata et al., 2010).

For this integration to be effective, it is necessary to specify at different levels of reality. According to the ecological model, this would imply, among other elements:

  • At the exosystem or community level: respect and dignification of working conditions for any person of working age; the promotion of the relationship between people of the same neighbourhood and respect for the expression of cultural differences; the promotion of the relationship between parents and mothers of the students of the schools of a neighbourhood or city; active participation in the life of the neighbourhood or the community of all its members; the association of immigrant people and those previously resident, the opening of local forums, spaces for debate and citizen meetings around common interests...
  • At the mesosystem or relational level: the harmonization of relationships between family and work; the involvement of fathers and mothers in the education work of the daughters and sons, the opening of the centres to the fathers and mothers of foreign origin; the contact of fathers and mothers with the school where their children study, with the families of other classmates, with their teachers; the search for spaces and moments to share with others, the search for time for the couple, the care of leisure time and the relationships between the children's equals...
  • At the microsystem level: the care of the type of communication in the family, of the relationship styles in the couple and between the latter and the children; the level of support and perceived trust between them; the time that parents and children share and the quality of it; the participation of parents in the lives of their children; the type of friendships the children have and what they contribute to their lives; the harmonization of the different cultural references that can exist within the same family (the culture from which they come, the context in which they are inserted, the keys of the educational system in which their children grow up, the decisions taken by the children, the decisions that the parents adopt and the level of respect towards the decisions of the children in function, also, of their ages and life cycles ...).
  • At the individual level: the promotion of personal resources that enhance the awareness of what level of biopsychosocial well-being each member of a family, group or person lives; the knowledge of how the person harmonizes their identity in the midst of the multiplicity of cultural and identity referents; what level of conflict the person experiences within their most immediate support network and with themselves; what resolution strategies are used to resolve their potential conflicts; what level of communication and respect is given between it and its most important referents; in what vital moment they are and how it affects their evolutionary stage to what they must experience; what support they perceive from their relationship network; how they feel integrated into the society in which they develop and what steps they take toward that goal; How many friends, acquaintances, or significant relationships do they have... where their main relationships come from and how much openness the person has towards knowing others from different origins; what expectations the person has regarding themselves and their present and future possibilities; what image are your significant "others" returning to you; how they perceive themselves to be treated by the society in which they develop...
  • And at the macrosystem level, in its terminological correspondence (which we define as a search for the intercultural and which in the Berry model is called Multiculturality), it would imply: coexistence policies, exchange and recognition of rights of all persons, regardless of their administrative situation; the creation of an ideology and the encouragement of values that promote it; the care of a means of communication that transmits a real image that is adjusted to the possibilities of this integration and coexistence in diversity; an educational system that structures students around diversity as the center of relationships and difference as an inherent characteristic of life itself.

From this perspective, integration implies different levels of reality. Having them present helps to clarify in which of them it is possible to intervene in each moment, establishing priorities and limits of intervention. From this perspective, integration implies interculturality. Interculturality, from the proposal of Giménez (1997), is understood as:

"...A pluralist approach to human relations that should exist between culturally differentiated actors in the context of the democratic and participatory State and the pluricultural, multilingual and multiethnic nation; the systematic and gradual promotion, from the State and from civil society, of spaces and processes of positive interaction that will open and generalize relations of trust, peaceful regulation of the conflict, cooperation and coexistence; based on three principles: 1) The principle of citizenship, which implies full recognition and the constant search for real and effective equality of rights, responsibilities, opportunities, as well as the permanent fight against racism and discrimination; 2) The principle of the right to difference, which entails respect for the identity and rights of each of the peoples, ethnic groups and sociocultural expressions; and 3) The principle of unity in diversity, concretised in national unity, not imposed but built by all and voluntarily assumed " Carlos Giménez (1997: 26-27).

3.2.    From the application of resources to the development of membership policie9

For a long time the social intervention has been understood from the binomial necessity-resource, the materials also being understood as the only resources. But there is another horizon from which to approach social intervention: one that is related to the construction of society from relationships, bonds and social ties (Carballeda, 2002). From this way of understanding social intervention interpersonal communication becomes the essential and fundamental, and the accidental or instrumental is to provide or deliver material or economic resources. Therefore, a re-signification of resources is necessary. From the institutions and from their agents they have to establish ways of proceeding and intervening that clarify, limit and are coherent, to establish a renewed use of social resources. As suggested by Puig (2007: 203-204) "it is a question of strengthening a line of intervention that, making use of material aids and services, does not neglect or determine the possibilities of intervention or its main instruments: the relationship and the change".

It is time to rethink an intervention model that, on the one hand, does not depend exclusively on the existence of material resources and that is based more on the interpersonal relationship, on the relationship between subjects (González, 2014). A model that, according to González (2014: 152-155), should advance in three lines: a change in work methodologies (betting on accompaniment), a change in the relationship between auditors and those intervened that bet on mutual trust, the relationships of meanings... And, finally, a model that looks more at the community as key to full integration.

This model is considered to be a very positive way to work with immigrant and refugee groups.

When an immigrant arrives in the host country, they meet the need to cover the most basic and practical aspects, that is, their administrative situation (documentation), work, housing and health. We could say that the person focuses all their efforts on their needs of the first level of Maslow's pyramid. For years, policies have focused on this area, not only because of the need to regulate the flow of people, but also because they were based on the idea that it was a temporary migration, and that most would return. In this situation, it was only necessary to cover basic needs temporarily (López Rodrigo, 2009). When immigrants decide to stay permanently, other elements such as culture, education or participation come into play. "The concepts of identity, belonging or coexistence become fundamental in this area, especially when we speak of the second, third or fourth generation" (López Rodrigo, 2009: 203). It is precisely in this field where fewer policies have been generated and some analysts suggest that it is precisely the lack of action on belonging that is one of the key elements in the crisis of traditional European integration models.

To summarize it briefly: immigrant people not only require papers, housing, education, health care, but also political and social participation, social incorporation...

Following Vidal and Martínez (2006) there are four dimensions of integration, two of which could be called socioeconomic and refer to the incorporation of the person into society from the point of view of ensuring a dignified life, and two that could be called anthropological-cultural as they refer to culture and identity. It can be seen collected systematically in the following table:

Table 1. Dimensions of integration

Socioeconomic dimensions   Structural dimension:
  • Legal situation
  • Labour market
  • Living place
  • Health, education
 Social dimension:
  • Social relations
  • Participation
 Anthropological-cultural dimensions   Cognitive-cultural dimension:
  • Language
  • Cultural values
  • Political values.
  • Religious beliefs
  • Lifestyles
 Identity dimension:
  • Subjective perceptions of belonging.
  • Identification with society

 Sources: Vidal y Martínez (2006); López Rodrigo (2009).

All dimensions are developed simultaneously, but not all vary or act at the same time, and above all, they do not do so in a linear manner. As we have already described, an immigrant who comes to our society will initially seek to satisfy the structural dimension: get legal documentation, find work, find accommodation and cover their health needs. This will lead them to make this dimension a central element of their concerns, but they will not renounce the rest (the elements that make up the cognitive-cultural dimension: languages, values, beliefs and lifestyle and those that make up the identity dimension: belonging and identification). What they will try, surely, is not to have to vary them, and they will use the most efficient and safe system possible: looking for a cultural and social space of origin, where they are comfortable, a "warm" place. Usually, the newly arrived person will surround themselves with compatriots and go to places where they can know what is happening in their country, where they are comfortable. In some way, they will live in two societies (López Rodrigo, 2009).

Faced with such a broad outlook, it is necessary to design social policies that comply with them in all their complexity, which, as we have seen, is no small task. We are not dealing with a linear problem, so actions must overlap, that is to say, it is necessary to continue to address the needs that immigrant groups have that are more related to the structural dimension (and, therefore, more in the line of application of resources), but at the same time it is necessary that actions are also developed to cover the other dimensions (and, of course, they must be supported by the development of membership policies that target both immigrant groups and their children, as well as the receiving society).

Following López Rodrigo (2009), two criteria must be met for the implementation of these policies. The first is that they must be long-haul and their results will hardly be seen in the short term. We may have to wait for the third generation to see if they are working. This does not exclude putting permanent evaluation indicators in place that allow modifying the actions. The second is that we are not talking about solidarity, but about social cohesion. The processes of belonging must be read from the point of view of public management and, therefore, of maintaining social cohesion, with all that this implies. It will be necessary to instrumentalize actions on the elements of transmission of the collective imagination: education, social communication media and public symbology.

Some proposals for progress in the politics of belonging: volunteering and associationism in immigrant groups.

Currently there is no statistical data to identify the percentage of volunteers from our country who are of immigrant origin. The only related data that has been found comes from the EADA survey carried out in 2007 by the INE, which shows that immigrant people have levels of participation in activities of voluntary charities and informal volunteering of 4.1 percentage points less than people of Spanish origin (13.21%). Accordingly, the review of certain studies conducted primarily in English-speaking countries shows that the practice of volunteering is much lower in the immigrant population than in the nonimmigrant population (Gómez and Gunderson, 2003).

Traditionally, the immigrant population has become a target for voluntary action by voluntary organizations. But there is another possible point of view regarding this relationship: that the immigrant population become volunteers, also contributing as citizens to the balanced and fair development of the society in which they live.

The European Commission (2003) highlights social capital as an engine of integration, since it allows the generation of feelings of social belonging, trust and reciprocity, both in formal and informal social networks. In this sense, formal volunteering allows increasing social capital (Stukas, Daly and Cowling, 2005), and it has even been considered a central indicator of social capital in itself (Putman, 2000). Specifically, it allows the building of new social bonds and increases access to social support that can satisfy many of the needs associated with the adaptation process. From this perspective, the participation of the immigrant population as a volunteer is an indicator of integration in the society in which they live, insofar as it contributes to facilitating socio-economic and cultural integration. On the one hand, this integration allows us to assess different aspects of the host society such as tolerance, intercultural openness, the ability to adapt to new cultural and religious practices, the level of racism and xenophobia etc. (Cabezas et al., 2011), but also allows us to assess aspects from the perspective of immigration in several ways: Usefulness in developing the human and social capital of immigrants to reduce cultural prejudices, in addition to their potential utility when it comes to generating roots in the host society (Dávila, 2012). The volunteer experience helps with the acquisition of new skills, the use of the skills they already possess, building a curriculum vitae and obtaining references in the host country, improving their knowledge of the language, developing their social support network and increasing their self-confidence... To all this, we must add adaptation, respect for the cultural and religious practices of the host society, involvement and integration in political life, ability to adapt their customs to a new social context, etc.

In short, there is a significant correlation: the higher the rate of immigrant population participating in volunteer work, the higher the level of integration of that population in society.

8 This section is extracted from: Melero, L. y Die, L. (2010). El enfoque psicosocial de las migraciones. En: Melero, L. (coord.). La persona más allá de la migración. Manual de intervención psicosocial con personas migrantes. p71-114. CeiMigra: Valencia. Available online at:

9 This section is extracted from: González, A y Cordero, G. (2014): Retos del Sistema Público de Servicios Sociales en materia de inmigración: avanzando en las políticas de pertenencia. In: Aboussi, M. y Morata, B. (coords.): Migraciones y Tercer Sector en tiempos de crisis: nuevos retos de intervención, participación e inclusión. p15-24. Granada: Comares.


Consorzio Tartaruga Università degli Studi di Enna Kore Universidad Loyola Andalucia Universitatea din Bucaresti
Associacion Claver Centrul-Cultural Romano-Arab Global Commercium  


© 2019 Consorzio Tartaruga - Palermo (Italy). All Rights Reserved.
Designed by Consorzio Tartaruga