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Refugee resettlement, social media and the social organization of difference



Social media platforms allow refugees separated by distance to share information, provide support and exchange resources across borders. This connection has the potential to transform resettlement experiences as people maintain significant and ongoing relationships with transnational networks. Yet, since refugee resettlement programmes generally only scale up to the national imagination, integration remains a normative framework in most policy spheres. This article presents a 12‐month digital ethnography of 15 refugees settled in New Zealand with a view to examining their transnational practices of social media and its influence on integration and belonging. Drawing on a conceptual framework based on the social organization of difference, it contains a discussion on how online global networks increasingly inform the domains of encounters, representations and configurations. The role of social media for refugee resettlement futures and its implications for integration at times of rapid political, technological and social change concludes the article.
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Refugee resettlement, social media and
the social organization of difference
Department of Counselling, Human Services and Social Work,
Faculty of Education, The University of Auckland,
Private Bag 92601, Auckland 1150, New Zealand
Social media platforms allow refugees separated by distance to share
information, provide support and exchange resources across borders. This connection
has the potential to transform resettlement experiences as people maintain significant
and ongoing relationships with transnational networks. Yet, since refugee resettlement
programmes generally only scale up to the national imagination, integration remains
a normative framework in most policy spheres. This article presents a 12-month digital
ethnography of 15 refugees settled in New Zealand with a view to examining their
transnational practices of social media and its influence on integration and belonging.
Drawing on a conceptual framework based on the social organization of difference, it
contains a discussion on how online global networks increasingly inform the domains
of encounters, representations and configurations. The role of social media for refugee
resettlement futures and its implications for integration at times of rapid political,
technological and social change concludes the article.
The rapid proliferation and availability of information communication technologies –
particularly the smartphone and social media – herald new ways for refugees to con-
nect across distances. With more than 68 million people forcibly displaced, the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR 2018) acknowledges the potential
of social media to ‘digitally reunite’ proximate and distant networks. Applications such
as Facebook, Skype, WhatsApp, Snapchat and others deliver platforms that bring fam-
ilies and friends together through audio and visual communication in synchronous and
asynchronous formats. These tools provide physically separated people with an
opportunity to share information, give support and exchange resources across borders.
Such forms of connection can potentially transform local resettlement experiences as
people maintain significant and ongoing relationships with transnational networks.
Jay Marlowe
Here, I consider refugee resettlement futures in an attempt to articulate what social
media interactions represent during times of rapid political, technological and social
change. Drawing on a 12-month digital ethnography with 15 participants from refugee
backgrounds living in New Zealand, I consider the implications for belonging and
integration when people simultaneously connect to ‘here’ and ‘there’ through social
media. In this article, Vertovec’s (2015) theoretical framework on the social organiz-
ation of difference is applied to unpack the implications for refugee integration of these
digital platforms connecting proximal and distant networks in new and novel ways.
Dislocation in an age of connection
In an age of increasing digital connectivity, people can connect instantly and con-
tinuously across space and time through social media. The UNHCR (2016) report on
digital communications and forced migration highlights that refugees have increasing
access to infrastructure for mobile communications. This access, however, is far from
uniform as refugees are 50 per cent less likely to have an internet-enabled phone
relative to the general population (UNHCR 2016). The report also states that refugees
can spend a third of their disposable income on mobile communications, thus
highlighting not only the barriers to communication but also the extent to which people
forego other necessities to maintain links with their networks.
Nearly 15 years ago, Vertovec (2004) wrote about how cheap calls facilitated
through phone cards served as a ‘social glue’ that sustained small-scale transnational
formations. This ‘glue’ has largely shifted to the digital environment where people can
interact (at times free of cost) through video, audio and text-based communications.
The associated social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Skype, Viber,
Instagram, Snapchat and various ethno-national specific ones (Weibo, Kakao Talk,
WeiChat) facilitate these interactions. The Ericsson (2017) mobility report suggests
that there are 5.3 billion unique mobile subscribers globally with an increase of nearly
100 million subscribers in the third quarter of 2017 alone. This report shows how data
traffic grew 65 per cent between 2016 and 2017, thereby highlighting not only the
increased number of users but also a massive uptake in data exchange with total traffic
predicted to grow eightfold by 2023. These trends demonstrate that the influence of
social media is interwoven into the ways that people negotiate, sustain and create net-
works from local to transnational scales (IOM 2017). This applies particularly to
resettled refugees who can now connect instantly with family and friends from their
countries of origin and diaspora.
Integration, transnational networks and social media
Transnational networks extend beyond national borders and provide a site for belong-
ing, even a sense of home, through which people maintain and sustain relationships
(Blunt 2007; Perkins and Thorns 2011). Basch et al. (1994: 6) note that transnationalism
involves ‘the processes by which immigrants forge and sustain multi-stranded social
relations that link together their societies of origin and settlement’. In particular, social
media platforms have shown great promise as an additional strand in connecting these
Refugee resettlement and social media
groups in increasingly intimate and textured ways. These online interactions offer new
affordances in the ways people can practise family, engage in politics and participate in
public life as proximal and distant networks are simultaneously linked. Such contexts
highlight the additional complexities of achieving social cohesion and civic partici-
pation when these activities can occur on local, national and transnational levels.
The contested debates about what constitutes successful integration, how it can be
measured and who is involved, include not only the refugees themselves but also the
nations, institutions and societies that receive them (Grzymala-Kazlowska and
Phillimore 2018; Strang and Ager 2010). As people’s physical and virtual mobilities
grow (albeit unevenly), integration is increasingly understood as something that occurs
within and beyond national borders (Marlowe 2018). People may establish belonging
in multiple places informed through biography, relationships, culture, economic
opportunity and length of residence in a given locality (Antonsich 2010; Yuval-Davis
2011). The consequence of such dynamics is that a sense of belonging and integration
can be either relatively stable or ephemeral depending on time, place and context.
The literature on refugee integration in resettlement contexts has begun to advocate
moving beyond a normative paradigm to recognizing the diversification of difference,
or the ways in which superdiversity influences settlement trajectories and outcomes
(Alencar 2017; Grzymala-Kazlowska and Phillimore 2018). Through the ‘diversifi-
cation of diversity’ (Vertovec 2007), superdiversity provides a context in which to
understand these dynamics and contemporary developments as refugees integrate into
a receiving resettlement society. This diversification goes beyond standard markers
like ethnicity, religion, class, gender and education to include contexts such as migra-
tion status, labour market distribution, geographic locality, political ideologies, trans-
national interaction and others. These interconnections are critical to understanding
contemporary migration, mobilities and their impact on geographic place.
Within this diversification, the role of social media has attracted substantial atten-
tion in relation to how it can influence integration outcomes, the development of social
capital, and sustain transnational relationships (Alencar 2017; Marlowe 2018). For
instance, Keles’s (2016) study of the Kurdish diaspora in the UK determined that,
despite predictions of communication technologies eroding political participation and
civic engagement, social media increased these activities. This study highlighted the
blurred (and blurring of) boundaries between virtual and offline communities that
assisted with creating relationships and improving settlement outcomes such as gain-
ing employment and participating in education. Others illustrate how social media
influence people’s decisions about leaving their country of residence and undertaking
a forced migration journey that emphasize both the possibilities and the dangers that
these platforms afford (Gillespie et al. 2018; NurMuhammad et al. 2015).
As networking tools, social media help people keep in touch with their friends and
families back home. For many, these platforms effectively fulfil an affective need.
Multiple studies confirm the significance of virtual spaces within the daily lives and
activities of modern populations and refugees are no exception (Dekker and Engbersen
2014; Marlowe et al. 2016; Wilding 2012). Andrade and Doolin (2016) found that
computers assisted refugees to evaluate resettlement opportunities and served as a
Jay Marlowe
portal that kept them connected to cultural roots and traditions. In these studies, it is
common to find examples of refugees considering access to social media as important
as having food and water – effectively a ‘life line’ (Gillespie et al. 2018). The popular
internet meme that places Wi-Fi at the base of Maslow’s (1975) hierarchy of needs
exemplifies how maintaining these online relationships and interactions is essential
not only for refugee well-being but for the whole society.
In these contexts, digital literacy and accessibility are increasingly important
aspects of active citizenship for resettled refugees. However, the digital divide can
exacerbate inequality and reduce opportunities to participate in civic life that include
limiting access to health and educational services, accommodation and employment
support, and online governmental amenities (Dekker and Engbersen 2014; Khorshed
and Sophia 2015). What becomes clear in this literature is that addressing the digital
divide is not about solely focusing on one particular social location (ethnicity, age,
gender, and so on) as the diversification of diversity clearly entails.
The social organization of difference
In these changed social (and digital) conditions, there is a need to return to integration
models to re-theorize how fluid and super-diverse communities influence new
modalities of social relations and transnational interaction within resettlement sites
(particularly urban). To capture these dynamics, Vertovec (2015) proposes an inter-
active conceptual framework around the social organization of difference. The
framework is composed of three domains, which directly relate to, and influence, one
another but are not subsumable:
configurations: social and demographic structures;
representations: concepts, images and discourses; and
encounters: fleeting and sustained interactions.
The configurations emphasize the structural conditions that enable and/or constrain
how people live their daily lives. Such structures include institutions of governance,
political forces and economic geographies that determine people’s opportunities to
exercise agency and mobility. Representations provide the ‘conceptual ordering’ of
the ways in which particular social phenomena are communicated through language,
media, public discourses and shared memory. These social concepts and categories
inform wider consensus and norms around particular phenomena – effectively
constructing how the wider society understands and embraces refugee issues. Like
configurations, power relations shape representations and communicate these mes-
sages across society. Encounters refer to the various human interactions that are
generally micro-sociological but can also speak to broader sociological interactions
and processes (see Vertovec 2015: 15).
With respect to the social organization of difference, these three domains provide
a basis for understanding how the media and political discourses (representations) can
Refugee resettlement and social media
reify or essentialize understandings of refugee resettlement. The associated conceptual
ordering can thereby justify certain policy directives or governance structures
(configurations) and everyday interactions (encounters). Likewise, configurations and
encounters can influence the representation of refugee issues that can enable or hinder
opportunities for integration. Thus, these three domains interact and inform one
another, thus making the conceptual framework dynamic, contextual and contingent.
Increasingly, social media are the organizing and evolving forces that inform the
relationships and outcomes within this theoretical framework.
For instance, Donald Trump Jr’s controversial tweet comparing Syrians with a
bowl of Skittles (a type of sweet) was a representation circulated during the 2016 US
presidential election campaign. ‘If I had a bowl of Skittles and I told you that just three
would kill you, would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.’ This
grossly inaccurate representation, instantly retweeted more than 17,000 times,
inflamed a moral panic about refugees being terrorists. While this tweet was robustly
debunked, the Trump administration used its representation (among numerous others)
to justify policy changes like the immigration ban on several Muslim countries on the
grounds that they presented risks to US interests and security. The number of refugees
resettled in 2017 was less than half that of 2016 due, in large part, to the halted
programme and reduced intake into the United States (UNHCR 2018). Thus, represen-
tations inform configurations and vice versa. Likewise, it is possible to see how every-
day interactions (encounters) can directly inform or challenge particular refugee
discourses (representations) that consequently modify refugee related policies and
support (configurations).
The damaging implications of certain representations and configurations noted
earlier can also be informed through others where inclusive policies, affirming repre-
sentations and interaction yield positive outcomes for tolerance and social relations
across difference. A commitment to challenging Australia’s policy of mandatory
detention through a people’s inquiry and engaged public debate helped to change it
(Briskman et al. 2008). Another example is how the representation of the death of the
Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, galvanized national responses to the refugee crisis and
various societal understandings of the associated issues (Slovic et al. 2017).
These examples signal how the social organization of difference is dynamic. The
international response to Aylan Kurdi was relatively short-lived and the rise of right-
wing, anti-immigration platforms have gained political ascendancy in multiple places.
What is important to recognize about these three domains is that there can be ‘domain
lag’ whereby a change in one fails to create an immediate effect on or to influence the
others (Vertovec 2015). This can make negotiating the social organization of differ-
ence so challenging – all three domains directly impinge on one another and yet it is
difficult to influence these simultaneously. As there is lag between the three domains,
activity in one can open up an opportunity to influence the others (Vertovec 2019).
In relation to this conceptual framework, social media exert a growing influence
on these configurations, representations and encounters. As a powerful medium for the
exchange of interaction, support and information, digital communications are increas-
ingly becoming integral to how refugees meaningfully settle and belong. These new
Jay Marlowe
contexts not only create patterns of inequality and discrimination but also open up
novel forms of social contact and previously unimagined opportunities. Vertovec
(2015) espouses the need for methodological innovation to capture these dynamics
hence my 12-month study to ascertain how 15 people from refugee backgrounds main-
tain contact with local and transnational networks via social media using a range of
online methods. In particular, in this article, I examine how social media influence the
social organization of difference and its impact on refugee integration from local to
transnational scales.
Study design
This digital ethnography reports how 15 people from refugee backgrounds practise
transnational family and friendship through social media and what this represents for
people’s everyday interactions in New Zealand. The country has historically accepted
750 refugees a year as part of its quota programme with more than 30,000 refugees
resettled since the Second World War. Upon arrival, refugees attend a six-week orien-
tation programme before settling into a government nominated settlement locality that
has tailored supports (see Marlowe and Elliott 2014).
Digital ethnography involves the capture of people’s everyday lives through the
online environment (Murthy 2008). This 12-month research project incorporated
online methods that included 50 interviews, informal monthly discussions and 472
social media diaries with a focus on how social media influences the experience of
resettlement. Eight females and seven males participated in the study. Four of these
were Afghans plus one from each of the following ethno-national groups Awhazi
(Iran), Chin Burmese, Rwandan, Sudanese, South Sudanese, Bhutanese, Tamil (Sri
Lanka), Kurdish, Syrian, Eritrean, and one other who did not wish to be identified for
safety reasons. Most of the participants were well educated and all were sufficiently
competent in written and spoken English to take part in the interviews and write the
online diaries. Each participated in three to four interviews and wrote regular online
social media diaries in Qualtrics each month about what social media applications they
were using, with whom, for what reasons and how this made them feel. These ongoing
points of interaction provided the basis for the constant comparative method and theo-
retical sampling as informed by constructivist grounded theory (Charmaz 2006). The
participants were living in several main New Zealand refugee resettlement localities –
Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Nelson and Palmerston North. With few excep-
tions, all interactions with participants were through video-enabled online platforms
such as Skype, WhatsApp and Viber.
Recruitment took place through third-party refugee-based organizations. Of the 15
participants, 13 completed the study in 12 months. The other two did not complete it
because, at the halfway point, the university determined that the project must pay
participants for their time instead of providing them with grocery vouchers (valued at
up to $200 per month). The associated tax implications meant that these participants
decided to discontinue with the study when the university (as opposed to the ethics
committee) imposed this requirement.
Refugee resettlement and social media
The study received the approval of the associated institution in terms of human
ethics, though it was necessary to go back to the ethics committee on two further
occasions to amend a couple of themes that emerged through the constant use of
comparisons over time (Charmaz 2006). Theoretical sampling was achieved through
subsequent interviews and informal online interactions with participants. After the
initial coding and memo writing, all data were imported into NVivo™ for the focused
coding processes. These categories were confirmed through the emergent analysis of
the data that highlighted the role of social media for everyday encounters associated
with refugee resettlement.
Findings: encounters – fleeting and sustained
The findings of this study are structured around Vertovec’s (2015) work on the social
organization of difference and focus predominantly on the domain of encounters
interactions that are fleeting and sustained. Examining the encounters below, I unpack
how social media allowed participants simultaneously to maintain their commitments
in New Zealand and transnationally. By focusing on these relationships, it is possible
to examine the different intimacies that social media afford within such encounters and
what purposes or functions they serve in a resettlement context. The discussion that
follows considers the associated implications for the social organization of difference
as it relates to configurations and representations.
In this article, I identify participants only by number and gender. This is because
there were no significant differences between ethnic groups in the reported results and,
in some cases, to protect the confidentiality of individuals and their transnational net-
works. Where relevant, I mention age, education and other social locations throughout
the text. First, to outline the role of social media in connecting participants to their
transnational and local networks, I present the latter’s perceptions of how social media
affect their experiences of integration.
Overall, the participants were unequivocal about the role of social media in helping
them and other refugees integrate and develop a sense of belonging in New Zealand.
As Participant 7, a female, put it:
I think [social media] are very, very important for refugee people. Because this
is one … [means whereby] they get to connect to the people around [them and
to] … their loved ones and then [this] is going to give people hope of meeting
them again. It is very important in order to build themselves up to keep
themselves alive in the sense [of keeping] their soul alive.
Through the use of similar expressions, others shared this idea of keeping their ‘souls
alive’. All the participants related to this form of connection as being foundational not
only to their well-being for resettlement but also to their participation in New Zealand
life. The same participant wrote in her diary that ‘I could feel more confident while
Jay Marlowe
sharing things through social media than meeting people and talking live. I think inter-
acting through social media could give me practice doing things [related to resettle-
ment] with more confidence.’ Participant 5, a male, saw ‘social media as a basic need
for everyday life’ and Participant 2, also male, said that ‘if we do not have connection
to each other then we will definitely get depressed mental issues, psychological
issues. Because we grow when we are in connection and support each other.’
These comments show how social media have helped to facilitate connection with
friends, family and, importantly, people who would not normally be part of their social
network. Their interactions with friends and family provided them with the basic level
of well-being they needed to engage in civic activities (such as work, education, sports
and community events) in New Zealand, which in turn helped them to identify and
access opportunities related to such activities.
These interactions also carry cautions for refugee resettlement and integration.
Nearly all the participants acknowledged that social media could present an obstacle
for refugees’ opportunities to integrate. As Participant 9 (female) explains:
They [social media] probably hinder it because if your social media and your
interactions are with people outside New Zealand, you can get a false sense that
everything is OK. You don’t really have to make new friends in a new land.
Because you still have those connections and they are interactions with people,
you are blessed with forever. And I think that connection can be quite
dangerous. Yeah, I think it can hinder integration actually in a way.
What is clear from this comment is that social media do not provide a digital utopia.
Eight of the 15 participants (mostly female) directly referred to social media as an
‘addiction’ or something controlling their lives. Participant 4, a female, said that ‘they
[social media platforms] are addictive. We have to limit their use. It’s a really good
tool in many ways but if you use it a lot it’s going to affect your abilities to talk to
people in real life.’ Participant 3, also a female, went on to say that:
The more we use social media, the more we rely on it, the more it takes our
time; it literally sucks away our life. Yeah, I mean it is doing that. For me, I’m
trying to control it, but even my mum [is addicted. When] I go home and I see
my mum, [she] is in front of Facebook and sometimes I have to really tell her,
‘You have to get off Facebook because I’ve come to visit you.’ And it is
happening more and more often.
The participants acknowledged that keeping online diaries had given them new
insights into their daily social media practices in terms of the people with whom they
were interacting, for what purposes and for how long. After thinking about this, a num-
ber of them tried to reduce the amount of time they spent on social media and found it
difficult to achieve. For some, giving up social media would mean ceasing to be social.
Overall, the participants felt that social media made it easier for people from
refugee backgrounds to integrate. Similarly, it changes the nature of integration in
Refugee resettlement and social media
terms of who one is interacting with and where the sites of belonging are located. Most
of the participants acknowledged the role of social media in supporting civic activities
(associated with such things as employment, education and voting) and noted how it
changed the way they interacted with their ethnic communities and, for some,
increased their engagement with New Zealanders. Participant 1 saw social media as
her life, as ‘like a bridge you know, just like bridge between me and my community
here, my community in New Zealand, and also me and my friends overseas’.
Where participants acknowledged that social media had promoted their interactions
with other New Zealanders, they tended to emphasize that it had been through engag-
ing in formal education in their settlement locality. Thus, social locations (gender,
education, age) and face-to-face interactions influence people’s social media
encounters. In the following two subsections, I examine how social media formed a
bridge between transnational and New Zealand based networks to groups defined by
distance and difference.
Transnational encounters
Ongoing interactions with transnational networks provided a basis for significant
encounters with overseas family and friends. Participants revealed that maintaining
regular (often daily) interaction with transnational networks through social media was
central to feeling ‘in place’. Participant 6, a male, spoke of how
social media decrease the distance between New Zealand and my home coun-
try. Although it is around 24 hours by plane, I feel like nowadays we are in one
home. Immediately, I can see what is happening there and I get information and
their news, and they get my news. Thus, we can say that the media are very
important for us nowadays.
This reduced distance through social media provides sustained connection and mean-
ingful interaction. With the exception of one participant, the main reason to use social
media was to maintain contact with overseas family and friends. ‘I get about 300
WhatsApp messages, 150 Vibe r messages, and maybe about 50 Messenger phone calls
[a day]. That’s a lot’ (Participant 10, male). While not all these messages were directed
specifically to him (some were group-based chats), it does highlight the extensive
networks and time expended to maintain these transnational links. As Participant 7, a
female, said,
I am able to keep myself connected to everybody in the world. [Social media]
made me feel like I never missed anybody so badly because there was that
second choice, like second option. Social media enabled me to keep in touch,
like not having to be there in person. Social media are there always.
This idea of a second choice represents a form of digital unification and ‘co-
presence’ (Robertson et al. 2016) that brings people’s global networks into everyday
Jay Marlowe
interactions. It effectively blurs the boundaries of what constitutes real interaction as
participants could participate in the birt hs, ma rriage s, cult ural celebrations and funerals
of people overseas. Participant 3 mentions, ‘My mother is currently visiting family
across Iran, Iraq and Turkey. It was immensely emotional for everyone involved.
There were more than 30 family members gathered to welcome me video calling with
them as the phone was passing through different hands.’ Or, as Participant 15, a male,
puts it, ‘it’s kind of like they are here’ in New Zealand.
Some participants supported the members of their transnational networks over the
Iranian earthquake and South Asian floods of 2017. Others persuaded people not to
step onto overcrowded boats in the Mediterranean. Some advised and helped finance
safe land passage into Europe and provided forms of support as friends and family
sought asylum in Germany. These interactions provide a basis for sustained relation-
ships and connections to culture, history and support through means previously not
possible – effectively a form of transnational care (Wilding and Baldassar 2018).
As an affective component of well-being, social media provided a distant–near
engagement in people’s everyday lives that generally reduced the intensity of planned
interaction. One participant (12) spoke of how his overseas family would watch him
making toast or pancakes, rather than needing to have some sort of deep and mean-
ingful discussion that happened once or twice a year. It essentially created an extension
to the living room as a transnational portal:
We live in different places so when we see each other we feel closer. Even
though we are in different places and, also, we care more about each other.
That’s the important thing. As people, we tend to forget things we don’t see
often. So, seeing each other makes our relationship stronger.
Participant 9 notes how she maintains contact through social media as a way of
compressing time and distance. She compares this situation to before she had access
to social media:
It reminds me of the good old days when we first arrived here and used to use
faxes and letters to communicate. To this day, I feel hurt when I think o f a video
tape my uncle sent me of my cousins in 1998 and it never arrived. And to think
how easy social media now make it to ‘see’ people live is amazing for me.
In many ways, these interactions are both fleeting and sustained, and they represent
marked differences between how refugees use social media. Contact can be exceed-
ingly precarious if online availability is reliant on a working infrastructure, the absence
of an ongoing conflict or the affordability of a mobile connection. For some partici-
pants, the risks of surveillance are very real and can place them or their transnational
networks in jeopardy. Responses to elections, escalations in conflicts and debates in
the countries of origin can at times dangerously intertwine the personal and political.
Many suspected the presence of spies in their WhatsApp discussion groups or friends
on Facebook.
Refugee resettlement and social media
If I say something political on WhatsApp, they [the government] can make it a
reason to arrest my friends, my family even. (Participant 2, male)
Yes, we are worried someone may be listening or may be checking Facebook.
(Participant 6, male)
When we connect with the people inside Sudan, we try to avoid anything that
puts them at risk. (Participant 10, male)
Yet, nearly all the participants knew of innovative ways in which to remain connected
and to keep their networks safe. For some, however, concerns about safety and
surveillance meant that maintaining contact was extremely limited or non-existent.
Local interactions in New Zealand
Social media also provided a platform for increased interaction with people in New
Zealand, but that the forms of the interactions were not uniform highlights both the
possibilities and constraints of these virtual spaces. However, all the participants used
social media to maintain links with their ethnically or religiously defined communities.
Participant 1 spoke of one occasion when she
needed a car seat for a child. And then I posted ‘is anyone selling a car seat on
my WhatsApp group’. Then just in a minute, there was this to say, ‘I have this
one’ and then one sister [defined as a Muslim sister] said that ‘I can bring it to
you in 15 minutes’. It’s so fast.
There were more than 200 active users of that particular New Zealand-based
WhatsApp group. While some acknowledged such interactions as helpful, many also
noted that they reduced face-to-face meetings and reshaped the social configurations
of community groups. ‘Before social media people tried to visit at least weekly.
Nowadays, it may be two weeks, three weeks or one month [before] they can meet.
But on social media, they meet daily’ (Participant 6, male).
It is through these new social and structural conditions that people’s encounters
take shape. Several participants acknowledged spending between six and eight hours
a day on social media, predominantly with transnational networks. For others, social
media helped to diversify their locally-based networks, ones that went beyond the
social identifiers of ethnicity and religion, thus highlighting the diversification of
diversity and the negotiation of it. ‘When I came to New Zealand, I had no friends at
all but now I have some friends, I found them on Facebook’ (Participant 6, male).
Many participants noted that, since they felt different from other New Zealand
residents, social media gave them a safer platform on which to engage: as one woman
(Participant 3) put it, ‘social media has kind of provided that you don’t need to go out
and meet people. You get in touch with them – hi how are you – it’s all done online’.
Others spoke of how social media helped them either meet new friends and/or
maintain those friendships through apps such as Facebook and WhatsApp. One woman
Jay Marlowe
(Participant 4) found a sense of belonging that might otherwise have been unavailable
to her had she not had access to social media. Though not a Christian, she was heavily
involved in church-based activities and acknowledged the role of Facebook as an
effective bridge:
I’m in a Christian young adult group so they post me or let me know of anything
going on. They just told me ‘I’m going to pick you up around this time’, where
we are going and all this stuff. Or what we’re going to do the following Sunday,
what we’re going to study or what’s important happening and all the things.
They will let me know on Facebook.
The fleeting interactions on Facebook provide an ongoing sense of belonging that
facilitates face-to-face interaction across multiple markers of difference (age, gender,
culture, religion and visa status). Others utilize social media to inform resettled
refugees outside their ethnic community but living in New Zealand about settlement
opportunities and local politics. Participant 10 wrote in his diary that:
I am a member of mini Facebook groups consisting of different communities and
we have been discussing the election in New Zealand. … I encourage people to
exercise their voting rights. I provide some links that help them understand their
rights. Some people in the refugee community are aware of the backgrounds of
the people who are seeking public offices, but the majority have no idea.
Addressing these political issues provided the space people needed to voice their
opinions and a site to which they belonged on which they could raise awareness and
discuss matters of importance to them. With the exception of one who was very active
politically, the other seven women were explicitly non-political in their use of social
media. They predominantly used them as platforms for providing transnational care
and for creating and sustaining new local social relationships. Many of the males in
this study tied their identity and sense of worth to being connected to issues ‘back
home’ and the effective enactment of political life and citizenship from overseas.
These dynamics highlight how social media serve as a powerful tool with which to
negotiate everyday life at both local and transnational levels.
The transnational and local encounters described here are clearly, for better or
worse, relevant to people’s opportunities to integrate and to their sense of belonging
to particular places. During times of rapid political, technological and social change,
such encounters have important ramifications, since digital connectivity and its asso-
ciated affordances inform the social organization of difference and refugee integration.
Discussion: the social organization of difference and social media
The ubiquity of online connection in many refugee resettlement countries has a power-
ful influence on the social organization of difference and its associated domains of
encounters, configurations and representations. As Vertovec (2015) establishes, these
Refugee resettlement and social media
three domains influence each other at different speeds, which means that the recog-
nition and negotiation of difference is dynamic, relational and contextual.
Social media, in conformity with the demands of superdiversity, now play an
increasingly important part in the diversification of difference. As the participants’
comments illustrate, on the one hand social media provide opportunities to meet people
and take advantage of openings that would otherwise be inaccessible in New Zealand,
but on the other hand they also potentially close down other interactions and prospects.
While the comments of 15 different participants limit the study to the impact of social
media on particular social locations, it is clear that social media is disrupting normative
understandings of what refugee integration entails. In the sections below, I consider
how online encounters affect the configuration and representation of these domains
with a view to outlining their implications for refugee resettlement and integration.
Configurations: social media and structural implications
The various fleeting and sustained interactions in which people engage on social media
influence local and transnational structures. Social media are increasingly providing
spaces in which individuals and organizations can influence policy deliberations. A
focus solely on encounters can detract from the fact that issues such as government
policy and institutional support are powerful determinants of the options and pathways
towards refugee integration. This points to a need to examine how marginalization,
poverty and racism impinge on and pose significant obstacles to integration.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM 2017) acknowledges that
settlement experiences are informed by scales of governance that include supranational
and global structures, various migration pathways and public policies relating to the
labour market, housing and education. The rapid shifts in how people communicate
and distribute resources have significant implications for governments, supranational
entities and international NGOs. The German government recently launched an app
called Ankommen (meaning arrive) for newly arrived asylum seekers and the IOM
now has the MigApp, which links migrants to important information pertaining to their
safety, facilitates a government interface and collects anonymized data. The Red Cross
and Red Crescent have developed an app called Trace a Face to reunite separated
families. There are apps that help protect people’s identities, that provide medical
advice, and that give information about where to access support and resources. Thus,
people’s mobilities and forced migration pathways do not happen by chance – they are
structured, reinforced and renegotiated through online configurations and encounters.
As Wilding and Baldassar (2018) argue, new social and demographic configur-
ations necessitate rethinking the roles of proximal and distant networks. Social media
facilitate the new interactions that provide the portal through which people provide
care. The data in this study (and in others) clearly show that remaining connected is
essential to well-being. It is as important as having access to food and water. What was
interesting in this study was that, while asking all participants about their internet plans
and what they paid for it monthly, none of them expressed this as a concern – it was a
basic need, much like paying one’s water or electric bill.
Jay Marlowe
Several writers have noted that transnationalism can provide an ‘enduring solution’
to refugees by connecting the 1 per cent of those who have resettled to the 99 per cent
of those who have not (Van Hear 2002). Social media can play a critical role in this
solution by supporting new social structures that intersect with geographical place.
They can thus create new sites of belonging. Governments must consider the oppor-
tunities and implications inherent in refugees’ ongoing connections with transnational
networks. The need for and frequency of digital interactions signal the potential for
resettlement programmes to resource and assist access to online networks (within and
beyond national borders) to improve settlement outcomes.
There are caveats, however, in that such an approach can result in people avoiding
civic and social engagements in their country of resettlement. Social media can affect
family relationships in that individualized screens and platforms often reduce the
amount of interaction between people sharing the same physical space. Moreover, the
scope of governments and powerful institutions to use these platforms for surveillance
and potential oppression highlights the dangers of an increasingly connected world.
Finally, since most everyday interactions and transactions tend to occur online,
people who are not connected become increasingly left behind. In this sense, the digital
divide is a new form of poverty in that it excludes some people from vital information
and openings, including access to the labour market, transnational interaction, public
perceptions of integration, and contact with geographical places. Downsides also
include concerns about trafficking, radicalization, surveillance and confidentiality.
Despite such worries, it is clear that social media will continue to shape configurations
within, and beyond, national borders.
Representations: concepts, images and discourses
Whereas the impact of social media on these configurations has been relatively slow,
the prolific outpouring of representations of the so-called refugee ‘crisis’ has had far-
reaching effects. It is abundantly clear that the discourses and images communicated
through Twitter handles, Facebook feeds, Instagram hashtags and various other plat-
forms exert incredible power in the dissemination of particular ideas and discourses
about refugees, integration, safety and security. These representations can be shared
instantly and quickly reach large groups of people, which have extensive influences
on the domains of both encounters and the configurations.
Social media provide a forum in which people can quickly establish opinions as
‘fact’ with little to no evidence – fake news, sensationalized political commentary and
voyeuristic media portrayals influence refugees’ interactions and opportunities to
engage with civic society. Quite apart from their impact on people’s daily encounters
with neighbours, employers, teachers and others, the structural implications of these
associated outcomes also inform the opportunities that refugees have to participate in
civic life in terms of work, health, education, language acquisition and so on. Frequent
representations of refugees as swarms or floods inform legislative agendas and shift
popular views of them from being ‘at risk’ to being ‘a risk’ (Bogen and Marlowe
2015). As numerous countries continue to securitize and externalize their borders in
Refugee resettlement and social media
attempts to protect their citizens, this trend informs national debates about whether to
welcome or deter people seeking asylum (Gammeltoft-Hansen and Tan 2017).
However, refugees can also engage with representations in response to racism and
provide counter-narratives to such politics of fear. Social media can provide a ‘digital
escape’ (Gifford and Wilding 2013) and create a site on which to communicate and
embrace alternative forms of belonging. This highlights the extent to which refugees’
perceptions of hostility and/or acceptance in the new environment (by government,
host communities, political commentary and local and national media discourses) can
influence how they use social media. Numerous examples now exist that illustrate how
protest and activism during the Arab Spring was communicated through social media
(Gerbaudo 2012) and more broadly through online campaigns such as #HelpCalais and
#RefugeesWelcome that became social movements responding to the European refu-
gee crisis (Barisione et al. 2017). In New Zealand, Doing Our Bit and #Welcome500Now
are national campaigns that played an important role in influencing the government’s
recent announcement to increase its annual refugee quota to 1500 people starting in
2020 (Stephens 2018).
As encounters and representations occur online, it is increasingly apparent that
those with whom we engage are much like us. The ‘friends’ on a Facebook profile are
simply that because of shared points of interest, identity and values. It can mean a loss
of encounters with those whose different opinions narrow the scope of debate and
awareness of particular issues. Although Web 2.0 promised to democratize inform-
ation, we are increasingly seeing how it can silo interaction and limit awareness of
alternative perspectives and understandings (Lindgren 2017). Such trends and prac-
tices have significant ramifications for the social organization of difference. Social
media has the potential to facilitate interaction, establish policy directions and inform
everyday understandings related to the diversification of difference. It also has the
power to shut such down possibilities.
The speed with which social media can communicate such representations is a
demonstration of its power and potential to influence the social organization of
difference. The associated lag of encounters and configurations may be shortened or
extended – at times incredibly. It highlights how these tools can shine light on oppres-
sion and raise human rights issues from local to transnational levels to increase under-
standing, galvanize humanitarian responses and enhance settlement opportunities. It
also provides a site where intolerance, false information and exclusionary forces can
quickly coalesce to create places of non-belonging that reinforce hegemonic structures,
racist ideologies and oppressive practices. Thus, it is clear that social media has the
potential to decrease and increase significantly the distance and associated lag between
the domains of encounters, configurations and representations. Correspondingly,
social media has the power to influence integration outcomes.
Conclusion: possibilities and constraints
Digital technologies and social media are reshaping how refugees settle and integrate
in new host societies. As the UNHCR (2016) acknowledges, mobile connectivity is
Jay Marlowe
rapidly increasing in sites of displacement, though unevenly. This gives refugees
separated by geographic distance unheralded opportunities to reconnect through text,
audio and video-based interaction. Ongoing improvements in the global accessibility,
usability and affordability of the communication devices further influence settlement
outcomes and experiences – for refugees and the receiving societies and on local and
transnational scales. These rapidly evolving technologies with ever-increasing reach
can effectively enable and hinder possibilities for integration, transnational connection
and sites of belonging. The social organization of difference provides a theoretical
framework in which to interrogate this dynamic digital environment.
As previously discussed, since the participants in this study are well educated and
proficient in English, the digital divide is less likely to affect them. While it is clear
that society is moving more and more to online platforms to access information,
maintain relationships and identify opportunities, it is vital to recognize that social
media are not uniformly available or embraced. The possibilities alongside the limi-
tations that this reality presents provide an important reminder that the diversification
of difference requires an analysis of the new modes and sites of social identification
and opportunity. It is imperative that research, policy and practice respond to these
rapidly changing technological, social and political environments. It is also important
that research is sensitive to the diversification of difference across multiple social
locations (gender, age, ethnicity, education, visa status, labour market distribution, and
so forth) as social media provides pathways to transcend difference, and at other times,
provides a platform to effectively reinforce and reify it. As global networks become
accessible and available into everyday livelihoods, this has profound implications for
the social organization of difference and refugee resettlement.
While maintaining contact with transnational networks is not a new phenomenon
for refugees, the speed and scope through which social media facilitate such interaction
continue to accelerate. Although online interactions afford new possibilities, they also
present risks in terms of confidentiality, safety, surveillance and peoples commit-
ments to local places and relationships. Despite these caveats, social media continue
to shape people’s interactions, networks, sociability and basically how they engage in
civic life. These contexts inform how social media inculcate transnational networks
into everyday relationships, opportunities and the negotiation of power.
Since refugee settlement is becoming increasingly complex, I have stressed the
importance of looking at the accounts of social actors against dominant discourses of
forced migration. Yet, integration remains a normative feature of most refugee
resettlement plans, which rarely transcend the national imagination. Until such think-
ing and its associated discourses change, policies, practices and public debates will
fail to capture the reality that refugees maintain connections and lives both ‘here’ and
This research was supported by the Royal Society New Zealand under a Marsden Fast Start
grant, ID# 3708459. I would like to thank Jessica Steele for her assistance in sourcing relevant
literature for this article.
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... Social media permits its users and content creators to connect directly. These direct interactions make it possible for people to build solidarity as they shape, sustain and potentially recon gure discourse narratives (Marlowe, 2019;Alencar, 2020). An essential aspect of social media was that it provided a medium for participants to express a range of stories from personal experiences to broader social issues with a range of audiences-within New Zealand and transnationally. ...
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The contemporary forced migration contexts of conflict, climate change and contagion present new challenges and opportunities for the ways in which community development is understood, practised and imagined. The accelerating trends of refugee persecution and high-impact weather events causing disasters now sit alongside the uncertainties of closed borders and rapidly evolving geopolitics. Despite these dislocations and constraints on human mobility and immobility, the possibilities for connection remain, although unevenly. Mediated predominantly through the smartphone, social media offers new opportunities, cautions and ethical considerations for the circulation of care, intimacy and trust. These flows can now significantly inform and shape everyday lives, political action and how ‘community’ is envisaged and enacted. In the ongoing context of dislocation and separation, this paper presents a longitudinal digital ethnography that examines how people from refugee backgrounds practise transnational connection and community when physical reunion is not possible. These online spaces represent opportunities to explore the implications for community development and more broadly social work education. Drawing upon the theoretical framework of the social organization of difference and its associated domains of encounters, configurations and representations, this paper articulates the possibilities and challenges for community development and more broadly social work education and practice when opportunities for physical co-presence are highly constrained.
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The Immigration Act 1987 fundamentally transformed New Zealand's immigration policy from one that was race-based to one based on economic needs of New Zealand society. It opened the borders to immigrants from much wider regions. As a result of this "open-door" immigration policy, a substantial new Chinese immigrant community from the People's Republic of China (PRC) was established in New Zealand. Building a closely-tied multigenerational family is an important feature of family life for this immigrant group. Often, multiple generations live together or within close proximity with one another in highly interdependent relationships. However, a growing number have also started to maintain their family lives transnationally, with different family members across generations living apart but maintaining close ties, with frequent interactions across national borders. Given this transnational family arrangement is very different from Chinese traditional practices of family maintenance, the impact of this change on the wellbeing and functioning of these families and their individual family members is an issue of increasing academic interest. This thesis responds to these concerns and explores the relationship between people's experiences of transnational migration and their multigenerational family dynamics. Through engaging with individual life stories and perspectives of 45 participants across generations from new PRC immigrant families living in New Zealand, this thesis seeks to understand how those families with closely-tied multiple generations cope with dislocation and relocation during the process of transnational migration. It also investigates how transnational migration experiences contribute to new emergent domestic dynamics, including the development of new strategies and practices to PAGE | II maintain family traditions, interests and coherence across national borders, as well as shifting intergenerational relationships. The empirical data demonstrates that despite the increasing proportion of new PRC families living transnationally, their experiences of managing family lives vary. I argue that this diversification of transnational family experiences is largely attributed to the interaction of various impact factors associated with both the internal dynamics of immigrant families themselves and external contexts where those families are closely related. My research also attests that family members' transnational migration experiences accelerate changes to the way they perform family life, particularly amplifying intergenerational differences and altering intergenerational dependency. Even though those changes introduce vital challenges towards multigenerational family maintenance and coherence, my research reveals that families are resilient and able to actively forge multistranded resources as well as engage various transnational activities in response to those challenges. While this thesis poses intriguing perspectives and culturally-specific scenarios to study immigrant families in New Zealand society, more importantly, it also contributes to the broad theorisation of transnational family formation and maintenance in the increasingly globalised world.
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During the 2015 refugee crisis in Europe, temporary refugee shelters arose in the Netherlands to shelter the large influx of asylum seekers. The largest shelter was located in the eastern part of the country. This shelter, where tents housed nearly 3,000 asylum seekers, was managed with a firm top-down approach. However, many residents of the shelter—mainly Syrians and Eritreans—developed horizontal relations with the local receiving society, using social media to establish contact and exchange services and goods. This case study shows how various types of crisis communication played a role and how the different worlds came together. Connectivity is discussed in relation to inclusion, based on resilient (non-)humanitarian approaches that link society with social media. Moreover, we argue that the refugee crisis can be better understood by looking through the lens of connectivity, practices, and migration infrastructure instead of focusing only on state policies.
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This research examines the role of smartphones in refugees’ journeys. It traces the risks and possibilities afforded by smartphones for facilitating information, communication, and migration flows in the digital passage to Europe. For the Syrian and Iraqi refugee respondents in this France-based qualitative study, smartphones are lifelines, as important as water and food. They afford the planning, navigation, and documentation of journeys, enabling regular contact with family, friends, smugglers, and those who help them. However, refugees are simultaneously exposed to new forms of exploitation and surveillance with smartphones as migrations are financialised by smugglers and criminalized by European policies, and the digital passage is dependent on a contingent range of sociotechnical and material assemblages. Through an infrastructural lens, we capture the dialectical dynamics of opportunity and vulnerability, and the forms of resilience and solidarity, that arise as forced migration and digital connectivity coincide.
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The image we have of refugees is one of displacement - from their homes, families and countries - and yet, refugee settlement is increasingly becoming an experience of living simultaneously in places both proximate and distant, as people navigate and transcend international borders in numerous and novel ways. At the same time, border regimes remain central in defining the possibilities and constraints of meaningful settlement. This book examines the implications of 'belonging' in numerous places as increased mobilities and digital access create new global connectedness in uneven and unexpected ways. Belonging and Transnational Refugee Settlement positions refugee settlement as an ongoing transnational experience and identifies the importance of multiple belongings through several case studies based on original research in Australia and New Zealand, as well as at sites in the US, Canada and the UK. Demonstrating the interplay between everyday and extraordinary experiences and broadening the dominant refugee discourses, this book critiques the notion that meaningful settlement necessarily occurs in 'local' places. The author focuses on the extraordinary events of trauma and disasters alongside the everyday lives of refugees undertaking settlement, to provide a conceptual framework that embraces and honours the complexities of working with the 'trauma story' and identifies approaches to see beyond it. This book will appeal to those with an interest in migration and diaspora studies, human geography and sociology.
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Recent work on digital political engagement has extensively shown that social media platforms enhance political participation and collective action. However, the idea that citizen voice through social media can give rise, under given conditions, to a specific digital force combining properties of social movements and public opinion has received less attention. We fill this gap by analysing the digital discussion around the Twitter hashtag #RefugeesWelcome as a case of ‘digital movement of opinion’ (DMO). When the refugee crisis erupted in 2015, an extraordinary wave of empathy characterized the publics’ reactions in key European hosting countries, especially as a result of viral images portraying refugee children as the main victims. Using a triangulation of network, content and metadata analysis, we find that this DMO was driven primarily by social media elites whose tweets were then echoed by masses of isolated users. We then test the post-DMO status of the hashtag-sphere after a potentially antithetical shock such as the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks, which polarized the network public. Overall, we argue that the concept of DMO provides a heuristically useful tool for future research on new forms of digital citizen participation.
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The refugee crisis has spurred the rapid development of creative technology and social media applications to tackle the problem of refugee integration in Europe. In this article, a qualitative study with 18 refugees from Syria, Eritrea and Afghanistan is presented in order to investigate the uses and purposes of social media associated to the different areas of refugee integration in the Netherlands. The results indicate that social media networking sites were particularly relevant for refugee participants to acquire language and cultural competences, as well as to build both bonding and bridging social capital. Another important finding concerns the role of government, host society and the agency of refugee actors in determining the way refugees experience social media. Building on these results, a theoretical model for analyzing refugee integration through social media is demonstrated. ARTICLE HISTORY
Asylum seekers and refugees continue to face serious obstacles in their efforts to access asylum. Some of these obstacles are inherent to irregular migration, including dangerous border crossings and the risk of exploitation. Yet, refugees also face state-made obstacles in the form of sophisticated migration control measures. As a result, refugees are routinely denied access to asylum as developed states close their borders in the hope of shifting the flow of asylum seekers to neighboring countries. Restrictive migration control policies are today the primary, some might say only, response of the developed world to rising numbers of asylum seekers and refugees. This has produced a distorted refugee regime both in Europe and globally — a regime fundamentally based on the principle of deterrence rather than human rights protection. While the vast majority of European states still formally laud the international legal framework to protect refugees, most of these countries simultaneously do everything in their power to exclude those fleeing international protection and offer only a minimalist engagement to assist those countries hosting the largest number of refugees. By deterring or blocking onward movement for refugees, an even larger burden is placed upon these host countries. Today, 86 percent of the world's refugees reside in a low- or middle-income country, against 70 percent 20 years ago (Edwards 2016; UNHCR 2015, 15). The humanitarian consequences of this approach are becoming increasingly clear. Last year more than 5,000 migrants and refugees were registered dead or missing in the Mediterranean (IOM 2016). A record number, this makes the Mediterranean account for more than two-thirds of all registered migrant fatalities worldwide (IOM 2016). Many more asylum seekers are subjected to various forms of violence and abuse during the migratory process as a result of their inherently vulnerable and clandestine position. As the industry facilitating irregular migration grows, unfortunately so too do attempts to exploit migrants and refugees by smugglers, criminal networks, governments, or members of local communities (Gammeltoft-Hansen and Nyberg Sørensen 2013). The “deterrence paradigm” can be understood as a particular instantiation of the global refugee protection regime. It shows how deterrence policies have come to dominate responses to asylum seekers arriving in developed states, and how such policies have continued to develop in response to changes in migration patterns as well as legal impositions. The dominance of the deterrence paradigm also explains the continued reliance on deterrence as a response to the most recent “crisis,” despite continued calls from scholars and civil society for a more protection-oriented and sustainable response. The paper argues that the current “crisis,” more than a crisis in terms of refugee numbers and global protection capacity, should be seen a crisis in terms of the institutionalized responses so far pursued by states. Deterrence policies are being increasingly challenged, both by developments in international law and by less wealthy states left to shoulder the vast majority of the world's refugees. At the same time, recent events suggest that deterrence policies may not remain an effective tool to prevent secondary movement of refugees in the face of rising global protection needs, while deterrence involves increasing direct and indirect costs for the states involved. The present situation may thus be characterized as, or at least approaching, a period of paradigm crisis, and we may be seeing the beginning of the end for deterrence as a dominant policy paradigm in regard to global refugee policy. In its place, a range of more or less developed alternative policy frameworks are currently competing, though so far none of them appear to have gained sufficient traction to initiate an actual paradigm shift in terms of global refugee policy. Nonetheless, recognizing this as a case of possible paradigm change may help guide and structure this process. In particular, any successful new policy approach would have to address the fundamental challenges facing the old paradigm. The paper proceeds in four parts. Firstly, it traces the rise of the deterrence paradigm following the end of the Cold War and the demise of ideologically driven refugee protection on the part of states in the Global North. The past 30 years have seen the introduction and dynamic development of manifold deterrence policies to stymie the irregular arrival of asylum seekers and migrants. This array of measures is explored in the second part of the paper through a typology of five current practices that today make up “normal policymaking” within the deterrence regime. Third, the paper argues that the current paradigm is under threat, facing challenges to its legality from within refugee and human rights law; to its sustainability due to the increasing unhappiness of refugee-hosting states with current levels of “burden-sharing”; and to its effectiveness as direct and indirect costs of maintaining the regime mount. Finally, the paper puts forward three core principles that can lay the groundwork in the event of a paradigm shift: respect for international refugee law; meaningful burden-sharing; and a broader notion of refugee protection that encompasses livelihoods and increased preparedness in anticipation of future refugee flows.
The experiences of ageing for today’s older people present a striking contrast to those of the past. They are entering older age in a world that is characterised by complex mobilities and flows, in which large numbers of people are ageing in countries other than the one in which they were born and often at a distance from their closest family members. At the same time, new media are providing unprecedented opportunities to bring distant places and people together in new ways. These dramatic shifts are transforming the context within which older people provide and receive care. In this article, we argue that it has become both necessary and urgent for researchers and practitioners of ageing to reconsider their emphasis on the proximate care networks of older people, by incorporating closer attention to the increasingly global, transnational and virtual contexts within which ageing and aged care now routinely takes place.
This article outlines key arguments and contributions pertaining to new perspectives on the adaptation and settlement of migrants under conditions of superdiversification and ongoing migration ‘crisis’. We seek to re-ignite interest in the development of the concept of integration and to stimulate theoretical and research advancement beyond the normative integration paradigm. Given the growing complexity, acceleration of changes and increased interconnectedness across societies as well as diversification of migrants we argue that the concept of integration need to be reconsidered. Highlighting different ways of thinking about migrant adaptation and settlement we account not only for the multi-dimensionality of integration processes, but also for the diverse nature of migrants and how their multiple characteristics shape integration opportunities and challenges. Using perspectives from multiple countries in relation to voluntary and forced migrants within and outside of the EU, this paper offers theoretical and methodological insights into how the complexity associated with super-diversity might be captured and outlines new ways of conceptualising integration. It also sets up new research agenda around the integration of transnational or transit populations, integration within fluid and super-diverse communities or the relationship between integration and intersectionality with the focus on multi-dimentionality, relativeness and modalities of social relations.