T1.5: Resilience Refugees & Integration

The central theme of this session was the importance of social resilience in the framework of urban resilience. Social capital paving a way for social resilience is one of the most important aspects of holistic urban resilience.

Studies show that the current wave of migration has been the first biggest wave of mass migration since the Second World War (OECD, 21017), and that calls for new systems (tangible and intangible) of integration. Hence there is currently a need to bring refugee integration mechanisms to the forefront to be studied and tackled. The authors of the papers below have used case studies from various parts of the world, global north and south, to elaborate how integration policies are imperative for social capital and thereby leading to social resilience.

This sessions highlights the importance of social capital and emphasis on a renewal of integration frameworks world-wide to facilitate welcoming urban environments for people fleeing climate change and war. Although each presentation aimed to bring about social resilience, their approaches were unique. One propagated the use of technology, the other, studying urban landscapes and using that as a tool, and another using the theoretical framework of the right to the city and asset acclamation for eliminating poverty traps.

Proposed scenarios for the use of Social Resilience Digital Tools in the assessment of refugees’ integration process in the Greek cities
Eleni Oureilidou, Konstantinos Ioannidis

Oureilidou proposes using digital platforms for urban placemaking to facilitate the integration of refugees in Greek cities. She uses theoretical backgrounds of smart cities, urban & social resilience, urban informatics & urban big data, urban commons & digital tools, Greek cities & on-going refugee crisis as a preamble to her proposal. She intends to use participatory platforms and technologies as indicators of cultural symbiosis. Oureilidou claims the main problems experienced by Athens & Thessaloniki are unprecedented urban expansion combined with the growing pressure of becoming a global city. With the financial crisis Greece is experiencing, the added “burden” of refugee integration wasn’t given a priority and there is a gap in the current approaches by the government to facilitate successful integration processes. She argues that by integrating, networking and creating social capital, the Greek cities will achieve social resilience. Her approach although seems pragmatic, might leave poorer sections of the community out from interacting with technology. An interesting point she brought up was that, the collection of urban data can explain urban patterns, processes and urban engagement/ civic participation. And using this urban data, the proposals for placemaking could be streamlined to facilitate bottom up urban making. The process she wants to use first collect data using social media platforms and sensor systems installed in the city, creating social capital. Then organising activities to assess the needs of the citizens and refugees alike (including vulnerable populations – the how, was not elaborated upon). Using the data from the needs assessment, online applications would facilitate bottom up initiatives of placemaking (market, playgrounds, etc) thereby resulting in the indicators of cultural symbiosis, hence, long-term social resilience.

Landscape, community, and resilience: migration and inclusive cities
Maria Trovato, Katherine Dunster

As landscape architects, their aim was to find the path to shared landscapes. They mainly looked at cultural resilience and how refugees appropriated the built environment in their own way. The authors of this paper wanted to explore and compare cultural appropriation in two contexts by the same group of people. Vancouver was of stark contrast in how the government and the citizens actually invested time, energy and monetarily in refugees by sponsoring them, setting up welcome centres, and helping opening small businesses. The government had a framework of integration for the migration that would take place to support their integration into society. Small Syrian and Turkish businesses started popping up around the neighbourhood, there were graffiti (although informal, nevertheless heart-warming) with ’refugees are welcome here’ signs.

In Vancouver and Beirut, the built environment is used as a tool for placemaking in their own way, however the context allows them to. Could this placemaking lead to cultural resilience and hence contribute to building community resilience for disaster risk reduction?

The arguments to these approaches could be highly contextual. These initiatives seem effective if implemented by governing agencies, as in the example of Vancouver. These top-down initiatives encourage more citizens to be accommodating of migrants. Another important thing to note was that Vancouver is essentially a migrant city, compared to Beirut; so how we expect these two populations to receive refugees the same way? It would have been interesting to know how Beirut could learn from Vancouver or vice versa. 

Resilience of urban refugees in Dar es Salaam
Maria Trovato, Katherine Dunster

Through her research, Aisling intends to tackle the resilience of the urban poor communities (of refugees as well as Tanzanians) in Dar es Salaam through asset accumulation to strengthen them against the shocks and stresses of disasters and ultimately relieve them of poverty. Aisling uses the theoretical framework of right to the city authors such as David Harvey, Peter Marcuse, Henri Lefebvre and theories by Jeffery Sachs and Caroline Moser of how asset accumulation could be a way out of the poverty trap. She stipulates that resilience needs to be looked at the household and municipal level in order to achieve urban resilience and that the poorest communities need to be looked at because of the level of social disparity in Dar es Salaam. She heavily condoned the Tanzanian government, instigating that their lack of vision has led to its current piecemeal and uncoordinated approach towards urban development thus propagating poverty and poor integration of urban refugees. She gives an example of the government’s lack of investment into its public transport infrastructure that led to children from poorer and remote areas needing to drop out of schools, then taking up street vending jobs, perpetuating them further into poverty. To summarise, she proposed to tackle urban resilience through a) to look into needs assessment at household and municipal level; b) household asset accumulation; c) long term vision of urban development.