Syrians finding hope in Germany and the Netherlands; an in-depth comparative account of life histories and personal encounters with northern European welfare states
Josepha Wessels (Lund University)
Paper short abstract:
Based on fieldwork in Syria, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands and a unique personal 20-year old ethnographic film archive, this paper traces life histories of Syrian refugees and documents their experiences encountering people, institutions and customs of German and Dutch welfare states.
Paper long abstract:
Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Syria, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands and a unique personal 20-year old ethnographic film archive, this paper traces life histories of Syrian refugees in Germany and the Netherlands. The paper documents their experiences encountering people, institutions, culture and customs of German and Dutch welfare states. Based on interviews and participant observation, the chapter discusses everyday challenges and interaction of Syrian refugees with the Dutch asylum system, for example interactions with immigration agencies, asylum center organisations, refugee aid organisations, immigration lawyers, institutionalized integration programmes, educational institutions and members of the host societies. In particular, the paper describes the experiences of respondents between the ages of 17 and 48 of both genders, from three extended families from Aleppo and Raqqa province (northern Syria), with whom the author has built and developed rapport since she carried out long-term ethnographic fieldwork between 2000 and 2002 in their village of origin. Going beyond the analysis of a thin notion of incorporation, the author, herself Dutch, analyses a thick notion of incorporation and integration, how are host communities transformed by the arrival of Syrian refugees and vice versa? She traces how the expectations and images that Syrian refugees had formed about the Netherlands and Germany in the far past, when she herself as a young anthropologist in Syria was culturally and socially incorporated into their traditional village and families, relate to their experiences of reality as refugees encountering the processes of bureaucratisation that marked their lives once they arrived.
Uncertain solidarities: migration, social incorporation, and European welfare states