Insights from visiting Swedish Refugee Camps

The title of this post is perhaps provoking, since we do not have the type of refugee camps that can been seen in various parts of Greece, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Still, the refugee accommodations offered in Sweden can still be very isolated and constraining settings. Many temporary refugee accommodation facilities are located in the country side or in localities with limited transport possibilities. Other facilities are located in populated areas but still with a clear geographical and social isolation.

During our pilot field-study on the ‘organisation of refugee management in Sweden’, we came across Ursand Camping that during the autumn 2015 hosted refugees (see also the december blogpost). The housing consisted of camping huts and the communal areas consisted of one large facility for meals and two large tents for leisure activities. During our visit, we talked to people that asked about their chances to find jobs, how to get in contact with Swedish authorities to validate their work certificates and what the best way is to learn Swedish. we also bumped into people from the Red Cross that had initiated some language classes. It was evident that even if this was not a stereotypical refugee camp, it had all the signs of a total institution that instead of hope communicated isolation and helplessness.

In a later phase of this pilot field-study, we visited the Support Group at Restad Gård, which is an organisation created by refugees with the objective to create activities that makes the time during the asylum process become more meaningful. This group consist of refugees at Restad Gård, the largest refugee facility in Sweden. The Support Group arrange a range of activities and collaborates with the local society in order to not only create activities that kills time, but even more importantly, activities that help asylum-seekers to continuously and gradually integrate to the society.

A significant difference between the two settings, are related to the time that they have existed. The Ursand Camping was a hyper temporary facility whereas Restad Gård had been in place for years. There was also a difference in the two locations physical connectedness with the local society. In the first place, there where long distances to wolk until it was possible to use bus services. At Restad Gård, the connectedness in terms of bus services where good.

We hope that we will be able to conduct additional studies to investigate in more detail how activities for refugees are organized and how local circumstances affect the possibilities to organize these events.

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