chapter  9
18 Pages

Becoming Part of Welfare Scandinavia: Integration through the Spatial Dispersal of Newly Arrived Refugees in Denmark

ByBirgitte Romme Larsen

This article examines refugee experiences of the Danish mandatory spatial dispersal

policy, which requires that individuals and families agree to live for three years in an

assigned community when accepted as refugees. The policy is based on the assumption

that immersion in ethnically Danish local communities will facilitate integration.

Ethnographic field research carried out in two rural municipalities shows, however, that

trusted relatives or co-ethnics already settled in the country can have a considerable

integrative effect because they act as mediators between newly arrived refugees and

Danish welfare society. They thus introduce refugees to local cultural values and everyday

routines and demonstrate how to navigate them. This is particularly important in a

country where, on the one hand, the welfare state and its professional workers tend to

intervene deeply into the domestic sphere of its citizens, and, on the other, cultural

homogeneity is emphasised and viewed as closely related to equality. Not being

surrounded by a network of kinsmen nor having the opportunity to form new family-like

relations with co-ethnics within one’s local surroundings can therefore seriously affect the

ability of refugee families to establish a new life in Danish society.