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