From acts of care to practice-based resistance: refugee-sector service provision and its impact(s) on integration

Emmaleena Käkelä, Helen Baillot, Leyla Kerlaff, Marcia Vera-Espinoza

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The UK refugee sector encompasses welfare provision, systems advocacy, capacity development and research. However, to date there has been little attention on refugees' experiences of the support provided by these services or on the views of the practitioners who deliver them. This paper draws from interviews and workshops with thirty refugee beneficiaries of an integration service in Scotland and twenty practitioners to shed light on how refugees and practitioners perceive and provide meaning to the work of the refugee sector. We identify refugee sector organisations as crucial nodes in refugees' social networks and explore the multiple roles they play in the integration process. Firstly, we confirm that refugee organisations act as connectors, linking refugees with wider networks of support. Secondly, we demonstrate that the work of the refugee sector involves acts of care that are of intrinsic value to refugees, over and above the achievement of tangible integration outcomes. Finally, we demonstrate that this care also involves acts that seek to overcome and subvert statutory system barriers. We propose to understand these acts as forms of "practice-based resistance" necessitated by a hostile policy environment. The findings expand on understandings of the refugee sector, its role in integration and the multi-faceted nature of integration processes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number39
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2023


  • refugee sector
  • refugee integration
  • practice-based resistance
  • care
  • hostile environments
  • welfare restrictionism


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