Bridging, bonding, and linking? Syrian refugee-led organisations and integration in Berlin
Evan Easton-Calabria, Jennifer Wood
In this article, we analyse Syrian refugee-led organisations and initiatives in Berlin, Germany, including those led by individuals, small groups or as part of religious institutions, to understand their role in the integration process for Syrians. We draw on a framework of refugee integration to examine the role of bridging, bonding, and linking in fostering social connections. We argue that the types of social connections these organisations aim to foster impact the integration process for Syrian refugees, and indeed that the process of creating such initiatives is demonstrative of important components of integration into Germany. Notably, the existence of Syrian refugee-led organisations demonstrates a compelling interplay between Germany’s enabling environment for civil society and refugees’ engagement in it in ways that were largely suppressed in Syria. We posit that refugee-led organisations constitute an important conceptual site of examination relating to theories on refugee integration, and have the potential to be analysed as independent actors within such frameworks. Many organisations appear to be intermediaries or even suppliers of social services, suggesting they are integral yet overlooked actors within refugee assistance. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first mapping of Syrian refugee-led organisations and initiatives in Berlin.