Since 2015 more than one million Syrians have fled to Europe. Government officials increasingly seem to consider sending them ‘back’ as soon as the Syrian conflict calms down. Yet where do Syrians themselves think they belong? The home they left behind is often irretrievably lost, and the memories to violence too fresh and painful to return. At the same time many refugees in Europe struggle to find work, affordable housing and recognition. What does ‘home’ mean to them? How do they reconstruct their social lives? Where do they feel they belong? And how do they organise themselves into social and political associations?
This project examines how Syrians create a home in two European cities and their hinterlands: Rotterdam and Antwerp. I will explore how national asylum and integration policies, and the differences between living in an urban or rural area impact refugees’ daily lives. Even neighbouring states such as the Netherlands and Belgium differ considerably in how they deal with housing, family reunification and civic integration for refugees. This project examines the impact of such policies on how refugees rebuild a home for themselves. To do so I will build on my earlier ethnographic work with Syrians in Belgium, which has provided me with insights, skills and social contacts that are crucial to do research on such a personal subject. More concretely, I will conduct qualitative interviews and participate in social and public events set up by Syrians.