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Implementing integration policy: encounters between street-level bureaucrats and newly-arrived migrants in Sweden

Society and economy

Isabell Schierenbeck and Andrea Spehar present the details of their new book, to be published with Studentlitteratur.

13 Oct 2021
10:00 - 11:30
Online (via Zoom)

Isabell Schierenbeck, Professor of Political Science, University of Gothenburg
Andrea Spehar, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Gothenburg
Centre on Global Migration

Encounters between street-level bureaucrats and immigrant clients form the basis for integration policy as state institutions are responsible for facilitating immigrants’ establishment into society. These integration processes take place not only at the individual level, but to a large extent also through encounters with Swedish authorities. The initial reception into Sweden is characterized by contact with administrators at the Swedish Migration Agency, the Swedish Public Employment Service, the social services office or project managers for various integration initiatives. Therefore, this book is about how street-level bureaucrats experience and handle their exercise of authority and their encounters with immigrant clients—and about how immigrant clients experience and handle this exercise of authority. Problems and opportunities in the encounters between street-level bureaucrats and immigrant clients are problematized based on the street-level bureaucrats official role, the policies to be implemented, organizational and administrative conditions, and the specific situation, needs, and conditions of the immigrant clients. The book thus sheds light on the complexity of integration policy from the perspectives of both the street-level bureaucrats and the immigrant clients. Theoretically, we have taken as our starting point the literature on street-level bureaucracies, but have applied it to the area of integration policy. To date, there have been few studies that have explicitly focused on street-level bureaucrats and their exercise of authority with regard to integration policy, or studies that are based on how immigrant clients perceive and relate to the exercise of authority by these actors. Therefore, through the combination of these two perspectives, we provide a new contribution to the literature. More specifically, we contribute new knowledge about how the encounters with refugees and immigrant clients affect street-level bureaucrats' views on the exercise of authority and their interpretation of the room for maneuver they have at their disposal. Furthermore, we contribute with knowledge of how the encounters with employment agents, social workers, Swedish teachers and midwives affect immigrant clients' perceptions of Swedish integration policy and what characterizes a good or a bad response from the street-level bureaucrats. How street-level bureaucrats perceive and handle cultural challenges and value conflicts in their encounters with immigrant clients is also an important dynamic which is examined in the study.