‘Their resilience impresses me'

Practical science

Are the majority of Syrian migrants well-educated? Does it become easier for people to integrate into society if you offer them tailormade programmes? Jaco Dagevos won’t rest until he finds out.


NAME: Jaco Dagevos
CAREER: Special Professor Integration & Migration, currently researching Syrians with a temporary residence permit in Rotterdam.

‘Society New Home Rotterdam (SNTR) was able – thanks to financial support by a private society, De Verre Bergen – to buy 200 single-family dwellings, which are now occupied by Syrian families with a temporary residence permit. A large-scale integration programme is being offered to them, covering subjects from language to self-reliance, social contacts, work and education. Our research team is comparing these Syrians with other people holding a temporary residence permit, who are not in the programme. What we want to know is: are there any differences in their levels of integration? By doing surveys, we’re gathering information about everyone with a temporary residence permit who recently moved to Rotterdam. Syrians for the larger part, but groups from other countries come into view as well. It’s very interesting that we get to follow these people for four years on end, meaning we can gather data over a longer period of time. Integration is a slow process.

The right approach

The general impression in society is that most Syrian refugees are well-educated. But are they? That’s why we’re looking into their level of education. Because the well-educated probably require a different approach than people who experienced a lower level of education. One of the important things we’re trying to find out is to what extent the SNTR-programme is conducive to integration. Central to the evaluation is this classic: ‘Are they doing the right things, and are they doing them the right way’? If any success stories come out of the SNTR group, all Dutch municipalities stand to learn. When I met with Syrian refugees myself, I heard the most heart-rending stories. Many of them have family members that are missing. At the same time I was impressed with their resilience and optimism to get back to living their lives.’

TEXT: Sjoerd Wielenga
PHOTO: Jochem Sanders

Jaco Dagevos