Why refugees? Why parks?

In urban contexts of increasing refugee new arrivals, this project investigates how parks have the potential impact to improve the wellbeing of refugees and support integration at the local scale. Though the refugee experience is complex and varied, circumstances of under-employment, poor living conditions, limited social opportunities and mental health pressures are commonly reported. Can a pleasant place to sit outside support social networks, improve local awareness, give a sense of belonging and a peaceful moment?

This may not be straightforward. The public realm can also be a place where refugees feel uncertain about local norms, feel unwelcome, uncomfortable or are vulnerable to hate crime. Refugee support agencies can be focused on points of immediate crisis of status, income and housing rather than medium-term ways of becoming local. Greenspace sector organisations generally want to be inclusive, but may not understand or know how to address accessibility barriers for refugee users.

About this project

‘#refugeeswelcome in parks’ is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and is a follow-on project from ‘The Bench Project‘, looking especially at developing the impact of this research.

The project aims to raise awareness of the potential of spending time in urban public open space as one means of improving refugee mental health and social connections, and gives specific attention to addressing existing barriers to improving the integration of initiatives and aims across relevant sectors.

Our primary focus is on national organisations in the UK, but we are also learning from and working with our partners in Berlin, and local stakeholder groups in East London and Sheffield. The Young Foundation are working on this project alongside the University of Sheffield, University of Manchester and Minor (Berlin).

If you are involved with a refugee support sector organisation, or greenspace management, or anything that touches on these issues, then please do get in touch! We are interested in your experience and ideas.

In the later part of the project (September 2017 onward) we will be working with keen and motivated organisations to trial initiatives:

  • How can the findings of ‘#refugeeswelcome in parks’ support their existing aims of inclusive public space or refugee wellbeing?
  • What can the two sectors learn from each other?