Stages and modes of incorporation of exiles in Switzerland: The example of Chilean refugees

Author(s) : Claudio Bolzman

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Many scholars perceive the incorporation of refugees and immigrants to a new society as a matter of time: the longer the length of residence, the more the refugees and immigrants perceive their stay in the host society as permanent. Other social scientists go even much further: they perceive adaptation not only as a linear process but also as an inevitable and desirable process which should lead to the disappearance of immigrants as an ethnic community and to their assimilation to a new society. In this paper we argue that incorporation to a new society is not necessarily a linear process depending exclusively upon length of residence. We also argue that assimilation is not necessarily the end result of this process. In our opinion, linear and assimilationist approaches neglect macro‐social context and, to a lesser extent, social stratification which are important variables influencing the incorporation process of migrants to a new society. The empirical study of Chilean refugees in Switzerland shows the relevance of these factors and also of the actor’s own perception of the situation in the definition of different stages of exile.