Civil Society and Social Integration of Asylum Seekers: The ‘Strength of Weak Ties’ and the Dynamics of ‘Strategic Action Fields’

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The dramatic increase of asylum seekers entering the EU in 2015 profoundly changed migration politics in many EU countries. Not least in Sweden which accepted more migrants per capita than any other EU country but then swung abruptly to become among the strictest recipient countries. We use Sweden as a critical and extreme case to argue that the rapid shift in asylum politics and public opinion towards migration is not profoundly shared in society. Based on a local media analysis of three types of purposively selected rural municipalities followed by the analysis of a survey of civil society organizations sent to all 290 municipalities in Sweden, we find strong civil society support and willingness to both receive migrants and facilitate their integration into society. Despite increasing votes for political parties with anti-migration policies, we also find remarkably positive attitudes towards migrants in civil society organizations and among citizens in the EU27 barometer for Sweden. The upshot is optimism that civil society can balance the anti-immigration governance imposed by both left and right political regimes and that populism will succeed only if it has the capacity to thoroughly transform civil society attitudes—which we doubt.
Original languageEnglish
Article number403
JournalSocial Sciences
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Jul 11

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
  • Sociology

Free keywords

  • civil society
  • integration
  • migration
  • populism
  • rural
  • Sweden


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