Sarah FEDERa, b, Elena Górriz MIFSUDa and Mireia Pecurul BOTINESc
Institution: aEuropean Forest Institute – Spain; bLund University – Sweden; cForest Science and Technology Centre of Catalonia – Spain
Keywords: Immigration, Integration, Social Inclusion, Labour, Regional Development, Forest Management
As migrations from within and outside of Europe continue to increase steadily, particularly in the Mediterranean region, the integration of immigrant populations is one of the most pressing issues faced by many European countries. Although there is significant research on immigrant integration in urban areas, the settlement and integration of immigrants in rural areas is largely understudied, even as growing populations seek work in forestry and agriculture in rural and peri-urban environments. Migration flows are shifting the dynamics of rural areas, with increased movement between urban and rural environments, as well as demographic revitalisation of rural areas that have faced decades of social and economic decline.
This research project seeks to explore the integration experiences of foreign workers and their employers within the southern European forestry sector. Through a case study in rural and peri-urban areas of Catalonia, Spain, we aim to examine the approaches employed by immigrants to integrate to their host society, their real-life experiences with integration through their work in the forestry sector, and their perceptions of the integration process. The study examines integration as a multi-dimensional process that encompasses five overall areas: personal, social, economic, political, and spatial. These five dimensions were identified by a conceptual modelling process based on an extensive systematic review of integration literature across disciplines— including geography, migration studies, political science, sociology, and psychology— which will also be a key output of this research project.
The results of this research could be central to informing forest users, policymakers, and future research on topics of immigrant integration policies and the role of immigrant labour in the forest sector; it may also have implications for holistic regional development planning. Furthermore, the influence of new movements in European forestry toward climate-adapted and socially conscious methods could extend this research to address social, economic, and environmental resilience across the Mediterranean region, with implications for all of Europe.