Press Release: Empirical Study Examines the Impact of State Engagement on Sustaining Local Community Solidarity Towards Distress Migrants

Map of Eastern Europe showing Poland and Ukraine. Poland and Ukraine country names circled in red marker and connected by red dotted line.

BOSTON, MA – The FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University, in collaboration with a team of Polish migration researchers from the University of Warsaw, conducted a preliminary empirical study in Poland aiming to document the factors that generate local solidarity towards Ukrainian refugees. The study examines whether generous, well implemented state policies fueled by state actors’ preemptive attention to predictable needs can protect local communities from fatigue, and instead sustain solidarity and social inclusion of distress migrants over time. 

To achieve this goal, the FXB Center conducted exploratory, qualitative research in 5 frontline local communities in Poland. Poland was chosen because of its state-driven vigorous and welcoming response to the very sizeable numbers of fleeing Ukrainians crossing into Poland after the Russian invasion in February 2022. The dramatic asymmetry in the Polish response to Ukrainians arriving at Poland’s eastern border (with Ukraine) compared to all other recent refugee arrivals provided an additional lens for examining the impact of the different types of state engagement on local responses to distress migrants, responses that range from solidarity to virulent anti-migrant sentiment. 

FXB Center authors Dr. Vasileia Digidiki, MSc, PhD, and Professor Jacqueline Bhabha, JD, MSc, state that “the study revealed a reciprocal loop – with local engagement with newly arrived migrants contributing to generous state policies, but also preemptive and carefully structured state measures feeding into and sustaining local solidarity.” 

The authors continue: “the question raised by this study is whether the current government’s response is sufficient to effectively sustain local community solidarity and promote collective engagement between locals and refugees for the longue durée, or whether it needs to be adapted and refined to better address the challenges of an ongoing and more permanent influx.” 

This study adds to the existing body of literature by documenting the role of foresight and pro-active engagement with local community issues as a significant contributor to migrant-facing solidarity. It also lays the ground for future research with a larger and more representative sample to quantify the drivers of solidarity and incorporate the voices of refugees. Future comparative research with other front-line communities like Greece, Mexico and Colombia are envisaged, to document how variation in governance support to local communities impacts the continuing expression of migrant solidarity. 

Read the full report: 

Building Inclusion, Sustaining Solidarity Towards Migrants in Frontline Local Communities: The case of Poland during the Ukrainian refugee crisis 

Study Authors: 

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The François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights (FXB Center) was founded and endowed by Albina du Boisrouvray in 1993. Her goal was to provide protection to children by furthering the vision for health and human rights of first director Jonathan Mann, and it received the enthusiastic collaboration of then-Dean Harvey Fineberg. We use interdisciplinary approaches to promote equity and dignity for those oppressed by racism, poverty, and stigma, nationally and around the world. We are proud to partner with a diverse group of scholars, educators, elected officials, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and members of the international policy community to advance health and human rights, and to show the harmful effects of violations on children. To learn more, please visit fxb.harvard.edu. 

Press Contact: Danai Macridi, danaiprado@hsph.harvard.edu