This article explores the sustainability of the resettlement of unaccompanied refugee children from their perspective. Against the backdrop of a critical assessment of the multilevel governance of resettlement, it compares two rural municipalities. Unaccompanied refugee children in the municipality with a disempowering local governance model were hindered to engage with civil society, while in the municipality with an enabling model, their integration was enhanced. Achieving safety by legal residency does not by itself resolve the liminalities of belonging to unaccompanied refugee children. Beyond positive engagement by professionals, supporting encounters with civil society were found to enhance integration and belonging, while the lack of these strengthened marginalities. Unaccompanied refugee children resettlement is largely influenced by the benevolence of local actors when the state vacates its responsibility to co-ordinate efforts. While civil society has an important role to play, a helping civil society cannot be assumed. Tensions rose also due to the collision between institutional styles. The marketisation of refugee reception at the national level led to loss of ability to plan schooling in rural municipalities, reinforcing practices of physical and symbolic segregation of children in the refugee context education. These accounts shed also light on the resilience of unaccompanied refugee children encountering local resettlement efforts emerging in the context of increasingly securitised asylum policies. © 2023 The Authors. Sociologia Ruralis published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of European Society for Rural Sociology.

DOI: 10.1111/soru.12431
ISSN: 00380199