In many European countries, refugees spend their first period after arrival in the receiving country in reception centers. Though this reception period has been heavily criticized, especially in relation to mental health, few scholars examined its impact on refugee integration. Since host country language learning is the main focus for most recent arrivals, this study re-examines the impact of the (renewed) reception period on both refugee mental health and host country language proficiency. Using a unique dataset including 3209 Syrian permitholders in the Netherlands, we test a structural equation model to examine those relations directly and indirectly. Results partly replicate previous findings, showing the negative impact of the number of relocations on mental health as well as the negative impact of both length of stay and relocations on host country language proficiency. Nevertheless, we did not find support for a negative relationship between length of stay and mental health. Moreover, the image of the reception period is not as gloomy as before; activities asylum seekers can engage in during their stay is positively related to both mental health and host country language proficiency. The relationships between both relocations and activities and host country language proficiency can partially be explained by mental health. These results indicate that the reception period can be seen as both an obstacle and a facilitator. Since the context of reception is a post-migration stressor, these findings should inform receiving societies and inspire them to accommodate their refugee reception accordingly, ensuring a smooth(er) start for future refugees.

DOI: 10.1007/s12134-021-00820-6
ISSN: 1488-3473