Refugee resettlement policies and pathways to integration

Authored by: Stephanie J. Nawyn

Routledge International Handbook of Migration Studies

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  May  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415779722
eBook ISBN: 9780203863299
Adobe ISBN: 9781135183493




While many migrants have limited choices regarding if and when they migrate, refugees have been recognized by a state or international body as having left their country and as being unable to return because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, political belief, or membership in a particular social group. Once recognized as a refugee, one option for achieving permanent protection from persecution is resettlement. In this chapter I will explain what resettlement is, give a brief history of resettlement and related policies for managing refugees, and describe the different approaches countries have to resettlement. I will then provide a summary of the existing research on how refugees have experienced resettlement, and what needs refugees have that resettlement policies have (or have not) attempted to meet. Finally I will lay out new directions in which the study of refugee resettlement could move.

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Refugee resettlement policies and pathways to integration

While many migrants have limited choices regarding if and when they migrate, refugees have been recognized by a state or international body as having left their country and as being unable to return because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, political belief, or membership in a particular social group. Once recognized as a refugee, one option for achieving permanent protection from persecution is resettlement. In this chapter I will explain what resettlement is, give a brief history of resettlement and related policies for managing refugees, and describe the different approaches countries have to resettlement. I will then provide a summary of the existing research on how refugees have experienced resettlement, and what needs refugees have that resettlement policies have (or have not) attempted to meet. Finally I will lay out new directions in which the study of refugee resettlement could move.

What is resettlement?

As defined by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), resettlement is the transfer of refugees from the country in which they have first sought asylum (often referred to as the country of asylum or host country) to another country for permanent settlement (generally referred to as the resettlement country). Asylum seekers differ from refugees in that they arrive in a country of (potentially) permanent settlement and then request asylum, which is different from refugees who request permanent settlement before arriving in the resettlement country. However, both groups may flee their home country for similar reasons, and asylum seekers who are granted asylum are generally given the same rights (including rights to resettlement assistance) as refugees. Countries that provide resettlement assistance only do so for individuals that they recognize as refugees, so forced migrants who enter a resettlement country will not receive resettlement assistance without recognition as refugees from that state. Examples of state non-recognition are the Central American migrants who fled to the United States in the 1980s, and North Koreans fleeing to China since the mid-1990s. In the case of Central Americans, some were allowed to reside legally in the United States but few were ever eligible for resettlement assistance. In the case of North Koreans, they either remain in China without authorization or have been deported.

International human rights law does not guarantee resettlement as a right, but refugees have the right to seek and receive protection, and for many refugees resettlement is the best (and only) solution for permanent protection. Resettlement countries, through negotiations with the UNHCR, commit to accepting particular numbers of refugees each year, and according to their own national criteria choose the particular refugees they will accept. These national criteria vary, but often are related to the particular country's national interests and which refugees they feel they can best incorporate.

So while protection is the key concern for the UNHCR, states are primarily concerned with how best to fulfill their international obligations and to incorporate refugees into their societies. In most resettlement countries, this involves social welfare assistance programs designed to facilitate the integration of refugees into their new societies, with the level of the assistance reflecting the generousness of the resettlement country's social welfare apparatus. For example, in the Netherlands where there is a strong social welfare system, state assistance for refugees to integrate is quite extensive. Comparatively, in Italy which has a weak social safety net, state-provided refugee assistance is nearly non-existent (Korac 2003). The cultural acceptability of social welfare assistance also shapes the kinds of assistance provided in resettlement. In Western European countries where state welfare support for individuals is considered a right of citizenship, refugees receive assistance for a relatively long period of time but are often barred from finding employment so that they do not compete with natives. Conversely, in the United States where welfare usage is stigmatizing, refugees receive cash assistance for a short period of time and resettlement services are directed primarily at moving refugees into employment (Nawyn 2011).

Resettlement is among three durable solutions that the UNHCR uses to protect refugees, the other two being voluntary repatriation and settlement in the country of first asylum. Resettlement is the least often used durable solution, available only to a small number of the total refugee population. For example, in 2010 about 1 percent of the total worldwide refugee population was resettled (UNHCR 2011a). The vast majority of refugees reside in developing countries, often those bordering the countries from which the refugees fled. Some are integrated and are given citizenship or other similar rights in the host country, but most are either dispersed and working without authorization or living in refugee camps in what many have described as refugee warehousing (Hathaway and Neve 1997). Developed countries have long been reluctant to admit refugees for resettlement, fearing economic costs as well as the public's negative opinion of refugees and conflation of refugees with economic migrants (Stein 1986). While this reluctance has intensified with the growing number of refugees from developing countries, tensions around resettlement of refugees has a long history.

History of resettling refugees

While the category of refugee predates the twentieth century, it was not until World War I that the number of refugees became large enough to prompt state concern about how to handle such migrants. Prior to that time, population displacement either involved small numbers of people or occurred in regions with few restrictions against movement across state borders. It was only during World War I in Europe that we saw mass migrations of displaced people coupled with a hardening of state borders that necessitated states to develop policies for permanently settling refugees. Poles, Germans, Ukrainians, and Russian Bolsheviks were among the first groups displaced at the outbreak of war in 1914, with the numbers of displaced people increasing exponentially as the war progressed and genocidal attacks on minority populations increased, like those against Armenians and Jews (Marrus 2002).

Over concern about the social disruption caused by not only refugees but the millions of war prisoners around Europe following World War I, the newly formed League of Nations created the “High Commissioner on Behalf of the League in Connection with the Problem of Russian Refugees in Europe” in 1921 (Marrus 2002). The individual chosen as the first High Commissioner was Fridtjof Nansen, a Norwegian explorer and scientist who had developed a world-wide reputation for humanitarian assistance for refugees. The League tasked the High Commissioner with solving the “refugee problem” by negotiating with states to resettle some refugees but repatriating most of the Russian refugees and prisoners of war back to Russia. But amid states' resistance to opening their borders to refugees, insufficient funds to repatriate individuals back to their home countries, and continued military conflicts around Europe that displaced even more people, Nansen achieved only modest success in reducing the numbers of refugees in Europe within the 10-year period the League envisioned for the High Commission's existence (Marrus 2002).

World War II similarly created new and more intense pressures on states to address the masses of refugees displaced by conflict and the national border re-mapping that occurred after the war. The member states of the newly formed United Nations (UN) instituted several measures intended to manage future refugee problems. Included in these measures was the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees. The 1951 Convention was designed to define international obligations to refugees, and to institute the rule of non-refoulement,or the requirement that states not send a person back to their country of origin if that deportation could lead to the person being harmed (Marrus 2002). The UN formed the UNHCR, which they originally tasked to protect refugees but which now has an expanded mission of determining refugee status and providing humanitarian assistance to not only refugees but internally displaced persons, stateless people, and others groups that UNHCR refers to as “persons of concern.” UNHCR currently plays a pivotal role in managing resettlement at the international level. While not the only agency that determines refugee status, they are critical in the management of the large refugee camps in East and West Africa and the Great Lakes region of Africa, and in Thailand, Bangladesh, and Malaysia, and wields considerable influence in negotiations with developed countries asked to resettle some of these refugees. Their most recent success in these negotiations was to convince Japan to become a resettlement country; in September 2010 Japan resettled refugees for the first time (UNHCR 2011a).

The United States has historically, and continues to be, a major receiving country for refugees. The first large groups of refugees admitted into the United States were refugees from World War II. In 1948, 409,696 refugees from Germany, Poland, the Baltic states, and Russia were admitted (Hein 1993). As the Cold War developed, the United States continued to take in refugees from various communist countries, particularly Russia, Hungary, and later Cuba (Hein 1993; Marrus 2002). The fall of Saigon to communist forces led to the evacuation of well-educated, elite members of the old Vietnamese regime, but soon to follow were tens of thousands of poor Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians. With the passage of the 1980 Refugee Act, US resettlement policy was ostensibly disconnected purely from political interests (i.e. resettling refugees ad hoc from regimes hostile to the United States) and was replaced with a process for determining an annual commitment to resettle a certain number of refugees and for determining which refugees the United States would resettle. However, political and military interests continue to influence which refugees the United States takes in. The fall of the US-backed Shah in Iran led to the migration of thousands of Jewish, Baha'i, Christian, Zoroastrian, and moderate Muslim Iranians to the United States. The break up of the Soviet Union led to large increases of refugees from that region, as did the dismantling of the Former Yugoslavia and the genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina that followed (and in which the US military intervened). Since the late 1990s the number of refugees from Africa (largely from East Africa/African Horn and the Great Lakes region) to the United States has increased, but Asians (largely Burmese and Bhutanese) and Cubans were the largest refugee groups resettled in the United States (Office of Refugee Resettlement 2011).

Goals of different resettlement regimes

Resettlement countries work with the UNHCR and other international bodies to intentionally bring refugees into the country, whereas host countries often reluctantly accept refugees in a time of crisis when thousands of displaced people show up at their borders. So while Pakistan hosts the largest number of refugees (largely from neighboring Afghanistan), the United States resettles the largest number of refugees. Other significant resettlement countries are the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Sweden, and Norway (UNHCR 2011a). While the number of refugees that are resettled is small compared with the global refugee population, a large proportion of research on refugees focuses on resettlement and the particular infrastructure of different resettlement regimes.

Most resettlement states design resettlement policies around achieving a particular version of integration; rather than excluding or isolating refugees, policies are intended to incorporate them into national life and minimize their impacts on receiving communities. This most often includes permanent settlement with rights comparable to citizens. This approach differs from that directed at other types of migrants for which states often enact policies designed to discourage permanent settlement. However, individuals who enter a country as refugees can and have been deported, such as the deportation of Cambodians from the United States who originally entered the country as refugees (Hing 2005). Countries in Europe now frequently detain asylum seekers or bar them from entering the country altogether (Bloch and Schuster 2005) in order to exclude them from resettlement eligibility and thus limit the state's responsibility to provide them permanent settlement.

Research across different resettlement regimes reveals distinct outcomes from the various approaches. In Australia, an emphasis on mental health needs has encouraged refugees to take a “passive” approach to resettlement, in which refugees tend to think of themselves as helpless victims (Colic-Peisker and Tilbury 2003). The United Kingdom has a decentralized resettlement program which some scholars argue allows for more active involvement of refugees themselves to determine what constitutes successful resettlement (Majka 1991). However, the UK has taken an aggressive stance toward dispersing refugees since 2000 in the hopes of discouraging the formation of insular migrant communities (Bloch and Schuster 2005), and as the state has increasingly relegated basic service provision to private agencies, serious gaps in assistance have resulted (Wren 2007). The Canadian resettlement regime is also largely decentralized and incorporates ethnic organizations in its service delivery structure to refugees (Lawrence and Hardy 1999), which has generally been successful in integrating refugees without requiring them to abandon their cultural identities. The weaker social welfare systems in Southern Europe mean refugees are largely left to fend for themselves (Korac 2002). In some instances, detention centers are built to warehouse asylum seekers in an effort to keep them from entering other parts of Europe (Hathaway and Neve 1997).

In the United States, the resettlement program is funded mostly by the federal government but services are administered almost entirely by voluntary agencies (referred to as VOLAGS), with a primary goal of resettlement being to help refugees achieve economic self-sufficiency as quickly as possible (Nawyn 2011). The US government forms partnerships with VOLAGS to provide services intended to facilitate refugees' incorporation. VOLAGS do provide social welfare services beyond those mandated by resettlement policies, but most are still funded by the government, often using federal social welfare dollars allocated to state agencies to use at their discretion. VOLAGS partner with other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that do not have a contractual relationship with the government as a strategy for maintaining services while receiving shrinking government funding. Faith communities, particularly Christian church congregations, have played a large role in resettlement by providing sponsorship and volunteer labor towards resettlement (Nawyn 2006). However, there is evidence that church volunteers sometimes exploit their relationship with refugees, predicating their assistance on the refugees' participation in their congregation; this most often happens when church volunteers receive little or no supervision by the resettlement agency (Kenny and Lockwood-Kenny 2011).

From 1975 until 1982, refugees in the United States received up to three years of assistance. Over time, the length of assistance and amount in real dollars has steadily decreased (Gold 1992: 62). Resettlement programs vary widely by state, ranging from 90 days to generally no more than eight months. Resettlement is also intertwined with other social service provision programs which vary by state and are supplemented by services from a range of NGOs, producing a complicated set of overlapping structures through which refugees move to access resources, and presenting a complex picture for scholars trying to assess the short- and long-term effects on different refugee populations (Rumbaut 1989). While the resettlement program is highly proscriptive, the non-governmental and immigrant community infrastructures in the United States provide flexibility in how refugees can integrate. In smaller, emerging locations of resettlement, the non-governmental infrastructure is usually limited, and the immigrant community infrastructure is sometimes weak or non-existent. In larger traditional gateways with long-settled immigrant communities, refugees can benefit from existing immigrant assistance infrastructure but they also face greater competition with other immigrants in the job and housing markets.

Most countries that take an active role in resettlement attempt to residentially disperse refugees and discourage residential concentration into ethnic enclaves. States enact these policies with the hope of encouraging interaction with the host society and quickening the acquisition of the host language. However, some scholars suggest that dispersal distances refugees from important co-ethnic support, leaving refugees feeling socially isolated (Allen 2007). However, dispersed refugees are more likely to develop social ties extending outside their ethnic community, which can provide them advantages in earnings (Majka and Mullan 2002; Allen 2009). Refugees usually can make their own choices about where to live after they arrive in a resettlement country; significant patterns of secondary migration in the United States have resulted in previously dispersed refugee populations concentrating in particular states, e.g., Cubans in South Florida, Vietnamese in California and Texas, and Somalis in Minnesota.

Refugees' experiences with resettlement

In his assessment of resettlement studies, Stein (1981) divides this subfield into two categories: the studies that focus on the system (the services and processes to which refugees are exposed) and the subjective experiences and expectations of the refugees. Stein argued that what refugees expect from resettlement shapes how they behave within the resettlement process, and that their expectations are often “romantic and unrealistic” (p. 325). Assuming that he is correct that what refugees expect from resettlement is unrealistic, that they will not receive the assistance they expect or hope for, why would that be the case? Research on the discursive positioning of refugees provides at least one compelling explanation: while refugees may see themselves as people with rights, resettlement countries and receiving communities view them as people with needs (Gold 1992; Verdirame and Harrell-Bond 2005). This discursive position reflects the institutional shift of resettlement from identifying people as refugees (i.e. people with a right to protection) to their entrance into a resettlement country (i.e. people who need assistance from that country). By and large the conception of refugees as people with rights disappears once refugees arrive in the resettlement country, which privileges the goals of the resettlement country (usually minimizing the burden of refugees on the state or local community) over the goals refugees have for themselves. Thus, in the United States where the resettlement program requires refugees to acquire employment very quickly after arrival, any rights refugees have are predicated on their success in finding a job and being economically self-sufficient (Nawyn 2011).

Refugee scholars have widely criticized resettlement policies and programs for serving largely as mechanisms of social control over refugee recipients of assistance. Ong's (2003) work makes a pointed critique of state resettlement policies and the NGOs enacting those policies, arguing that these entities have actively contributed to disruptions to traditional Cambodian refugee families through their mandate from the state as social welfare agents. In order for refugees to receive assistance from these agencies, Cambodian refugees were required to adhere to cultural-and class-specific expectations of the welfare state. For example, welfare policies in California required assistance to be distributed only to nuclear family members of an eligible household, discouraging co-residence of extended family, and some public aid workers would push birth control use on young Cambodian women and expect them to invest in increasing their earning potential rather than focus on motherhood. These expectations, Ong argued, disrupted the traditional Cambodian refugee families and led to the dissolution of Cambodian cultural community. In my research on resettlement in several different states in the United States, I show how the push to employ refugees quickly leads to the reproduction of gendered and ethnic employment enclaves that provide refugees little social mobility (Nawyn 2010).

But refugees are not mere victims that passively accept assistance from Western nations or Western NGOs. Refugees are agents that manipulate their surroundings to maximize their resources (Kibria 1994; Holtzman 2000). They have their own expectations for what successful resettlement means; they may adopt goals that run contrary to the goals of their particular resettlement program. Ong (2003) showed that Cambodian refugees in the United States strategically use institutions like religious communities to garner resources for upward mobility, participating in congregations not because of heartfelt religious beliefs but rather to improve their business relationships. Gold's (1992) study of Vietnamese and Soviet Jewish refugees described the conflicts between refugees and their resettlement service providers, with refugees often relying more upon their own ethnic networks than the agencies tasked with assisting them. My own work (Nawyn 2010) illustrates the ways in which refugees often, through organizations like mutual assistance associations, develop their own integration practices that go beyond the state's agenda for resettlement.

The needs of refugees in resettlement

Refugees, like all international migrants, face a host of challenges to successfully integrating into the receiving society, with varying definitions of what “successful integration” means to them. These challenges bring with them particular needs that theoretically could be met through resettlement policies. While no country that offers resettlement assistance does so for a length of time sufficient to fully meet the integration needs of refugees, there are particular needs that different resettlement programs attempt to address, and around which research assessing these programs tends to cluster.


Refugees need to find a job that will support their households in societies that almost always have a much higher cost of living than the refugees were accustomed to in their home countries, their host country, and of course refugee camps. Refugees that have spent a long time in protracted refugee situations (living for a decade or more in refugee camps or without authorization in a host country) often find it particularly difficult to acquire employment because they often lack necessary language skills, education, or work experience (since few camps include educational institutions or have economies that have developed beyond small-scale entrepreneurial activities). Conversely, refugees with considerable levels of pre-migration education and urban experience, like the Soviet Jews or first-wave Cubans who were resettled in the United States (Gold 1989, 1992), have a much easier time adjusting to job markets in developed countries.

In countries that provide resettlement assistance for a short period of time, refugees have an acute need to acquire employment sufficient to financially support themselves and their household. This is especially important in the United States, which has a thin social welfare net and a culture that prizes economic productivity (Potocky-Tripodi 2003; Nawyn 2011). Conversely, refugees in European countries are banned from employment for a significant length of time so as not to compete with citizens, which may slow down their integration (Valtonen 2004; Wren 2007).

Learning the dominant language

Refugees find it critical to acquire language skills in their receiving society, as the ability to speak and read the dominant language affects a range of daily experiences and greatly facilitates their material survival. In addition to the opportunity to find better employment, refugees without dominant language skills frequently feel social isolation (Allen 2007), particularly when they do not know many people who speak the dominant language and they live in communities with insufficient interpretation services (Nawyn et al. 2012). Additionally, parents who remain non-dominant monolingual frequently experience conflicts with their children who learn the dominant language much faster (Gold 1989).

Mental health

Refugees frequently suffer from mental health problems, with serious mental health problems like post-traumatic stress disorder endemic among particular groups of refugees such as the recent group of Iraqi refugees (Jamil et al. 2002). Scholars and mental health professionals most often attribute these problems to the violence, upheaval, and personal or familial loss experience as part of refugee flight. However, research also indicates that challenges following resettlement such as economic hardship also contribute to refugees' mental health problems (Simich et al. 2006). Additionally, refugees are often reluctant to seek mental health services because of cultural taboos surrounding mental health or because they cannot find culturally appropriate mental health services. Years of untreated mental illness like post-traumatic stress disorder manifest into a range of health and socio-economic problems that sometimes spill over into the second generation (Marshall et al. 2005).

Gender-specific needs of refugees

Research on women refugees and gender within resettlement and in forced migration studies more broadly is quite extensive; in this chapter I can only touch upon some of the major themes in this body of work. For a beginning introduction to this body of literature, readers should consult the edited volume by Doreen Indra (1999).

Gender relations within refugee families often differ from gender norms in the resettlement country, and the gender dynamics that have sustained families are often challenged by resettlement. Prior to resettlement, men may have taken primary responsibility for supporting the family's material needs and women's contribution to the household may have been confined to the home. New economic demands after resettlement usually require all able-bodied adult household members to work, and refugee men may feel frustrated and diminished by their dependence on the economic contributions of wives (Martin 2004). Men from a variety of cultures define masculinity largely through having a “good” job and being able to support a family, and refugee men after resettlement frequently find achieving this definition of masculinity a major challenge (McSpadden 1999). State challenges to patriarchal family relations such as resettlement caseworkers instructing refugee parents that they cannot physically punish their children (Nawyn 2010) not only challenge men's authority in the family but also women who rely on patriarchy to control their children's behavior (Kibria 1993).

Men and women often organize their lives differently, and as is true of women in industrialized countries, refugee women generally take on more reproductive or domestic responsibilities than do men. Refugee women who care for small children may have little time to take language instruction classes. They may have also come from societies in which extended kin helped care for their children or in which the state provided childcare for working mothers, and losing those support systems may put additional stress on refugee women, particularly if they work for pay outside the home (Martin 2004).

Men's and women's experiences of pre-migration violence also differ; both men and women refugees frequently experience violence, but for women this often takes the shape of sexual violence. Refugee women frequently feel inhibited from talking about their experiences with rape or sexual assault because of taboos around sexual purity, family honor, or simply the fear and shame that women of any culture might feel after such victimization. Resettlement programs do not always include sufficient mental health services or culturally appropriate outreach to women who have experienced sexual violence, so the needs of women who have been victimized too often go unmet.

Areas for future investigation

There are many areas in which resettlement studies could expand, and many gaps that need to be filled. Here I highlight just a few that I think are particularly important for scholars to consider given the current state of resettlement policies and politics.

Family unity

The process of forced migration frequently upends families and damages family ties and support systems. Refugees may lose family members who are killed in violent conflicts, or lose track of where family members are during flight. Once approved for resettlement, remaining family ties may be severed again by policies that do not allow extended family members to be resettled together. The UNHCR defines family members eligible for resettlement generally as spouses and dependent children, although aged parents and married children living with a primary householder who has refugee status may also be granted resettlement with the rest of the household (UNHCR 2011b). However, this definition excludes extended family who may provide critical material and non-material support to the refugees being resettled, and it allows for only one spouse (so that polygamous families are excluded).

Some scholars have conducted research on the importance of family unity and maintaining family ties post-resettlement (Simich et al. 2006), but more work is needed particularly on transnational family relations post-resettlement. For example, the Somali Bantu resettlement produced a diaspora of usually tight-knit Bantu kin networks, presenting new challenges to the Bantu in maintaining family relations and rituals across great distances. The Tanzanian government's decision to grant citizenship to Burundian refugees has meant that those Burundians in Tanzania are not likely to be resettled with other family members in resettlement countries, solidifying the transnational status of families that had hoped to eventually reunite. The strategies that these Somali Bantu and Burundian families enact to maintain family relations, and the health of those families in the future, will provide scholars evidence of both the positive and detrimental effects that resettlement can have on refugee families.

Long-term social integration

Integration is a process that unfolds over a long period of time, with no clear endpoint at which “successful” integration can be measured. Yet, those people who design and implement resettlement policy would benefit from understanding how different resettlement strategies shape integration opportunities and barriers of different refugee groups. As I noted earlier in this chapter, the variability between different resettlement regimes, and even the variable ways in which the same regime administrates resettlement in different localities, makes the task of assessing the long-term effects of one strategy versus another on different refugees herculean, to say the least. However, it is an important task to attempt given resettlement countries' concerns about the adaptability of various refugee groups post-resettlement.

Some possible strategies are to compare some of the basic approaches used in resettlement (such as intensive versus laissez-faire government intervention or dispersal versus ethnic residential enclave), conduct cross-group and cross-national comparisons, and to measure the integration of refugees over a long duration (including the integration of their native-born children). Korac (2002) has done this with her cross-national comparison between interventionist Netherlands and laissez-faire Italy. Colic-Peisker and Tilbury (2003) compare different approaches that refugees have to the same resettlement program and identify different trajectories that come from those approaches. Haines (2002) and Marshall et al. (2005) studied the long-term integration of Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees in the United States, respectively. Much more work like this needs to be done in order to understand the trajectories that different refugees take as they attempt to build a new life in their resettlement country, and what effects those early resettlement experiences might have on long-term integration.

Expanding protection outside of resettlement

Because of the high economic cost of resettlement and the reluctance of resettlement countries to receive more refugees, some refugee policy makers are increasingly considering the costs and benefits of resettling refugees compared to other durable solutions. One route policy makers are considering is to put more resources into integrating refugees in the host country or country of first asylum. Rather than spending money on bringing refugees to their country for resettlement, developed countries could put those resources into helping host countries absorb their refugee populations. This strategy would provide the benefit of settling refugees into a country that is closer to their home country (not just geographically but economically and culturally), would avoid the dispersal of extended family that often results from resettlement, and might be more politically expedient for resettlement countries that face native opposition to receiving more refugees. However, the ability of host countries to provide adequate protection to refugees would need to be established, and researchers would need to investigate whether such a program would actually result in lower costs in the long term (particularly since the remittances sent by resettled family members has served to economically sustain refugees in host countries).

Another strategy that UNHCR has begun to pursue is to use labor migration paths to find refugees permanent employment. For refugees who are in camps and have labor skills desired by other countries, UNHCR would work to bring those refugees to other countries as economic laborers. UNHCR is considering this strategy in part because of the paths of irregular labor migration that many refugees take when they self-settle (working outside the framework of the UN and the international resettlement regime to seek permanent protection on their own). However, a great deal more research needs to be conducted before determining whether such a strategy will provide the protection to which refugees, by law, are entitled.

Further reading

Allen, R. (2007) “Sometimes it's Hard Here to Call Someone to Ask for Help”: Social Capital in a Refugee Community in Portland, Maine. PhD thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Allen, R. (2009) “Benefit or burden? Social capital, gender, and the economic adaptation of refugees” International Migration Review 43(2): 332–365.
Bloch, A. and Schuster, L. (2005) “At the extremes of exclusion: Deportation, detention and exclusion” Ethnic and Racial Studies, 28(3): 491–512.
Colic-Peisker, V. and Tilbury, F. (2003) “‘Active’ and ‘passive’ resettlement: The influence of support services and refugees' own resources on resettlement style” International Migration 41(5): 61–91.
Gold, S.J. (1989) “Differential adjustment among new immigrant family members” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 17(4): 408–434.
Gold, S.J. (1992) Refugee Communities: A Comparative Study. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Haines, D. W. (2002) “Binding the generations: Household formation patterns among Vietnamese refugees” International Migration Review 36(4): 1194–1217.
Hathaway, J. C. and Neve, R. A. (1997) “Making international refugee law relevant again: A proposal for collectivized and solution-oriented protection” Harvard Human Rights Journal 10, 155–169, 173–87.
Hein, J. (1993) States and International Migrants: The Incorporation of Indochinese Refugees in the United States and France. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Hing, B. O. (2005) Detention to deportation — Rethinking the removal of Cambodian refugees. UC Davis Law Review 38: 891–971.
Holtzman, J. D. (2000) NuerJourneys, Nuer Lives: Sudanese Refugees in Minnesota. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
Indra, D. (ed.) (1999) Engendering Forced Migration: Theory and Practice. New York: Berghahn Books.
Jamil, H. , Hakim-Larson, J. , Farrag, M. , and Jamil, L. H. (2002) “A retrospective study of Arab American mental health clients: Trauma and the Iraqi refugees” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 72(3): 355–361.
Kenny, P. and Lockwood-Kenny, K. (2011) “A mixed blessing: Karen resettlement to the United States” Journal of Refugee Studies 24(2): 217–238.
Kibria, N. (1993) Family Tightrope: The Changing Lives of Vietnamese Americans. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Kibria, N. (1994) “Household structure and family ideologies: The dynamics of immigrant economic adaptation among Vietnamese refugees” Social Problems 41(1): 81–96.
Korac, M. (2002) “The role of the state in refugee integration and settlement: Italy and the Netherlands compared” Forced Migration Review 14(June): 30–32.
Korac, M. (2003) “Integration and how we facilitate it: A comparative study of the settlement experiences of refugees in Italy and the Netherlands” Sociology 37(1): 51–68.
Lawrence, T. B. and Hardy, C. (1999) “Building bridges for refugees: Toward a typology of bridging organizations” Journal of Applied Behavioral Science 35(1): 48–70.
Majka, L. (1991) “Assessing refugee assistance organizations in the United States and the United Kingdom” Journal of Refugee Studies 4(3): 267–283.
Majka, L. and Mullan, B. (2002) “Ethnic communities and ethnic organizations reconsidered: South-east Asians and Eastern Europeans in Chicago” International Migration 40(2): 71–92.
Marrus, M. R. (2002) The Unwanted: European Refugees from the First World War through the Cold War. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
Marshall, G. N. , Schell, T. L. , Elliott, M. N. , Berthold, S. M. , and Chun, C.-A. (2005) “Mental health of Cambodian refugees two decades after resettlement in the United States” JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association 294(5): 571–579.
Martin, S. F. (2004) Refugee Women. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
McSpadden, L. A. (1999) Negotiating masculinity in the reconstruction of social place: Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees in the United States and Sweden. In D. Indra (ed.) Engendering Forced Migration: Theory and Practice. New York: Bergahn Books, pp. 242–260.
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