PATHWAYS TO INTEGRATION: LESSONS FROM AUSTRALIA’S HUMANITARIAN RESETTLEMENT PROGRAM
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The increased demand for refugee admissions and resettlement in developed countries makes it important for host countries to understand the refugee integration process. Yet, the literature on processes and pathways driving and facilitating integration is under-theorised, poorly understood, and in need of systematic research. This paper contributes to advancing our understanding of integration processes and the interaction between individual actions, social connections, and structural pathways by using the analytical framework of Merton’s (1968) theory on goals and means. Australia has been involved in the UNHCR resettlement program since 1977 and is one of the top three resettlement countries in the world. Despite considerable experience and policy and program efforts, humanitarian migrants experience lower economic and social integration than other immigrants, even after controlling for a range of factors such as human capital or pre-migration experiences. Drawing on data from an ethnographic study with recently settled South Sudanese refugees, and a longitudinal survey of humanitarian migrants in Australia, I demonstrate that the main reason for this poor outcome is a lack of accessible pathways to refugee migrants. I conclude by discussing the merits of host countries focusing their settlement policies on the processes of integration to ensure that resettled refugees have accessible pathways to turn their personal resources into economic and social participation.
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