How Countries Measure Refugee Integration

The MRS Program Advancement and Evaluation unit has developed an overview of refugee integration metrics, allowing MRS staff and refugee resettlement stakeholders to take a closer look at refugee integration in an international context. This overview includes the integration approaches of the U.S., Canada, Australia, Germany and New Zealand.

What stands out is Canada’s attempt to define integration as a two-way process, asking both newcomers and Canadian-born residents to step up, in the sense that refugees are expected to make an effort to understand and respect the new societal values, while the receiving society is expected to get to know and appreciate the socio-cultural contributions refugees bring with them to Canada.

On the opposite end of the spectrum stands the German model, which puts the onus almost entirely on refugees. While the integration goal is to enable newcomers to participate fully in all aspects of German social, political and economic life, there are some strings attached for refugees (but not for the host community). Refugees are expected to learn German and to abide by the constitution. The peculiarity of the German integration model,  aside from its obsession with language acquisition, which should be no surprise for people familiar with Mark Twain’s brilliantly satirical analysis of “The Awful German Language” –  is the idea of utilizing sports as a facilitator of integration. This idea may be worth exploring more in the U.S., particularly in light of the tremendous successes of Atlanta’s “Fugees Family” and other American refugee soccer initiatives as a bridge from isolation to socialization and learning. Yet, in the United States – also no surprise – refugee integration is primarily measured in the sense of  economic integration, with some newly-added requirements for refugee host community consultations. The Australian integration model shares many indicators in common with approaches in the U.S., Canada, Germany and New Zealand. However, it does seem to emphasize the role neighborhood connections and home-ownership play in the integration process.

The most holistic of all four refugee integration models – United States, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Germany – is the Canadian model. It not only emphasizes newcomers’ access to employment and educational opportunities, healthcare, language development, social capital and a clear pathway to citizenship. It also stresses refugees satisfaction with their own resettlement experience.

Daniel Sturm, Refugee Integration in the International Context, Migration and Refugee Services/United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Program Advancement and Evaluation, 2016.

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