Publication Date

2005

Abstract

Refugees are individuals who receive asylum outside of their country of origin, due to fear of persecution. The United States leads the world in the admission of refugees. One of the goals of U.S. refugee resettlement is to assist refugees in achieving self-sufficiency, in the form of employment, as soon as possible after arrival. However, the broader issues of empowerment and sustainability are overlooked. The researcher explored alternatives to the standard refugee resettlement and service system and asked the following research questions: 1) How would an empowerment approach impact refugee resettlement program design and service provision? 2) How would an empowerment approach impact refugees' resettlement experiences? Performing a literature review, the researcher compared lessons from international humanitarian aid and drew on international sustainable development theories in attempting to ask and answer these questions. Furthermore, the researcher employed qualitative research methods in the form of interviews with service providers in the refugee resettlement field to obtain qualitative data. The research suggests that allowing refugees to decide their self-sufficiency strategy upon arrival such as choosing employment, English-learning, intensive cultural orientation, or training may be a more empowering approach than channeling all refugees through a basic course that only meets the aspirations of the resettlement bureaucracy. Refugees and practitioners in the refugee service field may find a re-evaluation of the system helpful in realizing the goals for all involved in the resettlement process.

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