Refugee research

Following the integration journeys of refugees

The new research report, Sustaining Welcome: Longitudinal Research on Integration with Resettled Syrian Refugees, interviewed over 200 resettled Syrian refugees each year between 2017 and 2020 to track changes in their integration experiences over time.

Through this interview-based approach, the report offers one of the most detailed assessment of Syrian refugee experiences in British Columbia (BC) to date.

The report finds that, despite acheiving multiple successes, refugees face a variety of barries in the early years in Canada that negatively impact their economic, social, mental and physical well-being.

The research recommends a number of policy intiatives to address these barries including greater mental health support and programing to develop refugee friendship networks.

Watch the webinar!

On Wednesday November 15th 2023, the lead authors of the report discussed its findings, recommendations and implications for BC’s and Canada wider integration efforts.

If you’re interested in refugee issues in Canada, you can watch the full event below:

Context and methodology

Since 2011, 6.6 million Syrians have become refugees. Canada welcomed over 47,000 through Operation Syrian Refugee between 2015 and 2017. 4,000 were resettled in BC.

This research brought together academic experts, front-line workers and practitioners including psychologists, social scientists, geographers and epidemiologists, to create a holistic understanding of the Syrian refugee post-arrival experience. 

As a result, the report provides a study of ‘integration in action’ and provides a detailed, multi-faceted view of the two-way exchanges btween refugees and Canadians that occur during the integration process.

Overall, the report aimed to:

  • Present the lived experiences of Syrian resettled refugees over time, through annual interviews.
  • Assess how Canadian resettlement policies and social dynamics among refugees influence their long-term health and well-being. 
  • Inform best practices to improve service-delivery for vulnerable refugees. 

Key findings:

Read the report summary infographics here.

Mental health challenges

Although not all refugee participants experienced depression, many did report mental health challenges caused by pre-arrival trauma and post-arrival stresses.

Social networks

Friendships were  highly valued by all participants for the economic and social benefits they provided, although women experienced greater social isolation due to additional caregiving responsibilities.

Language as pivotal

Often identified by interviewees as the key factor underpinning further integration, English language skills developed over time but, again, language learning among women was hindered due to familial duties and childcare.

Jobs and housing

Employment among refugee Syrians improved over time, especially among Privately Sponsored Refugees, men, Christians and younger refugees. Housing was a challenge for around 50% of interviewees, although the sense of belonging among the resettled refugees to Canada, their city and neighbourhood all increased over time.

Lessons and recommendations

Through identifying the various challenges  resettled Syrian refugees experienced in the early years of their settlement journey, the Sustaining Welcome report highlights the need for longer-term programming and an intersectional approach to refugee integration.

This approach should include:

  • Language-sensitive counseling.
  • Trauma-informed support.
  • Tailored settlement programs.
  • Dedicated employment opportunities for women and other barriered demographics.
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