When self-sufficiency is not sufficient: Refugee integration discourses of US resettlement actors and the offer of refuge

Authors: Emily Frazier*, Northwest Missouri State University
Topics: Migration, Cultural Geography, Immigration/Transnationalism
Keywords: refugee, resettlement, refuge, integration, U.S.
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 36
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Resettlement in a third country is fundamental in the protection of displaced persons, yet the offer of refuge encompasses more than mere admission into a country. In the U.S., various resettlement organizations provide arrival services; however, the resettlement program’s ability to support long-term integration is restricted by an emphasis on economic self-sufficiency. Resettlement practices are shaped by the integration discourses of multiple resettlement actors, a term encompassing expectations, aspirations, and conceptions of ‘ideal’ refugee integration. This article explores the work of resettlement agencies and refugee ‘third sector’ organizations (RTSOs) by examining three organizations in a southeastern U.S. city. Contesting government expectations of rapid ‘self-sufficiency’, RTSOs expand the offer of refuge provided in resettlement. They provide opportunities for social contact between volunteers and refugees, and prioritize the formation of community and relationships. However, these organizations also reproduce neoliberal discourses of integration, ultimately constraining possibilities for expanded refugee integration.

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