Refugee Resettlement: A literature review

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01 Jan 2008
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01 Jan 2009

This international literature review on refugee resettlement policy, completed in November 2007, provides part of the information platform for progressing a multi-year, cross-departmental research project being led by the Department of Labour called “Refugees plus ten: perspectives on integration, identity and community”. It also contributes to a Department of Labour-led review of aspects of refugee policy related to the resettlement of refugees.

This review relates to the OECD and the European Union (EU), with an emphasis on the UNHCR and the following countries: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom and United States of America.

These countries were chosen because they are developed countries with resettlement programmes and offer a range of models and approaches to refugee resettlement.

The review provides a description of policies and practices regarding refugee resettlement. It also summarises available evidence from previous reviews of policy and practice to identify factors that contribute to the success or failure of resettlement policy and practice. The focus of the review is to summarise and organise, rather than analyse, the existing descriptive and analytical material in the literature.

For each of the countries listed, the review describes the legal and policy definitions used to categorise refugees. It also provides an overview of policies and practices including:

  • the rationale for the general policy and high level outcomes sought
  • selection eligibility – criteria and processes for selecting UNHCR quota refugees and factors taken into account when planning
  • resettlement and planning approaches, including models relating to:
    •  pre-arrival planning for quota refugees
    •  orientation programmes
    •  status
    •  geographical dispersal approaches
    •  approaches to service provision, including:
      • tendering and contracting of services
      • centralised service hubs
      • refugee-specific compared with mainstreamed services
      • length of time that refugees are eligible for specialist support services
  • roles and responsibilities across different sectors (government/local government/NGO/refugee communities/host communities) and the extent of coordination across these sectors
  • sector expectations of refugees
  • systems for auditing/monitoring/evaluating resettlement processes
  • approaches to funding (eg, contracting services)
  • systems and approach to monitoring outcomes.

Refugees face many challenges in common with other migrants, but they also have needs peculiar to their situation. It is unfortunate that much of the available literature discusses policies, services and integration issues for migrants generally. In these cases, it either makes no specific reference to refugees, or does so only incidentally. In most cases it is difficult to assess how or where services for refugees fit into this broader picture.

There is increasing recognition of the complexity and diversity of immigration across the world. The European Union is working on a regional basis towards integration policies for migrants generally and towards a European resettlement programme for refugees. This work is still in the development phase, but material and concepts are included in this review where relevant.

In the United Kingdom and other countries, new models of delivery are being piloted and new contractual arrangements tested. While the report seeks to be as up to date as possible, in some cases the new procedures described have not yet been fully implemented and documentation is scarce or incomplete

Page last modified: 23 Jan 2020