Friday, October 21, 2016

Refugee Resettlement Models in Canada and the US, and their Effect on Refugee Integration

Proposed Topic: Comparison of Refugee Resettlement Models in Canada and the US, and their Effect on Refugee Integration

(I will not immediately be taking the second part of the course)


Since 2011, more than 4 million people have fled war and violence in Syria, with no end to the conflict in sight. After comprehensive background checks, a small portion of Syrians have been resettled to Canada and the United States to start a new life. In fiscal year 2016, the Obama administration announced plans to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in the US.[i] The Government of Canada resettled more than 25,000 Syrian refugees during this same period, and both countries plan to continue resettling Syrian refugees in the future.

Although both governments have outlined their commitment, the two countries have different approaches to the resettlement process. In the US, the federally funded Refugee Admissions process is administered by resettlement agencies, and each refugee case is assigned a caseworker, who connects the individual or family with services upon arrival. In contrast, a significant portion of refugees resettled in Canada are sponsored through the Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) Program,[ii] where five or more Canadian individuals collect funds and contribute financially, and agree to provide the necessary support, including care and lodging, for the first 12 months after a refugee individual or family’s arrival.[iii] A comparative analysis of refugee resettlement systems in Canada and the US could yield useful insight into the relative levels of refugee integration after a 6 month resettlement period.

Research Questions
It would be interesting to see if the more informal network of at least five private sponsors in the Canadian model leads to closer relationships between refugees and members of their host communities, as well as improved access to services. In this analysis, the level of close ties between refugees and the host community is an indicator of community integration. Therefore, I propose to explore the following research questions:

Question: Does the Canadian sponsorship model promote greater ties between refugee populations and their host communities, and thus contribute to better integration?

Sub-question: Does the Canadian sponsorship model improve refugees’ access to local service providers?


The analysis will compare two communities with high refugee resettlement levels in the US and Canada. Individual refugees, caseworkers (in the US), sponsors (in Canada), members of the host community, and service providers will be surveyed to gauge connections between refugees and different members of the community after 6 months of arrival. The following attribute data will be collected for survey respondents:

·      Age
·      Gender
·      Country of origin
·      Ethnicity
·      Religion
·      Education level
·      Level of English (or French in certain Canadian provinces)
·      Language(s) spoken
·      Location of resettlement
·      Family income
·      Employment status

This information will already be available for refugee clients as a requirement of their application for refugee status, but it would have to be collected from other community members.  In addition, local providers who deliver each of these services in the local community will also be surveyed:

·      Vocational Training and Re-certification
·      Education
·      Health Care Providers
·      Mental Health Services
·      English Language Training
·      Youth Programs
·      Women’s empowerment programs
·      Services for the elderly

In order to gauge tie strength between refugees and the host community, the survey will ask the following questions:

Refugee clients:
·         Who do you interact with in the community?
o   How often do you interact with them?
§  Scale of 1-3: 1 (Rarely), 2 (Occasionally), 3 (Frequently)
o   Please indicate whether your sponsor/ caseworker connected you to this individual
·         What services have you accessed (from the list of providers above)?
o   How were you connected to these services?
§  Sponsor/ caseworker
§  Family Member
§  Friend
§  Other: ________
·         What services would you like to be connected to that you are not receiving?

Sponsors, caseworkers and host community members:
·         How often do you interact with each refugee client?
                    i.     Scale of 1-3: 1 (Rarely), 2 (Occasionally), 3 (Frequently)
·          Have you connected refugee clients to service providers in the community? If so, which providers?

Questions to ask service providers:
·         Have you provided services to refugees resettled from Syria?
·          If so, how often have they come to you for services?
§  Scale of 1-3: 1 (Rarely), 2 (Occasionally), 3 (Frequently)
·          If known, did a caseworker or sponsor connect these individuals to your services?

Network Measures

In order to analyze the level of integration of Syrian refugees in their new communities, each network’s density would have to be analyzed, as well as the number of reciprocal connections each refugee client has with members of the host community. The levels of homophily versus heterophily would also indicate whether refugees are connecting to individuals from the host community, or are connecting to individuals from their own background. Both types of connections could provide important levels of support and social capital for resettled refugees, but a network with a high level of heterophily would indicate a higher level of integration with the host community.

 In addition, the strength of the ties should be analyzed to measure whether these connections are more superficial, or whether they indicate strong bonds. The ties between refugees and service providers should also be analyzed to see what types of services refugees are accessing, and what types of services they might be missing based on the attribute data, or their responses to the survey. The two communities should then be compared to see whether the Canadian and US models result in different levels of integration.

Centrality measures such as degree and betweenness could also provide further insight. The individuals with high in-degrees could indicate potential leaders in the community, and could be consulted when looking at ways to improve integration processes. In addition, those with high betweenness scores could be key in connecting Syrian refugees with other members of the host community, as well as potentially crucial services. The levels of betweenness and in-degrees between caseworkers and sponsors could also be compared to see if one type of position is better at providing refugee clients with connections in the community.

As Canada and the US continue to resettle Syrian refugees, social network analysis should give vital insight into the levels of refugee integration for each resettlement model, and identify specific services where refugees tend to be well-connected or poorly connected. This analysis could yield a valuable comparison as policy makers consider the structures they want to implement in order to successfully resettle Syrian refugees.

When broken down by attribute data, the social network analysis will also allow for a better understanding about which groups of individuals might be particularly vulnerable or isolated. For example, are women and men connected to the same level of services, or is one group more connected than the other? Are the elderly or those with very low levels of English less connected than other groups? Such findings could help resettlement agencies and sponsors find out who they should target for additional services.

In contrast, the analysis could also reveal resettled individuals who are particularly well-connected to the host community and to a wider array of services. In the Canadian model this information could point to particularly effective sponsorship groups, while in the US model, the data could identify those caseworkers who are most effective at connecting refugees. These successful cases could then be further researched in order to develop best practices for the wider network. In the end, both Canada and the US need to make sure that Syrian refugees are as well integrated as possible so that they can restart their lives, contribute, and hopefully flourish in their new community.

-Floor D.

[i] #RefugeesWelcome: U.S. Admits 10,000 Syrian Refugees (n.d.). Retrieved October 20, 2016, from

[ii] An Alternative Way to Resettle the Refugees- WSJ. (n.d.). Retrieved October 20, 2016, from

[iii] Guide to the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program. (n.d.). Retrieved October 20, 2016, from

1 comment:

Christopher Tunnard said...

Interesting and timely idea. Your Question is along the right lines, but what would make it better is if you defined what you mean by "promote greater ties" and "improve access." This would also help define the networks you're looking at (multi-modal refugees/caseworkers/sponsors/funders?)as it's not clear how you'r going to establish relationships among them and between them. Your selection of SNA measures is good, but I would also add something on subgroups /cliques, as this could be an early-warning indicator of either potential problems or successes. This is supported by your excellent point about isolation by attribute. H

Great project, one which would attract a lot of support in the Fletcher community. When you want to do this, come see me!