Canada has welcomed more than 40,000 Syrian refugees since 2015. As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, these refugees are welcomed, “… not as burdens, but as neighbours and friends. As new Canadians.” Given these aspirations, it is critical to have a rigorous understanding of the early integration trajectories of refugee populations, the obstacles they face and the resources they mobilize.
This project sets out to make important contributions to these questions by collecting and analyzing a unique data set. In collaboration with IRCC and settlement provider and refugee sponsorship organizations, we will conduct a longitudinal survey of Syrian refugees across a range of contexts in Canada. Refugees and, where applicable, one adolescent, will be interviewed in early 2019 and we will conduct a follow-up survey about 3 years later when they have, to varying degrees, mastered the initial adjustment to life in Canada. We complement and extend existing work which has mostly analyzed socio-economic and health-related integration challenges to include a range of socio-political outcomes: How will these newcomers become members of Canadian society and the Canadian polity? We will pay particular attention to the interplay between background characteristics, institutional, social and organizational experiences as well as family dynamics in the early phase of settlement.
In addition to providing a broad base of evidence for further research, the project has several unique features vis-à-vis existing research on refugees. First, the study will examine the different integration trajectories between publicly and privately funded refugees to better understand how their different backgrounds and experiences shape integration attempts.
Second, for the first time, we will collect data that links private sponsors to refugees allowing us to assess how sponsor characteristics and practices shape integration outcomes and how sponsor-refugee relations develop over time.
The third innovation is based on the sampling of family units instead of individual refugees, which enables us to capture the inter-generational dynamics of integration. This design is especially appropriate given the fact that a significant share of Syrian refugees arrive in Canada as families (e.g. with accompanying parents and extended family).
Finally, we are coordinating data collection with a similar project in Germany. This allows us to do a comparative analysis of the integration trajectories of Syrian refugees in Germany and Canada, which will provide additional insights into the importance of contexts of immigration.
Academically, this project will make contributions to several open questions in the study of early integration trajectories of refugees. It will shed new light on the role of social networks, family dynamics, and private sponsorship for integration outcomes. It will examine the influence of pre-migration experiences and the persistence of home-country and diaspora connections of refugees. These findings will inform policymakers, civil society groups and potential refugee sponsors alike about conditions that allow for successful integration of newcomers.