Understanding Integration: A Conceptual Framework essay

The process of integration of refugees is a complex process as it requires much time and effort to achieve refugees’ full potential as members of new society. Due to effective integration of refugees, it is possible to establish healthy conditions for the contribution of refugees to their community. According to Barbara E. Harrell-Bond (2013), “refugees are people who have been forced to leave their country because their lives are in danger”(p. 129). Refugees should be given an opportunity to exercise the appropriate rights and responsibilities that could be shared with other members of society (Strang & Ager, 2010; Moret et al., 2006). Refugees should feel that they belong to their community. In other words, integration of refugees can be identified as a dynamic process that requires constant improvement; therefore, the role of effective practices and frameworks developed in different countries of the world is important for promotion of local integration processes (O’Byrne, 2013). Today there are many countries which have already hosted a larger number of refugees (Ager & Strang, 2008).  European and other industrialized countries deal with this problem more effectively than developing countries, although these countries are less willing to accept new refugees. According to researchers, there is much evidence on considerable shift in the development and implementation of more restrictive admission policies regarding refugees. Not all countries are “inclined to accept new refugees or enable them to integrate” (Moret et al., 2006, p. 12). Based on recent analysis, many countries enjoy high refugee recognition rates, but there are obvious gaps between the established policies and practice, which influence the life of refugees, depriving them of their rights, including social support, employment and education opportunities. According to Heidi Savabi (2014), “in spite of the positive progression of Brazil’s refugee program, challenges remain, especially in terms of the refugee labor market, education, and societal integration”(p. 1). The major goal of this research paper is to explore best practice and frameworks of local integration of refugees of other countries, mainly Latin American Countries. The research helps not only to identify the best practices of local integration of refuges in other countries, but also to apply these practices and frameworks to Brazil.

The role of effective frameworks in promoting local integration of refugees

            To assess the role of effective practice and frameworks in promoting local integration of refugees in Brazil, it is necessary to identify the key areas in social development of refugee population that are influence the life of refugees. Actually, integration of refugees is a continuous process that results in establishing positive conditions that allow refugees and local community members to live in harmony (O’Byrne, 2013; Clarke et al., 2006).  In other words, refugees should be allowed to form a part of the host population. According to researchers, “integration places demands both on receiving societies and on the individuals and communities concerned”(Clarke et al., 2006, p. 19). It has been found that the adoption of the proper concepts of social capital helps to frame the key components of social connection in the process of integration of refuges. Special attention should be paid to the “bonds, bridges and links” which produce forms of interchange, mutual understanding and trust in social relations (Strang & Ager, 2010, p. 589).

            Due to practices and frameworks developed by different countries in order to enhance the process of local integration of refugees, it is possible to achieve success and improve the existing strategies, meeting the needs and requirements of refugees without elimination of the possibilities of local residents (O’Byrne, 2013).  In general, the process of integration includes three major dimensions that affect the lives of both refugees and local residents, namely legal, economic, social and cultural dimensions, based on the 2005 Report of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. These dimensions are very important for successful integration of refugees as fully included society members (Report of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2005). Ager and Strang (2008) suggest that the major domains of integration relate to four areas: “achievement and access across the sectors of employment, housing, education and health; assumptions and practice regarding citizenship and rights; processes of social connection within and between groups within the community; and structural barriers to such connection related to language, culture and the local environment” (p.166). In fact, these domains are included in the framework that promotes normative conceptions of refugees’ integration in certain resettlement settings.

            Generally speaking, effective frameworks in promoting local integration of refugees can  be implemented in various settings. The ways in which stakeholders (e.g. refugees, local residents, UNHCR, and governments), can collaborate help enhanced the promotion of  “shared and simultaneous development in refugee and national communities” (Dryden-Peterson & Hovil, 2004). It is very important to conceptualize the proper solution of local integration of refugees within the context of an international framework for further development and implementation (Dryden-Peterson & Hovil, 2004).

It is not a secret that many Latin American countries have been open to refuges starting from the early 20-th century to present day. For example, Latin American countries were important destinations for many survivors of the Holocaust during the WWII. According to researchers, about 20,000 Jewish displaced people immigrated to the countries of Latin America in the 1940s- 50s. They settled in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Panama, Costa Rica and other countries. Today the number of refugees has increased because of political conflicts, economic crisis and other factors. For example, Mexico has always been a destination for refugees from other countries of Latin America. Two significant historical examples include Civil War Refugees who came from Spain in the early 1930s -40s, refuges from Chile who came in 1973 and the refugees from Guatemala who came in the 1980s because of the Civil War (Dryden-Peterson & Hovil, 2004; Ager & Strang, 2008).

Some successful practices and frameworks of local integration of refugees

 in Mexico, Argentina and Uganda

Housing policy

            It is crucial to address the issue of the housing needs of refugees. In fact, housing is one of the major goals of local authorities working with different housing associations to meet these needs. According to researchers, “this will generate a major incentive for local authorities to meet the refuges housing targets in order to achieve their funding compliance and earn sufficient points for greater autonomy of action in the future”(Clarke et al., 2006, p. 25). Argentina has implemented framework to include refugees through a housing system initiated by the Ministry of housing (White, 2012).

Social support

In 2014, the main concern of the Office in Mexico is to provide social support and increased protection of refugees through consolidation of the Government’s capacities. The implementation of the new practice – the Quality Assurance Initiative, this framework can become successful. This practice enhances the protection of vulnerable migrants, particularly the children of refugees (UNHCR. The UN Refuge Agency. Official Website. 2014).  In addition, social support to refugees is provided by the Mexico Declaration and Plan of Action (MPA). This is an effective strategic framework that is aimed at addressing the “complex humanitarian situation resulting from forced displacement in Latin America” (Ippolito &  Abass, 2014, p. 52).

Protection of human rights

            In Mexico, special attention is paid to the protection of human rights of refugees. According to researchers, “most of the reforms implemented in Mexico – from recognizing the concept of refugee in the 1990s and the original decriminalization of undocumented entry in 2008, to the Migration Law and Constitutional Reforms of 2011- have been motivated by human rights” (González-Murphy, 2013, p. 153). The new Law of Refugees adopted in Mexico provides effective protection to individuals who do not have the official refugee status, but they are at high risk of torture, discrimination, abuse, maltreatment, or whose refugees whose lives are in danger.  Many refugees, who come to Mexico are from other Latin American countries, settle primarily in urban areas, where they are offered the proper legal protection of human rights. According to this law, refugee status is offered in accordance to the existing international treaties for individuals who claim being abused for their race, religion, political views or nationality. The law says that refugees will not be send anywhere that may put the lives and liberty of applicants at risk (Alba & Castillo, 2011). The new law states that refugees and asylum seekers are protected from prosecution for illegal entry into Mexico, as well as provides treatment of refugees with dignity and the requires opportunities and services, including education and health (González-Murphy, 2013).

Integration of HIV/AIDS programs

In Uganda, the Government of Uganda influenced the decisions of the Directorate of Refugees and UNHCR regarding the implementation of the Self-Reliance Strategy (SRS). This strategy can be viewed as an effective framework in solving health issues of refugees. The major goal of this practice is to “improve the standard of living of the people in Moyo, Arua, and Adjumani districts, including the refugees” (Strategies to support the HIV-related needs of refugees and host populations, 2005, p. 20). This practice is focused on improving food self-sufficiency, enhancing the access of refugees to social services, health and education opportunities. HIV/AIDS problems are faced by many refugees in Latin America. According to researchers, the number of people living with HIV/AIDS is constantly increasing. The statistical data show that in 2004, “the total number of people worldwide living with HIV reached its highest level ever, approximately 39.4 million people” (Strategies to support the HIV/AIDS-related needs of refugees and host populations, 2005, p. 5). The Government in Uganda has found the solution to HIV/AIDS-related issues facing refugees. As a result, in Uganda refugees have non-discriminatory access to various HIV/AIDS-related services, e.g. the delivery of antiretroviral therapy practices, etc. (Strategies to support the HIV/AIDS-related needs of refugees and host populations, 2005).

Education policy

In Mexico, the Government pays special attention to providing effective education policy for refugee children. This framework is crucial for the development of the nation. For example, in Mexico, refugee children attend their own primary schools in the settlements in order to improve their language skills and become more confident in communication. The process of integration is not fostered through joint schooling system although older refugee children are allowed to attend local high schools (Low, 2010, p.67). It is very important to develop local integration policies in the field of education to guarantee refugees a “progressively wider range of rights” in education and employment (Low, 2010, p.67).

The application of the best practices and frameworks

of local integration of refugees to Brazil

            Brazil has always been an attractive destination for refugees from other Latin American countries. Today immigration laws in Brazil include Law No. 6815 (1980) and Decree No. 86715 (1981), established by the National Immigration Council. According to Heidi Savabi (2014), “Brazil was the first country in the region to adopt the UNHCR Convention of 1951and the second country in South America to join the Protocol of 1967”(p. 1). In addition, Brazil is considered to be the first country in South America that was focused on regulation of refugee rights protection, based on the ratification of the United Nations’ major international mechanisms of protection. Although Brazil failed to sign the Cartagena Declaration of 1984, the Declaration’s expanded definition of  the term “refugee” was applied by the Government since 1989 (Savabi, 2014). Additionally, Brazil was the first country in Latin America to develop specific refugee laws. According to researchers, “Brazil has also been recognized as an emerging resettlement country since the start of the twenty-first century”(p. 1).

Although Brazil has been dealing with the problems of refugees for a long time, there are still many gaps in the use of effective policies and frameworks. For example, in 2007, there were 1,750 Angolan refugees in Brazil. According to researchers, “Angolan refugees received modest assistance (a monthly stipend of less than $100), and congregated in poor neighborhoods in the city center or in favelas” (Davila, 2010, p. 245).  Although Brazil’s immigration policy is aimed at accepting refugees actively, the overall number of refugee population in the country is rather low, “more or less 4,000” as compared with the general population in Brazil, more than 191 million people (Moreno & Colino, 2010, p. 81). This fact means that refugee policy is ineffective in Brazil and requires improvement (Moreno & Colino, 2010).  In comparison with other countries accepting refugees, Brazil demonstrates smooth process of integration of refugees in the national territories and local communities.

            As a result, the best practices and frameworks of local integration of refugees in other Latin American countries should be taken into consideration by the Government of Brazil (See Table 1). According to researchers, in Brazil, “human rights and democracy had a profound impact on political structures”(McConnachie, 2014, p. 134). The application of the best practices and frameworks could help to promote the significance of human rights principles in social development of the country. In addition, it is known that since the 1950s, Brazil has been committed to International Refugee Law. Although Brazil was under a dictatorship for a greater part of this period, some improvements had been made regarding refugee rights. For example, refugees could use the assistance of UNHCR, although the implementation of refugee rights protection was precarious (Jubilut, 2006).  Undoubtedly, re-democratization process in Brazil has led to passing a specific law on refugees, but certain improvements are still necessary to address the needs of refugees. According to Maria Beatriz Nogueira and Carla Cristina Marques (2011), “Brazil has been strengthening its position as an emerging country of resettlement”(p. 57). Successfully integration of refugees requires addressing a wide range of issues, including employment issues, education and language skills issues and the issues which involve the ability to access public services, enjoy citizenship rights, participate in political activity and develop social relations with the local community (Nogueira & Marques, 2011; Scalettaris, 2007). The National Committee for Refugees (or CONARE) is responsible for analysis of various situations, which require the application of the National Refugee Act and the established frameworks (Jubilut, & Oliveira Selmi Apolinário, 2010).


            Thus, it is necessary to conclude that the best practices and frameworks of local integration of refugees in many Latin American countries can be applied to Brazil in order to improve the process of integration, addressing the needs of refugee population. The ongoing plight of refugees in Brazil is an issue of concern for the Government. The number of refugees is growing. As a result, the Government should take into consideration the best practices and frameworks of local integration of refugees in other Latin American countries. As local integration of refugees is a complex economic, political, social and cultural process, special attention should be paid to legal, economic, social and cultural dimensions. In general, Brazil should use the existing tripartite structure, which involves the UNHCR, the Government of Brazil, and civil society practices combined with best practices and frameworks, developed by other countries, to succeed in providing integral protection to all refugees.

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