Protection, Resettlement, and Integration:
Trends and Challenges in Serving African Refugees and Immigrants
MAY 16 - 17 , 2013•SHERATON PENTAGON CITY•900 SOUTH ORME STREET•ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA 22204
Forced movement of people caused by recent political unrest and ongoing conflict in regions of the continent have stretched to capacity the ability of international aid organizations and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to provide protection and resettlement options for displaced Africans. Despite existing international legal frameworks, changing priorities in global politics and lack of political will has created increasingly unsafe environments. At the 63 rd session of the Executive Committee, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Erika Feller, observed that most countries now convey the attitude: “Yes we sympathize with your plight, but resolve it please elsewhere” (3 October 2012).
Chronic underfunding of UNHCR in Africa results in limited ability to register, document, and establish safe refugee settlements. This challenge, along with a growing number of countries deferring responsibilities, has created critical gaps in refugee protection. On the domestic front, U.S. security and enforcement concerns have superseded protection policy actions for refugees and asylum-seekers, even while the overall outlook on refugee protection remains generous. Conference presenters will reflect on these issues and share perspectives on recent trends and challenges locally and globally.
Now as ever, African refugees are living in overcrowded camps with no foreseeable durable solution and little or no access to healthcare, social services, and education. Urban refugees and internally displaced people also face particular challenges in transforming potential legal entitlements into effective protection and sustainable livelihoods. This dire situation, compounded by growing numbers and gaps in protection, warrant the need to increase U.S. admissions of African refugees. Domestically, the refugee resettlement program needs to diversify the number and types of opportunities and resources available for refugees with various needs and capabilities. Childcare support for single women heads of household or recertification programs for professional refugees would facilitate greater self-sufficiency and integration. Participants drawn from federal partners and local agencies will update conference attendees on current admissions, processing, reception, and placement issues and related policy developments.
Currently, voluntary agencies (Volags) serve newly resettled refugees for a period of up to 90 days after arrival. Although the U. S. Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration has been successful in their efforts to increase the per capita income, challenges to integration remain for most African newcomers. Community-based organizations are particularly well positioned to assist in this transition and can provide critical resources and culturally appropriate services to newcomers. Leaders and members of community-based organizations will share ideas on efficient service provision and best practice experiences at the conference.