Investigating Integration: The Geographies of the WUSC Student Refugee Program at the University of British Columbia

By Plasterer, Robyn | Refuge, Spring 2010 | Go to article overview

Investigating Integration: The Geographies of the WUSC Student Refugee Program at the University of British Columbia


Plasterer, Robyn, Refuge


Abstract

This paper examines the geographies of resettlement and integration with respect to the Student Refugee Program (SRP) of the World University Service of Canada (WUSC). As Canada's only program to link resettlement with post-secondary education, the SRP makes manifest intriguing geographies that intersect international, national, and local scales. This study carried out the first qualitative research of the WUSC SRP at the University of British Columbia (UBC). It draws from good settlement practices, refugees' existing skill sets, and refugees' perspectives to examine how refugee students' human capital can best contribute to Canadian integration.

Resume

Cet article examine les geographies de la reinstallation et de l'integration a l'egard du Programme d'etudiants refugies (PER) de l'Entraide universitaire mondiale du Canada (EUMC). Seul programme au Canada liant la reinstallation et l'education postsecondaire, le PeR rend manifeste des geographies interessantes qui croisent des echelles internationales, nationales et locales. Cette etude propose la premiere analyse qualitative du PeR de l'EUMC a l'universite de la Colombie-Britannique (UBC). Elle est guidee par de bonnes pratiques d'etablissement, les competences existantes des refugies et les perspectives de ceux-ci afin d'examiner comment le capital humain des refugies peut mieux contribuer a l'integration.

Introduction

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that over 805,000 refugees will be in need of resettlement over the next three to five years. (1) With 80 per cent of the world's refugees living in countries where local integration is not possible, and voluntary repatriation at its lowest level in twenty years, resettlement to a third country remains the only viable solution for hundreds of thousands of refugees worldwide. (2) Canada is often regarded as an international leader with respect to its refugee resettlement programs and policies (3) and collectively, Canada, the United States, and Australia accept over 90 per cent of refugees resettled each year. (4)

One program in particular has shed light on the immense value of resettlement, hot only as means for Canada to contribute to reducing global refugee crises, but also as means to enhance civic engagement and community-building within its national borders. The Student Refugee Program of the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) is the only program of its kind to link resettlement with post-secondary education. In doing so, it sheds light on the value of refugees as a source of human capital and has made it its mission to nurture this capital by providing refugees with access to higher education in Canada. Through its unique resettlement process, the SRP encompasses myriad geographies that intersect international, national, and local scales.

In examining the program and its history at the University of British Columbia (UBC), which is located in Vancouver in the Canadian province of British Columbia, I will consider how to build an integrative society by drawing from good settlement practices, refugees' existing skill sets and refugee perspectives. My research is framed with the following objectives:

1. to ascertain what recommendations sponsored refugee students have in terms of what should be included or considered in the design and implementation of integration services at the University of British Columbia; and

2. to determine what can be learned from the good practices that are already in place in the operations of immigrant and refugee serving organizations in Vancouver.

The need to examine refugee integration is a pressing issue in both academia and policy making. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has called for further research to "accurately assess the resettlement and integration success for Government-Assisted Refugees (GARs) and Privately Sponsored Refugees (PSRs)" (5) and refugee experts have claimed there is a dearth of "studies on refugee integration" and a lack of refugee perspectives in academic research. …

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