SEATTLE — “A refugee is someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” – 1951 Geneva Convention
Refugees flee their home country to a country of asylum, and once they are there, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) grants them legal refugee status. Once the individuals are granted refugee status, the UNHCR determines if they can be resettled in a third country after exhausting all efforts to help them return home or settle indefinitely in the country of asylum. Unfortunately, only about 1 percent of all refugees are able to be resettled in a third country.
Governments then have the requirement of creating and sustaining effective resettlement programs. These programs include general services for proper refugee integration in resettled communities.
Integration is essential to the refugees’ personal livelihoods. They aspire to find a meaningful job, own a house, provide schooling for their children and develop community relations. These are three stories of successful refugee integration in resettled communities.
An Afghan Refugee Becomes a Fish Expert in Norway
Asif Mohammadi was an Afghan refugee, resettled through the Norway program in 2004. His first goal in the country was to study Norwegian, which would assist him in finding work and earning a living in Norway.
In 2007, Asif decided to move to a city in the far north of Norway called Mo i Rana. His first job in the city was at a local grocery store where he willingly worked grueling hours and always provided superb customer service.
The owner of Fiskebua, the renowned fish shop located next to the grocery store, had taken note of Asif’s work ethic. One day, the owner decided to offer Asif ownership of the fish shop. Asif thought the owner was joking because before he had come to Norway, he had never even seen the ocean.
Currently, under Asif’s ownership, the fish store is thriving. With the help of his wife, who arrived in Norway in 2011, the couple dedicates their time to the store. They learned about fish and managing a business from the former owner.
Now, Asif and his wife have become successful in their own integration into the community. They feel respected by many people and are able to provide themselves with a good, meaningful life.
A Syrian Beekeeper in the U.K. Showcases Refugee Integration in Resettled Communities
Ryad Alsous, 64, was once a professor of agriculture at Damascus University, but once war hit Syria, he and his family had to flee the country. He arrived in the United Kingdom four years ago, abandoning his studies of beekeeping and environmental pollution.
In Syria, Alsous managed 500 beehives, producing 10 tons of honey a year. He developed a company to sell herbal and honey-based products with the honey from the hives.
Alsous had a hard time getting started in beekeeping in the United Kingdom. He eventually found a connection in the beekeeping field with the Huddersfield Beekeepers’ Association, where he volunteered.
After a few weeks of volunteering, Alsous posted on Facebook, asking whether anyone had an extra hive that could be donated to him. Luckily, one person from Manchester replied back, saying she had an extra hive containing a relatively endangered species.
Alsous said of beekeeping, “my aim is to cooperate with the community to improve the strain.” His apiary now comprises 17 hives, and he hopes to advocate for the endangered native species and share his knowledge with others.
A Vietnamese Refugee Turns His Hardships Into Works of Art in Canada
In 1980, Trung Pham fled Vietnam for Thailand on a small wooden boat, along with a lot of other people. Trung only carried a black leather satchel with his sketches and watercolor paintings.
While living at the Thai refugee camp, Trung found solace in sketching various inspirations. His brother John, who was studying in Japan, sent money to Trung to support his artistic talents. With the art supplies, Trung illustrated daily life in the camp.
To this day, Trung keeps these sketches of life in the camp stored in his basement. The memories from this time are still very real and vivid in his mind. The art reminds him of his struggles but also of the opportunity he received to resettle in Canada. His resettlement has given him the opportunity to diversify his artistic work and be appreciated by many because of his displays in the country’s most prestigious art institutions.
In all of these stories, successful refugee integration in resettled communities was achieved through different means, but all in ways that were beneficial for both the refugee and the community at large.
– Andrea Quade