Online Program

Resettlement and integration of extracontinental refugees: A qualitative study of Sri Lankan Tamils in Brazil

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 : 4:43 p.m. - 4:56 p.m.

Kadhambari Sridhar, MPH, UNHCR, Falls Church, VA
Barbara Amaral, UNHCR Brazil, Brasilia, DF, Brazil
Resettlement of refugees to a country other than where they first seek asylum is one of the solutions employed when local integration ceases to exist and/or they face the threat of deportation. Of over 10.5 million refugees globally, less than one percent are resettled, mostly in the global North. In mid 2014 Brazil received 11 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees for resettlement. This study explores the provider and receiver perspectives of the resettlement program with emphasis on the coping mechanisms the refugees have employed to integrate into Brazilian society. 

Refugees received access to services such as Tamil language interpretation, Portuguese language classes, mental health counseling, and livelihood skills-training and were evaluated through in-depth interviews conducted individually in their native language. Key Informant Interviews were further conducted with various providers of health and social assistance. Transcripts were coded in a qualitative software to discern broader themes of integration with respect to achieving self-reliance, adjustment to the new environment, and handling past trauma from displacement. 

Language was a major barrier to access to services, as none of the providers were familiar with Tamil and there was a lack of Portuguese proficiency among refugees. While the final evaluation is on-going, a preliminary observation suggests a positive trend towards integration with a clear correlation between local integration and achieving conversational proficiency in Portuguese. There was a dramatic increase in access to services as the refugees began to comprehend the language and communicate their needs through an interpreter. Assistance with skills-training and employment search by the local NGO further improved their self-esteem with refugees reporting lesser symptoms of post-traumatic stress. 

At the multilateral level, Brazil will use the study to inform future strategy on extra-continental resettlement. At the local level, providers will utilize the experience from this program to improve practices with assisting refugees and specifically Sri Lankan Tamils.

Learning Areas:

Conduct evaluation related to programs, research, and other areas of practice
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Evaluate the refugee resettlement programs offered in the global South Describe the refugee perspective on accessing social assistance services Discuss the provider, donor, and implementing partner's experience with resettlement

Keyword(s): Refugees, Participatory Research

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have worked on issues related to vulnerable populations, women, and children for the past three years in the field of global health. My educational background in MPH combined training in qualitative and quantitative methodologies applied to humanitarian and post-conflict situations.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.