Refugee Council of Australia
Crcp on stage
Home > News > 2024 CRCP Working Group on Settlement and Integration

2024 CRCP Working Group on Settlement and Integration

Overview

125 government, UN and civil society representatives from 14 countries gathered in Sydney from 26-29 February 2024 for a four-day exchange on approaches to refugee settlement support as part of the international Consultations on Resettlement and Complementary Pathways (CRCP), co-chaired by the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA).

Organised by RCOA, the Department of Home Affairs, UNHCR and the CRCP Refugee Advisory Group, the Working Group on Resettlement meeting featured two days of visits to settlement programs around Sydney and two days of discussions about current approaches to the key challenges involved in supporting refugees as they are resettled into a new society.

Showcasing Australian approaches

The first two days of the CRCP Working Group meeting involved visits to various sites in the Greater Sydney area to showcase Australian approaches to settlement and provide an Australian context for the discussions to follow.

Site visits were organised with the leadership of 19 organisations around nine key themes:

  • The refugee settlement journey in Australia – hosted by SSI and Australian Red Cross
  • Complementary pathways in practice – community sponsorship – hosted by Community Refugee Sponsorship Australia
  • Complementary pathways in practice – Skilled Refugee Labour Agreement Pilot – hosted by Talent Beyond Boundaries
  • Education, training and language learning – hosted by Granville TAFE
  • Economic participation – hosted by Community Migrant Resource Centre
  • Refugee health and wellbeing – hosted by STARTTS and NSW Refugee Health
  • Refugee-led organisations and approaches – hosted by NSW Refugee Communities’ Advocacy Network, Great Lakes Agency for Peace and Development, Assyrian Resource Centre, Australian Afghan Hassanian Youth Association, Afghan Peace Foundation and STARTTS
  • Youth settlement – hosted by MYAN Australia
  • Local level coordination and planning – hosted by RCOA in collaboration with the Department of Home Affairs, Multicultural NSW, Cumberland and Orange local councils

Common threads echoed across different sites about effective Australian approaches highlighted the importance of collaborative and constructive partnerships between government, civil society, the private sector and refugee communities, and the importance of holistic and strengths-based approaches. These insights carried through to conversations at the WGR Plenary.

For a glimpse of what our international visitors were introduced to during site visits, see the Humanitarian Settlement in Australia’ and How SSI supports newcomers to settle in Australia videos, produced for the refugee settlement journey site visit.

Working Group on Resettlement (WGR) Plenary

Plenary themes

Opening

The 2024 WGR Plenary opened with Uncle Allen Madden welcoming participants to Gadigal Country. It was an important reminder of the role host communities play in welcoming refugees and the work we need to do to orient newcomers to the history, culture and traditions of First Nations people.

Jackie Keegan (UNHCR), Paul Power (Refugee Council of Australia), Andrew Kiley (Department of Home Affairs) and Julia Sheikh (CRCP Refugee Advisory Group) provided opening remarks about the plenary. They focused on post-settlement support services, third country solutions, long-term integration of refugees, refugee voices in solutions and collaboration between refugees, governments and civil society.

The Minister of Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Andrew Giles, joined by video and shared Australia’s plans. The Minister spoke about Australia’s commitment to strengthening the partnership with UNHCR and countries for resettlement and complementary pathways, as evidenced by the Australian government’s pledges made at the Global Refugee Forum in December 2023.

Complementary pathways, settlement and integration

Day one of the plenary began with a focus on the global refugee situation and CRCP goals towards the 2030 Roadmap. Speakers from UNHCR, the US Community Sponsorship Hub, the UK Home Office and Nasc Ireland explored settlement and integration in the context of complementary pathways. Panellists spoke about the practical challenges many countries are experiencing with housing, cost-of-living and affordability, as well as exciting developments in education pathways, community sponsorship and social investment approaches towards integration. Panellist Basma Alawee summarised the importance of learning and sharing knowledge with each other: “Movements are not built by slogans, but through understanding.”

Housing

In the opening plenary, the CRCP Accommodation Working Group provided an update on its work. The group announced the establishment of the Global Refugee Accommodation Working Group (GRAWG), led by the Irish government. The panel discussed progress of the working group, where innovations have been shared including the work of purpose-led business, repurposing old, empty and abandoned buildings, and lessons learned from community-based approaches to accommodating Ukrainian refugees. The group emphasised greater communication between local and federal government about housing stock availability to inform where people are placed/resettled, building design and other considerations, including regular and reliable public transport and strategically placing refugees with driver licenses in areas with irregular public transport. Other recommendations included inviting more international member organisations to actively work towards providing affordable, safe housing.

“By 2030, 40% of the world will face housing issues. It is essential we work together on affordable, safe housing.” – Panellist

A breakout session on Day 1 also highlighted the widespread impact of housing crises around the world and accommodation solutions in the context of refugee resettlement. Safe and affordable housing was seen as a fundamental right for refugees and broader communities. Panellists began discussions on the importance of cross-sector global coordination and bringing people together to bring innovative solutions from different states and civil society organisations. Keeping a strengths-based “what it is that you want” and flexible approach, not one-size-fits-all mass housing plans. Norway adjusted different types of grants to benefit municipalities to find new and innovative ways of finding housing, trying to be in sync with 356 municipalities. Oslo opened old nursing homes with singles and families living on separate floors. Other councils constructed modular buildings. Close dialogue with local and national government was important to facilitate solutions, webinars and conference with municipalities to share knowledge and information.

“Safe and affordable housing is a fundamental right.” – Panellist

Trauma-informed services

A plenary session on principles and practices of trauma-informed services provided important insights into refugee mental health care and support, challenges and programs. Trauma is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. Panellists from Australia, New Zealand and the United States emphasised the need to understand refugee experiences in the context of trauma, approaches to intergenerational trauma, ongoing training for staff and need for cultural approaches to mental health support. Programs and services focused on trauma informed and whole family approach, culturally relevant psychological treatment, strengths-based and trauma-informed case management support, community interventions and social connection.

“We need to allow newcomers some time to ‘settle in’ and provide services over a period of time using appropriate psychosocial supports at appropriate times.” – Panellist

Changing the conversation on resettlement and refugees

The last session on Day 1 focused on the important question of how to change public narratives on refugees and resettlement and provided examples of dynamic solutions to promote welcoming and inclusive societies. Panel members noted the challenges around stereotyping, political panic and misunderstandings about refugees. Panellists discussed efforts to shift the narrative through meaningful contact between migrant and non-migrants, research initiatives on belonging and refugee-led advocacy. This included welcoming refugee and face-to-face storytelling programs to address misconceptions. Welcoming International emphasised the need for government leadership, equitable access, civic engagement, education, connected communities, economic development and safe communities. Refugee-led advocacy featured as important vehicles of transformation and self-determination. Initiatives such as the Face-to Face Program enabled refugees to design programs and take ownership of their stories, while informing the public about their lived experience through the process of truth-telling.

“People with lived experience are not merely survivors, but powerful initiators for change.” – Panellist

How does size matter?

The first panel of Day 2 commenced with a discussion on how the size of programs makes a difference to settlement and integration. It addressed settlement experiences in smaller national programs from Ireland, Italy and Norway. One of the key advantages with small countries was the ability to build key partnerships with stakeholders, governments, central/municipal/federal/provincial/council municipalities easier in small countries. Challenges include numbers of people seeking asylum, pressure on services, infrastructure, accommodation and time delay in accessing services. Important to from coalitions of small countries to share experiences and best practice, as well as including refugee voices in decisions.

“38% of world intake of refugees go to smaller countries like Norway, Ireland and New Zealand. This means that collectively they contribute massively to the sustainability of global resettlement.” – Panellist

Refugee engagement: integrating expertise and experience

The final panel of the WGR provided important insight into informed decision-making and what support is needed for refugee leadership in decision-making and implementation roles. Former refugees at grassroots can act as conduit between settlement services and governments. The panel mentioned former refugees have always been a part of the refugee system as lawyers and participants in drafting conventions, setting up advisory groups, shaping policy and decisions. Advice from refugee advocates and panellists was “not to put all refugees in one basket,” they come from different educational, professional and socio-economic backgrounds. Programs need to be tailored and consultation with refugee communities is required. Panellists spoke about the need to engage and educate host and refugee communities in helping communities to settle.

“My message to refugee representatives…please don’t be gatekeepers; speak to communities so you can help and cater for those communities.” – Panellist

Breakout discussions

Multi-stakeholder and private sector partnerships

A concurrent session on Multi-stakeholder and Private Sector Partnerships explored how all sections of society can support successful integration of refugees. Examples from Welcome Japan and Ireland’s community sponsorship program were provided around employment and education pathways. Issues discussed included sense of belonging, housing as a barrier, lack of confidence in skills of refugees and results of research on the key factors of success. Lawrence Huang from the Migration Policy Institute shared preliminary findings from research about employer motivations to hire refugees and barriers that lead to loss of interest. MPI’s research suggests that employers have both value-based and economic motivations to hire refugees, and that it was uncertainty associated with long timelines for visa processing and potential post-arrival settlement costs when hiring refugees were viewed as drawbacks by employers.

Orientation innovations

A breakout session on Orientation Innovations explored the need to tailor orientation sessions for diverse newcomers, ensuring refugees have a sense of control, and orientation is designed with an understanding of what newcomers want to know. We heard about an application to assist with linking pre- and post-arrival orientation with a continuum of learning. Emphasis on incorporating virtual and hybrid options of orientation as well as innovation in the IOM Pre-departure program. Additionally, the orientation phase during the offshore orientation and onshore should be synchronised.

Youth programs and inclusion

Representatives from MYAN Australia, the Global Taskforce on Refugee Education and New Zealand’s National Refugee Youth Council kicked off discussions in a breakout on Youth Programs and Inclusion. Here, ideas on how to foster belonging amongst young refugees and the importance of considering intergenerational variations were explored. Panellists spoke about the importance of codesign of youth transitions support, working together with young people to lobby for policy change, initiating youth leadership programs, cultural orientation and academic support programs in Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

“We recruit young people to support and equip them, so they can flourish and thrive and become leaders to assist others.” – Panellist

“The beauty of our young leaders is their diversity and lived experience.” – Panellist

LGBTQIA+ settlement and integration

This session focused on the experiences of LGBTQIA+ refugees in settlement and integration, including on how to develop inclusive service practices to address unique challenges faced by LGBTQIA+ refugees. Lack of services available for LGBTQIA+ refugees lead to double isolation from mainstream community and refugee community. Panellists spoke about educating and bringing forth awareness to understanding the barriers the refugee LGBTQIA+ communities are facing to further assist with advocacy. This includes education for the public as well as refugee communities. The importance of pre-arrival orientation on LGBTQIA+ with adequate education for expectation management. The panel spoke about importance of collaborating with LGBTQIA+ refugees to include training staff to support and address biases.

Economic participation

Participants heard about initiatives to reduce existing barriers to economic participation, and outcomes for enabling refugee owned businesses, support for overseas qualified refugees, language and employment programs and the need to invest and fund social enterprises. Programs offered by Thrive Refugee Enterprise in Australia and HIAS and Upwardly Global in the United States, focused on financial wellness, budgeting, CV support, job readiness training and entrepreneurship. Broader private system to unlock, sector and social impact need to coordinate with other departments with diversity and inclusion programs.

“Successful economic participation is fundamental – cannot be peripheral. Needs to be woven into the settlement process…social and economic success intersect.” – Panellist

Disability, settlement and integration

The first concurrent session on day two examined Disability, Settlement and Integration programs and initiatives for those with complex health needs. It looked at restoring agency to individuals with disability, priority selection and the additional challenges in assessing needs and accessing mainstream services. Solutions included recruiting trained disability navigators to work with families to assess needs, establishing specific youth networks to share experiences and support young refugees with disability and training settlement workers how to work with refugees with disability. On a systematic level, settlement services to engage with national government and non-government agencies to better understand needs and share challenges and solutions.

Addressing domestic and family violence

The second concurrent session focused on addressing domestic and family violence in the context of settlement and integration processes. Panellists explain how settlement services are the first to meet families and hear the disclosure of potential domestic, physical, or sexual violence. Basic services are limited (court delays from lack of interpreters), current housing crisis, safe houses may not have interpreter services and social isolation. Panel discussed the need to provide women with the agency to make their own decisions and safety of themselves and potentially, their family. Discussed the need for community work (e.g. education on different dynamics and parenting), training qualified staff, building women groups, men’s groups, having conversations with community leaders.

Building responsive and inclusive service systems

This discussion looked at how refugee and settlement expertise can be integrated into wider service systems. Refugee representation was a strong theme. Emphasis on valuing the participation and recommendation of refugees, and for systems to have a “truth telling” component. In the policy domain, panellists spoke about enabling refugee voices to inform policy at every step from best practice, settlement planning and evaluation. Refugees to be treated as experts/consultants with renumeration, compensation/financial in-kind and long-term employment prospects. Stronger linkages between pre-and post-arrival efforts to better support and prepare refugees for settlement, especially around household budgets and financial literacy before arrival.

How do we measure success?

A civil society-led discussion on day two explored the question of how to measure success. The main themes to emerge was the need to collect various forms of data which can inform the success of services to refugees. Participants discussed the link between settlement services and settlement outcomes. There was a need to understand the causative link between the two – which allows for an increased ability to advocate for and/or adapt services to better meet needs. Importance of data sharing between countries was raised, and how to improve services and advocate for further or continued funding. Discussion around potentially setting up an international working group to define different indicators/outcomes/elements to be measured, which would allow for a more cohesive, global understanding of outcomes for refugees. Refugee programs should be designed with the help of and led by refugees.

“We really need to think harder about how to design programs that are effective, agile and evidence-based…we don’t have this figured out yet.” – Participant

Be a champion for refugee rights

Join our mailing list and be the first to receive active resources. We need you to show Australia cares about refugees.

Search

  • Category

  • Topic