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The European immigration crisis has increased the attention on practices and policies that can support newcomers’ integration. In 2016, the British government officially launched the Community Sponsorship Scheme, which allows individuals to support the resettlement of vulnerable refugee families to the UK. The scheme seems to be a more successful way to integration than the other resettlement programmes as the Gateway Protection Programme, the Mandate Refugee Programme and the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement (VPR) Programme. An explanation of this success seems to be that through the Community Sponsorship Scheme refugees build easily social relationships with the hosting community, which allow them to build a strongest social capital. However, even if the importance of social networks is widely recognised, there is a lack in the literature about refugees’ networks. The purpose of this research is to feel this gap and to compare social networks of resettled refugees from the four different scheme, Gateway Protection, Mandate, VPR and Community Sponsorship; and critically analysing if this latter scheme is powerful to create valuable social networks, which facilitate refugees’ integration.
Elliott and Yusuf state that the relationships between individuals and their social networks “provide the invisible glue holding society together” (Elliott and Yusuf, 2014: 101). They also seem to be significantly important for refugees, which as individuals who, with a high probability, have been through traumatic and dangerous experiences have a limited access to human and financial resources. “One of the few resources available to most refugees is social capital in the form of social support networks” (Lamba and Krahn, 2003: 336). The concepts of social capital and social networks are often overlapping in literature. However, using these two terms as interchangeable means to take for granted that social networks are always valuable and functional in producing social capital. Critically discussing this assumption, this research will describe the kind of social networks that resettled refugees build. The aim is to understand if these relationships are valuable in order to access social capital. For this purpose, social capital is defined as “the sum of the resources, actual or virtual, that accrue to an individual or a group by virtue of possessing a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition” (Bourdieu, in Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1992: 119).
Another clarification necessary for the development of this research is the distinction between the four British refugee resettlement programmes. The Mandate Refugees Scheme (MRS) is the oldest programme and allow refugees with a close family member already in the UK to resettle, while the Gateway Protection Programme (GPP) is for 750 refugees every year who have humanitarian or security needs such as having been for an extended period in a refugee camp. The other two schemes, the VPRS and CSS, are instead more recent and in principle have been launched to help Syrian families, while now there are been opened up to refugees from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. The peculiarity of the CSS is that local groups and simple individuals, instead of political authorities, are the key actors in the refugee’ resettlement. They are responsible for providing an accommodation for at least two years, raising £9000 per householder and researching services such as ESOL classes, Health and Mental facilities to support the resettled family for at least one year from their arrival in the UK. “Community groups take on the responsibility of welcoming, supporting and settling refugee families” (Sponsor Refugees, 2018). This form of private sponsorship was firstly established in Canada in 1979 to help Vietnamese refugees and since there it has resettled more than 300,000 refugees from all around the world.
The propose of the study is therefore to understand the kind of social network that refugees resettled through the Community Sponsorship Scheme build and to compare it with the other three UK resettlement programme. The results will not only enlarge the academic literature about refugees and integration, but they will have the aim to inform integration policy and practices. The research’s findings will also support the work of community sponsor groups who are or are planning to help a vulnerable refugee family as well as different charities who work to promote the scheme such as RESET and SPONSOR REFUGEES. More generally, the research’ results will be useful to all the charities and NGOs working with refugees.
The questions that will lead this research are:
- What kind of social network do refugees resettled through the Community Sponsorship Scheme build?
- If and how the refugees’ social network, emerging from the Community Sponsorship Scheme, is different from the social network of refugees resettled through the other three UK programme: Gateway Protection Programme, the Mandate Refugee Programme, and the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement (VPR) Programme.
The research expects to find that refugees develop different kinds of social networks, not only in accordance with the different resettlement programmes through have they moved to the UK, but also in relation to their private history. Consequently, it is predicted that even between refugees resettled through the Communality Sponsorship Schemes the social networks are various. However, the research also hypothesis that through the Gateway Protection Programme, the Mandate Refugee Programme and the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement (VPR) Programme refugees remain more in contact with people from their country of origin, while through Community sponsorship scheme refugees build new networks with people living in the UK. These new networks include befrienders involved in the Sponsorships groups, but also neighbours, teachers, co-workers, service providers and other local community members. The research assumes that those more extensive networks are extremely important to facilitate and assist the refugee integration in the new country. They are valuable because they mitigate the challenges raised from integration both for the new arrivals and for the local communities.
The research will be qualitative and participatory, based on a social network analysis and narrative approach. Observations will be also used to fill the gap of qualitative data and to fulfil the research’s objective and purpose, providing an analysis more detailed and genuine. The aim of the research is not to find general and universal principles, but to critically analyse the outcomes of determinate relationships and identify practical ways, which facilitate integration. Therefore, a narrative approach will be used to rethinking the challenges of settling in a new country in a constructive way, where both refugees and host communities would benefit. To collect refugees and community members’ stories, fill notes will be used as an additional tool to support research’s evidence. Members of community sponsorship groups and refugees both resettled through the Sponsorship Scheme and the other three programmes will be involved in the research. The limitations of this approach are undeniable if considering the often-precarious status in which refugees live. Moreover, besides their difficult situation, it is likely that the refugees are not interested in taking part in the research as they can have issues more relevant to solve and deal with. Languages is another limitation, alongside with limited availability by refugees. However, it is likely that refugees who have already obtained the indefinite leave to remain and exceptional leave to remain have more interest and availability as they would have settled in the UK for more time and have more access to supports. The research also expects to have more male than female participants both for a cultural reason which tends to limit the female activities outside the family both for a languages issues, as refugees women are often less educate and able to speak English than men.
7. Significance of Research
The research is significant in strengthening the current debate on Integration and the refugee crisis. In the first place, the research is important academically as it will cover the lack of findings around refugee networks and the consequent access to social capital. The results will be of interest to students and scholars of social policy, sociology, cultural studies and social psychology. Secondly, NGOs, charities and individuals working with refugees and migrants can benefits from the research’s findings, exploring ways to support newcomers adequately in the integration process. Finally, but extremely important, the research aims to provide useful information which can drive the government’s policy and practices in integrating refugees and migrants.
- Bourdieu, P. and Wacquant, L. (1992). An invitation to reflexive sociology. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
- Cheung, S. and Phillimore, J. (2013). Social networks, social capital and refugee integration. [online] Available at: https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/college-social-sciences/social-policy/iris/2013/nuffield-refugees-integration-research-report.pdf [Accessed 11 Nov. 2018].
- Elliott, S. and Yusuf, I. (2014). ‘Yes, we can; but together’: social capital and refugee resettlement. Kōtuitui: New Zealand Journal of Social Sciences Online, 9(2), pp.101-110.
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- Hynie, M., Crooks, V. and Barragan, J. (2011). Immigrant and Refugee Social Networks: Determinants and Consequences of Social Support Among Women Newcomers to Canada. Canadian Journal of Nursing Research, 43(4), pp.26-46.
- Lamba, N. and Krahn, H. (2003). Social capital and refugee resettlement: The social networks of refugees in Canada. Journal of International Migration and Integration / Revue de l’integration et de la migration internationale, 4(3), pp.335-360.
- McMichael, C. and Manderson, L. (2004). Somali Women and Well-Being: Social Networks and Social Capital among Immigrant Women in Australia. Human Organization, 63(1), pp.88-99.
- Sponsor Refugees. (2018). The Story of community sponsorship of refugees in the UK. [online] Available at: http://www.sponsorrefugees.org/the_story [Accessed 25 Nov. 2018].
- Williams, L. (2006). Social Networks of Refugees in the United Kingdom: Tradition, Tactics and New Community Spaces. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 32(5), pp.865-879.
- Wessendorf, S. and Phillimore, J. (2018). New Migrants’ Social Integration, Embedding and Emplacement in Superdiverse Contexts. Sociology, p.003803851877184.
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