The initial post-arrival adjustment process of recently arrived humanitarian entrants : a case study of entrants from Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan in Sydney, Australia

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The purpose of this research is to examine the initial post-arrival process of recently arrived humanitarian entrants into Sydney, Australia from three non-traditional source countries, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. Resettlement was examined from social, economic and health perspectives, with the determinants influencing the settlement process being identified as a precursor to understanding the long-term adjustment process. A literature review on settlement adjustment from a multidisciplinary approach confirmed the dearth of research on early refugee settlement experience in Australia and overseas for groups other than the Indochinese. Such research has tended to concentrate on one of the specific aspects of settlement rather than attempting a holistic approach to understanding adjustment patterns. Subsequently, 44 key informants, representing over 25 different organisations providing services (both government and non-government) to humanitarian entrants, were individually surveyed to gather information on their clients' needs, perceptions and problems. Issues emerging from both the literature review and key informants' survey formed the basis of a survey of 172 recently arrived Bosnian, Iraqi and Afghan humanitarian entrants. Among the statistical tools used to analyse the entrants' surveys were Pearson's correlation coefficient, analysis of variance, Kendall's tau correlation, Spearman's rho correlation and Cronbach's alpha. Results indicated that during the initial settlement stage, the former socio-economic background of the entrants has little impact on their economic, social or health adjustment. Instead, the conditions of departure, such as the loss of property, long-term incarceration, torture and trauma, were found to have a far reaching influence on the entrants' social and health experiences in their new country; however, despite the variety of traumatic pre-departure experiences, the resilience of the entrants reinforced their determination to participate in the workforce. Although commonalities were found among the three groups in settlement outcomes, there were also distinct differences. The groups shared difficulties such as post-arrival unemployment, lack of suitable accommodation and family reunion concerns. However, the Bosnians, for example, experienced the greatest degree of health-related problems, the Iraqis expressed the greatest interest in sponsoring family members and the Afghans were the most well-adjusted of the three groups. Detailed policy implications are also presented; these emphasise that humanitarian entrants may experience adjustment difficulties qualitatively different from those of traditional migrants and argue for improved support services.
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