Refugee youth experience a range of challenges while transitioning and adapting to their new host country. In particular, refugee youth are disproportionately affected by trauma and distress. Refugee youth undergo a process of acculturation as they acclimatize to their new country. Acculturation refers to the multidimensional adaptation process of transitioning and assimilating into a new culture, which includes youth refugees’ perception of themselves in relation to their new surroundings. Refugee youth can experience several variations throughout this journey, including processes of assimilation, integration, marginalization, and separation (AIMS). Research has shown that those who retain and explore their heritage while integrating into their new country have the greatest success in acclimatizing to their new surroundings. On the other hand, those that experience marginalization, for example, are least likely to adjust to life in a new country.
|Acculturation is the multidimensional process of adapting, transitioning, integrating, and assimilating into a new culture. Refugee youth start to experience acculturation upon arrival in their host country.|
Acculturation includes a shift in identity for refugee youth, including changes in how they perceive the world and their host country. Strategies that support integration can help refugee youth flourish as their perception of surroundings and life shifts. Those who suffer from marginalization can experience an adverse change in perception, so it is crucial to appropriately prepare refugee youth for success. Longitudinal studies in Australia have found that focusing on several key transitions can support integration. These include pre-arrival preparation, the transition from language acquisition upon arrival to mainstream school, and the transition into higher education or the workforce. These same studies found a positive correlation between a sense of belonging and making a promising start to acculturation.
|Providing support during three major transitions can facilitate refugee youth’s acculturation and long-term success. These include pre-arrival preparation, the transition from language acquisition to mainstream school, and the transition into higher education or the workforce.|
One way to shield refugee youth from potential marginalization is to incorporate a holistic approach, including supporting the integration of refugee youth’s families and parents into the new country. In fact, parental integration is a contributing factor to how well refugee youth will assimilate into a new society. As such, it is essential to focus on programming that will support all newcomers as they experience acculturation. To support youth refugees, host countries must focus on parental success by providing work placements in areas where the parents’ skills are in demand, as economic prosperity directly contributes to successful integration. The World Economic Forum offers a series of suggestions to support newcomer integration. These recommendations include providing integration services immediately upon arrival. In the case of non-supervised minors, this is especially important, as they do not have their parents to lean on as they move through the stages of acculturation.
|Incorporating a holistic approach to integration into the host country, including supports for the whole family immediately upon arrival, will set everyone up for success.|
Providing access to integration services is essential for developing youth refugees’ sense of belonging and long-term wellbeing. Host countries should recognize that the integration process takes time. Refugees will experience many challenges as their perceptions of themselves in relation to their surroundings gradually shift and adapt. With the appropriate supports and financial resources, non-governmental programs that address integration challenges can significantly facilitate youth refugees’ acculturation and increase their chances of effective long-term integration and success.