Newcomer Refugee Youth as ‘Resettlement Champions’ for their Families: Vulnerability, Resilience and Empowerment

  • Yogendra B. ShakyaEmail author
  • Sepali Guruge
  • Michaela Hynie
  • Sheila Htoo
  • Arzo Akbari
  • Barinder (Binny) Jandu
  • Rabea Murtaza
  • Megan Spasevski
  • Nahom Berhane
  • Jessica Forster
Part of the International Perspectives on Migration book series (IPMI, volume 7)


Due to experiences of forced migration, a large proportion of resettled refugee families arrive in resettlement countries with low levels of education, limited official language fluency, fractured family relationships, and less than optimal physical and mental health. These pre-migration determinants intersect with systemic barriers in ways that make it extremely difficult for refugees to secure employment/income security, access health and settlement services, and pursue their educational and other goals. This chapter discusses the role that newcomer refugee youth play in helping their families resettle in response to systemic post-migration barriers.


Refugee Newcomer youth Resettlement Youth leadership Health Access barriers Resilience 


  1. Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services. (2010). Literature review: Health issues of government assisted refugees. Toronto: Access Alliance.Google Scholar
  2. Anstiss, H., Ziaian, T., Procter, N., & Warland, J. (2009). Help-seeking for mental health problems in young refugees: A review of the literature with implications for policy, practice, and research. Transcultural Psychiatry, 46, 584–607.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Babha, H. (2003). Culture’s in between. In S. Hall & P. D. Guy (Eds.), Questions of cultural identity. London: Sage Publication. Pg 57.Google Scholar
  4. Baya, K., Simich, L., & Bukhari, S. (2008). A Study of Sudanese women’s resettlement experiences. In S. Guruge & E. Collins (Eds.), Working with immigrant women: Issues and strategies for mental health professionals (pp. 157–176). Toronto: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.Google Scholar
  5. Beiser, M. (2005). The health of immigrants and refugees in Canada. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 96(Suppl.2), S30–S44.Google Scholar
  6. Beiser, M., Simich, L., & Pandalangat, N. (2003). Community in distress: Mental health needs and help-seeking in the Tamil community in Toronto. International Migration, 41(5), 233–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bottrell, D. (2009). Understanding ‘marginal’ perspectives. Towards a social theory of resilience. Qualitative Social Work, 8, 321–339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Boyden, J., de Berry, J., Feeny, T., & Hart, J. (2002). Children affected by armed conflict in South Asia: A review of trends and issues identified through secondary research. Refugee Studies Centre Working Paper No. 7. Oxford, University of Oxford, Refugee Studies Centre.Google Scholar
  9. Brough, M., Gorman, D., Ramirez, E., & Westoby, P. (2003). Young refugees talk about well-being: A qualitative analysis of refugee youth mental health from three states. Australian Journal of Social Issues, 38(2), 193–209.Google Scholar
  10. Bryman, A. (2001). Social research methods. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Cooperrider, D., & Srivastva, S. (1987). Appreciative inquiry in organizational life. In W. Pasmore & R. Woodman (Eds.), Research in organizational change and development (Vol. 1). Greenwich: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  12. Coalition for Equal Access to Education. (2002). English as a second language education: Context, current responses and recommendations for new directions. Calgary: Coalition for Equal Access to Education.Google Scholar
  13. Community Social Planning Council of Toronto. (2005). Renewing Toronto’s ESL programs: Charting a course towards more effective ESL program delivery. Toronto: Community Social Planning Council of TorontoGoogle Scholar
  14. Denburg, A., Rashid, M., Brophy, J., Curtis, T., Malloy, P., Audley, J., Pegg, W., Hoffman, S., & Banerji, A. (2007). Initial health screening results for Karen refugees: A retrospective review. Canadian Communicable Disease Report, 33(13), 16–22.Google Scholar
  15. Dlamini, S. N., Wolfe, B., Anucha, U., & Chung Yan, M. (2009). Engaging the Canadian diaspora: Youth social identities in a Canadian border city. McGill Journal of Education, 44(3), 405–433.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fassin, D. (2005). Compassion and repression: The moral economy of immigration policies in France. Cultural Anthropology, 20(3), 362–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fazel, M., & Stein, A. (2002). The mental health of refugee children. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 87, 366–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fergus, S., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2005). Adolescent resilience: A framework for understanding healthy development in the face of risk. Annual Review of Public Health, 26, 399–419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Geltman, P. L., Grant-Knight, W., Mehta, S. D., Lloyd-Travaglini, C., Lustig, S., Landgraf, J. M., & Wise, P. H. (2005). The “lost boys of Sudan”: Functional and behavioral health of unaccompanied refugee minors re-settled in the United States. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 159, 585–591.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gifford, S. M., Bakopanos, C., Kaplan, I., & Correa-Velez, I. (2007). Meaning or measurement? Researching the social contexts of health and settlement among newly-arrived refugee youth in Melbourne, Australia. Journal of Refugee Studies, 20(3), 414–440.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Goodman, J. H. (2004). Coping with trauma and hardship among unaccompanied refugee youths from Sudan. Qualitative Health Research, 14(9), 1177–1196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Heptinstall, E., Sethna, V., & Taylor, E. (2004). PTSD and depression in refugee children: Association with pre-migration trauma and post-migration stress. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 13, 373–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hyman, I. (2007). Immigration and health: Reviewing evidence of the healthy immigrant effect in Canada. CERIS Working Paper No.55. Joint Centre of Excellence for Research in Immigration and Settlement, Toronto.Google Scholar
  24. Hyman, I., Vu, N., & Beiser, M. (2000). Post-migration stresses among Southeast Asian refugee youth in Canada: A research note. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 31, 281–293.Google Scholar
  25. Kretzmann, J. P., & McKnight, J. L. (1993). Building communities from the inside out: A path towards finding and mobilising a communit’s assets. Chicago: ACTA Publications.Google Scholar
  26. Kumsa, K. K. (2006). ‘No, I’am not a refugee!’ The poetics of be-longing among young Oromos in Toronto. Journal of Refugee Studies, 19(2), 230–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lustig, S. L., Kia-Keating, M., Knight, W. G., Geltman, P., Ellis, H., Kinzie, J. D., & Saxe, G. N. (2004). Review of child and adolescent refugee mental health. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 43, 24–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Magro, K. (2007). Overcoming the trauma of war: Literacy challenges of adult learners. Education Canada, 47(1), 70–74.Google Scholar
  29. Magro, K. (2009). Expanding conceptions of intelligence: lessons learned from refugees and newcomers to Canada. Gifted and Talented International, 24(1), 79–92.Google Scholar
  30. Malkki, L. (2007). Commentary: The politics of trauma and asylum: Universal and their effects. Ethos, 35(3), 336–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Montgomery, E., & Foldspang, A. (2007). Discrimination, mental problems and social adaptation in young refugees. Journal of Public Health, 18, 156–161.Google Scholar
  32. Morris, M. D., Popper, S. T., Rodwell, T. C., Brodine, S. K., & Brouwer, K. C. (2009). Health care barriers of refugees post-resettlement. Journal of Community Health, 34, 529–538.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ni Raghallaigh, M., & Gilligan, R. (2010). Active survival in the lives of unaccompanied minors: Coping strategies, resilience, and the relevance of religion. Child and Family Social Work, 15, 226–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Nyers, P. (1999). Emergency or emerging identities? Refugees and transformations in world order. Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 28(1), 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Oxman-Martinez, J., & Hanley, J. (2005). Health and social services for Canada’ s multicultural population: Challenges for equity. Ottawa: Heritage Canada.Google Scholar
  36. Patel, N., & Hodes, M. (2006). Violent deliberate self-harm amongst adolescent refugees. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 15, 367–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. People for Education. (2011). Support for newcomer students. In, 2011 people for education annual report. Toronto: People for Education.Google Scholar
  38. Portes, A., & Zhou, M. (1993). The new second generation: Segmented assimilation and its variant. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 530(1), 74–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Portes, A., & Rumbaut, R. G. (2001). Legacies: The story of the immigrant second generation. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  40. Pottie, K., Janakiram, P., Topp, P., & McCarthy, A. (2007). Prevalence of selected preventable and treatable diseases among government- assisted refugees: Implications for primary care providers. Canadian Family Physician, 53(11), 1928–1934.Google Scholar
  41. Pumariega, A. J., Rothe, E., & Pumariega, J. B. (2005). Mental health of immigrants and refugees. Community Mental Health Journal, 41, 581–597.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Redwood-Campbell, L., Fowler, N., Kaczorowski, J., Molinaro, E., Robinson, S., & Howard, M. (2003). How are new refugees doing in Canada? Canadian Journal of Public Health, 94(5), 381–385.Google Scholar
  43. Rousseau, C., Drapeau, A., & Platt, R. (2004). Family environment and emotional and behavioural symptoms in adolescent Cambodian refugees: Influence of time, gender, and acculturation. Medicine, Conflict and Survival, 20, 151–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rummens, J. A., & Seat, R. (2003). Assessing the impact of the Kosovo conflict on the mental health and well-being of newcomer Serbian children and youth in the greater Toronto area. CERIS Working Paper No. 25. Toronto: Joint Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement.Google Scholar
  45. Shakya, Y. B., Guruge, S., Hynie, M., Akbari, A., Malik, M., & Alley, S. (2010) Aspirations for higher education among newcomer refugee youth in Toronto: Expectations, challenges, and strategies. Refuge, 27(2), 65–78.Google Scholar
  46. Simich, L., Hamilton, H., & Baya, B. K. (2006). Mental Distress, Economic Hardship and Expectations of Life in Canada among Sudanese Newcomers. Transcultural Psychiatry, 43(3), 419–445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Simich, L., Wu, F., & Nerad, S. (2007). Status and health security: An exploratory study of irregular immigrants in Toronto. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 98(5), 369–373.Google Scholar
  48. Soroor, W., & Popal, Z. (2005). Bridging the gap: Understanding the mental health needs of Afghan youth. Report commissioned by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.Google Scholar
  49. Vanderbilt, A. E., & Shaw, S. D. (2008). Conceptualizing and re-evaluating resilience across levels of risk, time and domains of competence. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 11, 30–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Wenzel, T., Kastrup, M., & Eisenman, D. (2007). Survivors of torture: A hidden population. In P. Walker & E. Barnett (Eds.), Immigrant medicine (pp. 653–663). Philadelphia: Saunders.Google Scholar
  51. Wilson, R. M., Murtaza, R., & Shakya, Y. B. (2010). Pre-migration and post-migration determinants of mental health for newly arrived refugees in Toronto. Canadian Issues. Immigrant Mental Health, Summer, 2010, 45–50.Google Scholar
  52. Zembylas, M. (2010). Agamben’s theory of biopower and immigrants/refugees/asylum seekers: Discourses of citzenship and the implications for cirriculum theorizing. Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, 26(2), 31–45.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yogendra B. Shakya
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sepali Guruge
    • 2
  • Michaela Hynie
    • 3
  • Sheila Htoo
    • 1
  • Arzo Akbari
    • 1
  • Barinder (Binny) Jandu
    • 1
  • Rabea Murtaza
    • 1
  • Megan Spasevski
    • 1
  • Nahom Berhane
    • 1
  • Jessica Forster
    • 1
  1. 1.Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community ServicesTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Ryerson UniversityTorontoCanada
  3. 3.York UniversityTorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations