Refugees and Australian Society.
Refugees face a great number of obstacles in adjusting to Australian society. These issues can only be resolved with our acceptance, assistance, and diligence. To lessen their sense of displacement, we must, as a community, help them adjust.
This means that first and foremost it is essential for us to welcome and accept these people who, through no fault of their own, have wound up in this land.
Though the political climate is acrid, and views are polarising fast, reality has tactlessly been exposing our inadequacies in regards to this issue. We may have laughed at the appeals of the United Nations, and ignored the abuse in off-shore centres, but we have slowly and surely become familiar with the bitter back stories and plights of refugees. Whether we chose to neglect or acknowledge and act upon the information is entirely up to us.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, integration is the process which streams into settlement. It is defined by nine aims, which are restoring an individual’s security, autonomy, and independence, allowing development and flourishing, promoting familial solidarity, allowing individuals to connect to support and assistance, upholding confidence in human rights and laws, enabling religious and cultural freedom, fighting discrimination, supporting refugee communities, and accommodating differences in family status, gender, and age.
Language Barrier, Cultural Differences, etc.
Any obstacles to these aims are also obstacles to integration, without which refugee settlement cannot be possible. The most noticeable and detrimental hurdles to integration are communication difficulties, specifically the language barrier, cultural differences, rejection of overseas skills or qualifications, lack of Australian work experience, and unfamiliarity with new equipment and/or procedures in the workplace. These challenges are taxing on refugees and can add to the effects of past torture and trauma, intensifying the deterioration of their mental health.
Integration worsens with age and employment.
In coming to Australia, refugees of all ages and races face the arduous task of integration. However, this experience varies depending on an individual’s age. The hurdles of integration worsen with age, and as presented in Dionisio Camacho’s paper on ‘The social, economic and industrial issues specific to migrant worker over 45 year of age seeking employment, or establishing a business, following unemployment (a quantitative approach),’ aged migrants find it harder to find employment in Australia than younger migrants.
Specifically, the time spent trying to reach Australia and being in detention further distances aged refugees from potential employment. Not only do they face the difficulty of working with new and unfamiliar technology, but their overseas qualifications and talents are often greatly neglected. Hence, many aged professionals face the embarrassment of retaking degrees or accepting inferior work. Atop these concerns, aged refugees are also threatened by the bias of employers, who tend to hire young, agile, more productive workers. These hurdles can cause frustration, which worsens the condition of already strained minds, and further isolates aged refugees.
Younger refugees face the different, yet equally cumbersome burden of adolescence. This hinders their adjustment by intensifying a feeling of disconnection from society. This is extremely damaging and can lead to deteriorating relationships, isolation, criminal activity, substance abuse, unemployment, and homelessness.
Modes of Monitoring issues.
In order to curb such issues among the aged and the young, it is vital to implement modes of monitoring and combating said issues. As suggested by the Centre for Multicultural Youth Issues (CMYI), on-arrival support should be given to young refugees, but also to the aged. Where issues with the young may require a focus on education and recreational activities, the issues of the aged would require comprehensive employment services and advice.
Additionally, both the aged and the young would benefit from professional training and development, which would demystify the culture and language, raise confidence and self-esteem, and ease away the sense of displacement.
In order for integration to be successful, it is crucial that concerns are acknowledged and recorded, so that we may monitor and understand individual needs, and implement the solution accordingly.
Furthermore, any ‘othering’ of refugees – such as labelling them ‘criminals’ and ‘illegals,’ or deeming them leeches of resources – needs to be stopped immediately. Integration is difficult as it is; there is no need to couple the negativity of closed minds to the severe and tumultuous experiences these people have had.