«The ongoing wars around the world have led to an ever increasing exodus of refugee populations for resettlement in developed countries, including the ...»
In comparison to other continents, the number of African refugees resettled in the U.S. was higher than any other country (e.g., Somalia, 10,330 refugees, Liberia, 2,366 refugees, Sudan, 1,845 refugees, and Ethiopia, 1,262 refugees). In the same year, refugees resettled from other countries included the former Soviet Union Countries, 10,453, Vietnam, 3,002, Iran, 2,785, and Burma, 1,323, respectively. The reasons for African refugee migrations vary by country. While some of the African refugee migrations have been more recent (e.g., Rwanda, Burundi, and, DRC), others have been on-going due to prolonged wars in respective countries (e.g., Sudan, Somalia, and,
Somali and Ethiopia located, in the Horn of Africa, are considered one of the “political volcanoes” on the African continent (Danso, 2001). This is partly due to experiences of volatile military regimes by dictators (e.g., Siad Barre and Mengistu Haile Mariam) which left both countries in chaos and uprooted the civil society in the late 1980‟s and early 1990‟s. Both countries went to war against each other in the early 1990‟s to claim ownership of a region on the border of Somalia and Ethiopia, a war that Ethiopia presumably won, thus leading to continued fighting within the borders of both countries (Danso, 2001). The aftermath of this war was torture and persecution of many civilians from both countries. Consequently, many of them fled as political refugees to industrialized countries such as Canada where they have been resettled.
Besides this war, Somalia and Ethiopia have both experienced numerous political and civil uprisings that have left many civilians dead, while others have been mistreated at the hands of oppressive political regimes. For example, many refugees left Ethiopia to resettle in Canada as a result of ethnic oppression, persecution due to political affiliation and activities, repression of freedom of speech, harassment, and coercion into pledging allegiance to the political parties (Papadopoulos, Lees, Lay, & Gebrehiwot, 2004).
Additionally, fear of individual and family imprisonment also led to fleeing of many Ethiopian civilians. In Canada, Ethiopian refugees are one of the largest refugee populations in the country who have been resettled in Toronto. In the United States, refugees from Ethiopia have been resettled in Minneapolis (Minnesota); others are found
Similarly, refugees from Somalia are civilians who fled the country after the outbreak of the civil war and fighting among different warring tribes since 1988 (U.S. Committee for Refugees, 1998). The results of the fighting have been multiple deaths of civilians, torture, and displacement. The autocratic military rule led to numerous religious persecutions of minority groups and political harassment towards those who were opposed to the regime. Therefore, many whose lives were threatened fled the country to seek refuge in developed countries. In Canada, refugees from Somalia form the second largest refugee population. They have been resettled in Ottawa and Toronto (Danso, 2001; Jordan, Matheson, & Anisman, 2009). In the U.S., they have been resettled in Minnesota as well as North Carolina.
The exodus of Sudanese refugees to countries of resettlement has been the outcome of a prolonged civil war since 1983 (McKinnon, 2008). Racial, cultural, religious, and political differences have characterized some of the warring factions in Sudan (U.S.
Committee for Refugees, 1998). The root cause of the conflicts in Sudan has its foundation in the colonial legacy, a legacy that systematically discriminated against Southern Sudan from national, political, and economic participation (Metelits, 2004).
Southern Sudan is also populated by African ethnic groups (e.g., Dinka, Nuer, and Nuba) who practice Christianity and indigenous practices, while Northern Sudan is mainly Arabic speaking Muslims (McKinnon, 2008). Recent discovery of oil in the Northern part of Southern Sudan has led to more frequent attacks by Northern Sudan to gain control of
Because of the oil discovery, the North has instigated Southern tribes against each other and, in the process, taken advantage of the chaos by committing atrocities against civilians, mainly rape of women and children and killing male soldiers (McKinnon, 2008). Persecution of minority religious groups has been rife in the Southern Sudan. This has led to many civilians fleeing for safety to refugee camps in neighboring countries such as Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. From the refugee camps, a majority of these refugees have found their way to the resettlement in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Notably, among the most successful refugee resettlement programs in the U.S.
has been the “Lost Boys” of Sudan. In the U.S., some of the regions with Sudanese refugee resettlement are in Arizona, Minnesota, and North Carolina (U.S. Committee for Refugees, 2000).
Refugees from Liberia have fled their country of origin as a result of the outbreak of armed conflict between government and rebel forces dating as far back as 1989 (U.S.
Committee for Refugees, 1998). This fighting culminated in inter-ethnic factions leading to killings of civilians, destruction of existing infrastructure, and general exploitation of available natural resources. Conflicts in Liberia spread beyond the borders to neighboring Sierra Leone, where many civilians were massacred at the hands Liberian forces. At the height of these conflicts, many refugees fled from the persecution and killings that the country had plunged into. Similar events took place in the countries of Rwanda and Burundi after the assassination of the Rwandese president in 1994.
The 1994 Rwandan genocide that followed was a result of inter-ethnic cleansings
attempt to revenge the assassination of their leader (UNHCR, 2000). The conflicts in Rwanda and Burundi also affected neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo where many civilians were killed, women and girls raped, and families were displaced from their original homes. After the war, some members of the warring tribes fled the countries for fear of harassment, persecution, or death. The majority of refugees from Rwanda and Burundi fled to Belgium, France, and the U.S. In the U.S., some have been resettled in Raleigh and Greensboro, North Carolina (African Services Coalition, 2000).
Although statistics of adolescent refugees in general and Africans in particular are rare and/or scant, it has been estimated that nearly one half of the entire world‟s refugee population are children and adolescents (UNHCR, 2006). General statistics also indicate that, compared to other continents as sources of refugee migrations, African adolescent refugees outnumbered adult refugees in resettlement in 2006 (UNHCR, 2006). Therefore, it may be safe to assume that among the general African refugee population, there is a sizeable majority of adolescents in the resettlement. An investigation of refugee adolescents in general and African adolescent refugees will be provided.
Adolescent Refugees in Resettlement The lasting impact of war and conflicts may be devastating to the general refugee population, but even more so to children and adolescents. Researchers have indicated that children, adolescents, and young adults comprise the majority among refugees in developed countries of resettlement (Halcon et al., 2004). It also has been documented that many children and adolescents lose their lives during the fighting in wars, are
are forced to participate in wars (Bemak, Chung, & Pedersen, 2003). Although adolescent refugees may share some experiences and other aspects (e.g., culture shock, values) with their immigrant counterparts in resettlement, they are clearly distinguished from immigrants due to their pre-migration experiences. Consequently, some youth have been found to exhibit symptoms of traumatic experiences such as PTSD, grief and loss, depression, conduct and behavioral issues, and general mental health and psychological problems. The bulk of the literature on children and adolescent refugees are studies by researchers with a focus on these problems and a goal of determining appropriate interventions for their adaptation and adjustment in new environments. A representative review of some of the problem-focused studies is provided.
Berthold (2000) conducted a cross-sectional survey to examine the relationship between exposure to war traumas and community violence and academic, behavioral, and psychological outcomes among Khmer refugee adolescents from Cambodia resettled in the U.S. He based the study in the literature suggesting that adolescents exposed to war traumas frequently experience outcomes such as Posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and risky behaviors (Berthold, 2000). Using a sample of 144 adolescents, the focus of the study was to investigate (1) the level of Khmer refugee adolescents‟ exposure to violence and war traumas overseas and community violence in the U.S.; (2) the extent to which life time exposure to violence was associated with psychological, behavioral, and academic problems among Khmer refugee youth; and (3) whether the amount of social support adolescents perceived from family and friends predicted their
Results indicated that both male and female adolescents had been exposed to high rates of violence in their country of origin. The adolescents either witnessed violence as it happened to others around them, especially family members and friends, or they heard about it. Also, many adolescents had survived violence directed at them. Some gender differences in the level of exposure to violence were noted in the study. Higher rates of exposure to lifetime violence were reported among males than females. Additionally, male adolescents more frequently indicated they had witnessed and learned to survive violence directed at them compared to their female counterparts. Regarding emotional distress, female adolescents depicted more depressive symptoms than males.
Furthermore, Berthold (2000) found that the number of violent events adolescents were exposed to significantly predicted their level of PTSD, personal risk behaviors, and GPA, but not their level of depression or behavior problems reported at school.
Importantly, findings indicated that adolescents who perceived greater social support from family and friends experienced less PTSD and depression. Because this study was exploratory, mainly with Khmer refugee adolescents, it was suggested a more diverse range of adolescents was needed in future research. Also, it was noted that a longitudinal study that might include qualitative components could help in tracing patterns of adaptive strategies used by adolescents along with their outcomes. Such an approach could contribute to an understanding of the conditions that lead to resilience in adolescents who have been highly traumatized as well as an evaluation of the impact of social support
Other researchers have observed similar findings regarding differences among male and female immigrants in resettlement. Khanlou & Crawford (2006) used a sample of 10 newcomer female youth to examine their post-migratory experiences in Canada. In the study, they also used focus groups and in-depth interviews with school educators, parents, and community health workers to explore the impact of the resettlement process on female youth‟s self-esteem and identity development. Results from interviews with parents indicated that compared to boys, there were different family expectations for female youth. That is, female youth were expected to help their mothers with domestic responsibilities (i.e., cooking, taking care of their younger siblings, and preparing meals).
Also, the girls had to adhere to restricted mobility at the same time that boys were granted freedom to interact freely with their peers either at school or within the neighborhoods they lived. They found that the added responsibilities girls had to bear, besides their normal developmental pressures contributed to additional stresses and difficulties to effectively adjust in a new environment. Therefore, the researchers concluded that because of the impact of post-migratory experiences by girls and boys, there was a need to consider the role of gender in the resettlement of newcomer youth.
Due to some similarities that refugee and immigrant youth encounter in a new environment, these findings also may be applicable to refugee youth.
In another study of adolescent refugees, Smith, Perrin, Yule, Hacam, and Stuvland (2002) used a community sample of 3,877 refugee children between the ages of 9-14 years from Bosnia-Herzegovina to examine war exposure and psychological adjustment.
levels of posttraumatic stress reactions, depression and anxiety reactions, and grief. A number of predictions were suggested: (1) a high exposure to war and self reports of distress, PTSD, depression, anxiety, and grief reactions; and (2) a significant association between levels of distress and levels of exposure. Results indicated a high exposure to traumatic events by children. However, self-reports of depression and anxiety were not markedly raised although, as expected, levels of distress were related to amounts and type of exposure (Smith et al., 2002). The researchers identified that the low levels of depression might suggest some successful coping mechanisms by the majority of children, even in the events of adversity. This coping was identified in the form of a sense of community among members in order to survive the difficult situations. Although not directly investigated in the study, researchers noted findings from another study in which social support had been found to have a mediating effect with posttraumatic outcomes among adults. However, they pointed out that empirical studies to determine this conclusion have been minimal among children and adolescent refugees.