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Refugees integrate less successfully than other immigrants. Pre-migration stress, mental disorder and lack of human capital are the most popular explanations, but these…
Refugees integrate less successfully than other immigrants. Pre-migration stress, mental disorder and lack of human capital are the most popular explanations, but these propositions have received little empirical testing. The current study of Sri Lankan Tamils in Toronto, Canada, examines the respective contributions of pre-migration adversity, human capital, mental health and social resources in predicting integration. The paper aims to discuss these issues.
Participants are a probability sample of 1,603 Sri Lankan Tamils living in Toronto, Canada. The team, with a community advisory council, developed structured interviews containing information about pre- and post-migration stressors, coping strategies, and family, community, and institutional support. The questionnaire included the World Health Organization Composite International Diagnostic Interview module for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Interviews were translated, back-translated and administered by bilingual interviewers.
Two dimensions of integration emerged from a factor analysis of integration-related items: economic and psychosocial. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses revealed that PTSD militated against refugee economic integration, whereas pre-migration adversity (but not PTSD) compromised psychosocial integration. On both measures, increasing length of residence in Canada, and gender (male) were predictors of good integration, whereas age at arrival had an inverse relationship with integration. Religiosity had a positive effect on psychosocial integration but a negative effect on economic. Favourable perceptions of the health care system predicted economic integration and non-family support predicted psychosocial integration.
Results underline the importance of studying integration as a multifaceted phenomenon, help explain why refugees integrate less successfully than other immigrants, and highlight the importance of including mental health and mental health-related issues in integration discourse.