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Local Integration: A Durable Solution for Refugees | by UNHCR
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Local Integration: A Durable Solution for Refugees

Children of a local miller play on the small veranda while their father mills and weighs maize for his customers. / UNHCR / B. Bannon / November 2008

  

Many Hundreds of Somali Bantu refugees were granted Tanzanian citizenship in 2007 and 2008. The refugees currently living in Chogo began arriving in Tanzania in the early 1990’s.Their ancestors were originally from the Tanga province and had been sold into slavery hundreds of years ago.

 

The process began when the Government of Tanzania granted 5,000 acresof land in Chogo for refugees to pursue self-sufficiency.Each family has been granted 2.5 acres of fertile land, seeds and farming tools. The community today is largely self-sufficient. The government of Tanzania has talen over many of the basic functions from UNHCR. The refugee community has begun to integrate with the local Zgua community whose language they share.

 

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Local integration can be regarded as a process which leads to a durable solution for refugees. It is a process with three necessary interrelated dimensions:

 

First, it is a legal process, whereby refugees are granted a progressively wider range of rights and entitlements by the host state. Under the terms of the 1951 Refugee Convention, these include, for example, the right to seek employment, to engage in other income-generating activities, to own and dispose of property, to enjoy freedom of movement and to have access to public services such as education. The process whereby refugees gain and accumulate rights may lead to the acquisition of permanent residence rights and ultimately to the acquisition of citizenship in the country of asylum.

 

Second, local integration can be regarded as an economic process. For in acquiring the rights and entitlements referred to above, refugees also improve their potential to establish sustainable livelihoods, to attain a growing degree of self-reliance, and to become progressively less reliant on state aid or humanitarian assistance. In accordance with these indicators, refugees who are prevented or deterred from participating in the local economy, and whose standard of living is consistently lower than the poorest members of the host community, cannot be considered to be locally integrated.

 

Third, local integration is a social process, enabling refugees to live amongst or alongside the host population, without fear of systematic discrimination, intimidation or exploitation by the authorities or people of the asylum country. It is consequently a process that involves both refugees and the host population.

 

The concept of local integration does not imply the assimilation of refugees in the society where that have found asylum. While the concept of assimilation is to be found in the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, the international community has always rejected the notion that refugees should be required or expected to abandon their own culture, so as to become indistinguishable from members of the host community. As one scholar has pointed out, integration is a more useful term than assimilation, suggesting as it does that refugees “maintain their own identity, yet become part of the host society to the extent that host population and refugees can live together in an acceptable way.”

 

Taken from: "The local integration and local settlement of refugees: a conceptual and historical analysis", Jeff Crisp ; Reearch Working Paper nr. 102

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Taken on February 6, 2009