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Research examines a changing world for refugees

Research examines a changing world for refugees

University of Auckland Associate Professor Jay Marlowe has been awarded a 2018 Rutherford Discovery Fellowship for research into refugee settlement. His award comes at a time when globally more than 68 million people have been displaced, forced from their homes and countries for who they are or what they believe, and nationally New Zealand is doubling its refugee intake in response.

Dr Marlowe will receive $800,000 over five years for research entitled: Dislocation in an age of connection: Mapping refugee settlement trajectories within an increasingly mobile world.

“Refugees, like most people, keep in touch with home, family, and their diaspora using the internet and mobile phones. They are far better connected than ever before, but our policies and practices, developed for a prior age, have not kept pace,” says Dr Marlowe
Leading a team of international collaborators, he will investigate what this ‘connection’ means for refugee settlement; how informal and formal networks support their settlement and how people can now be ‘here’ in their new country; but also ‘there’, still part of their previous world with relationships maintained with distant family and friends through social media.

“As refugees increasingly redefine the gaps between ‘here’ and ‘there’, we must reconsider what ‘resettlement’ means and its contemporary application to policy and practice,” says Dr Marlowe, who is based at the university’s Faculty of Education and Social Work.

In a ‘here in New Zealand’ aspect of the research, Dr Marlowe will look at refugee experiences with tangata whenua and how Māori concepts such as wairua, mana, manaakitanga, and Māori health models could help with integration and settlement.

He will also look at refugee resilience and support in relation to extraordinary events such as natural disasters and other crises.

“Refugees can be vulnerable in emergency situations when access to help and accurate information is limited, so we will be looking at disaster translation needs and how communities can be set up to respond.”

In the fourth part of his research, he will draw together the vast amount of data from the Integrated Data Infrastructure, a massive database composed of more than 166 billion facts about individuals and households in New Zealand. This will help map refugee experiences in New Zealand across employment, welfare, health and education to establish the protective and risk factors for positive settlement outcomes.

The areas of research selected by Dr Marlowe for his research are designed, ultimately, to provide knowledge and evidence to challenge false assumptions about refugees and provide methods to support settlement and develop effective policy and practice.

And with New Zealand opening its doors wider to refugees, he believes it is even more important to structure support and ensure well-being so refugees can play a part in our society which benefits them, their families, our society, and the taxpayer.

“This fellowship will provide the platform to understand the rapidly evolving political, social, geopolitical, technological environment that characterises the global refugee crisis and informs New Zealand’s role in responding to it.

Rutherford Discovery Fellowships receive government funding of $8 million per annum. They are awarded to early- to mid-career researchers with at least 50 Rutherford Discovery Fellows supported at any one time.


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