Shawna Shapiro - Shawna Shapiro While every refugee¢â‚¬â„¢s story is different and their anguish personal,

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    Introduction Shawna Shapiro

    While every refugee’s story is different and their anguish personal, they all share a common thread of uncommon courage – the courage not

    only to survive, but to persevere and rebuild their shattered lives. António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

    In recent years, refugees and refugee resettlement have come to the forefront of public discourse worldwide. From the high numbers of unaccompanied minors from Latin America arriving in the United States to the mass exodus of Syrians seeking asylum in Europe, questions about the ethics and economics of refugee resettlement are frequently emerging in news reports. Anxieties about migration and resettlement have fueled a rise in anti-establishment and nationalist sentiment among voters in a number of countries. Often, public media employ a framing of ‘crisis’ in these discussions, rarely considering the question: What happens to former refugees and asylum seekers in the long run? Specifi cally, how do refugees build new lives after permanent resettlement? Education serves a crucial role in this process and is seen by many individuals and families as a means of cultural adjustment, social mobility and societal integration (Matthews, 2008). While research focused on the education of refugee- background students has been growing (cf. Feuerherm & Ramanathan, 2015; Rutter, 2006), there is still a dearth of scholarship in this area, as documented in reviews by McBrien (2005) and Pinson and Arnot (2007). Moreover, much of the existing research focuses on younger learners in primary grades, rather than on older children and adults (Feuerherm & Ramanathan, 2015; Hannah, 1999). This volume aims to address these gaps in the literature, focusing on the educational experiences of adolescents and adults with refugee backgrounds. To understand who these students are and what their stories might tell us, here we provide some background information about refugees and refugee resettlement.

    A refugee is defi ned by international law as a person who

    owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his [or her] nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself [or herself] of the protection of that country. (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2011)

    This is an excerpt from "Educating Refugee-background Students" edited by Shawna Shapiro, Raichle Farrelly and Mary Jane Curry, and published by Multilingual Matters. The full collection can be purchased here:

  • 2 Educating Refugee-background Students

    While this defi nition emerged largely as a response to forced migration from Europe due to World War II, in keeping with other goals of the Geneva Convention, eligibility for this legal designation was eventually expanded to include individuals from other areas of the world, whose displacement was the result of other crises (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2017a).

    Much of the coordination, administration and policymaking related to refugees is facilitated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Asylum seekers – individuals who claim to have left their homes forcibly and are residing temporarily in a host country – must be evaluated by the UNHCR in order to receive the legal designation ‘refugee’. While the number of refugees and asylum seekers worldwide fl uctuates in parallel with the occurrence of civil unrest, natural disasters and other crises, there has been a sharp rise in recent years, with the number of forcibly displaced peoples currently totaling more than 65 million – the highest number ever recorded – and continuing to rise (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2017b). While political and military confl icts certainly play an important role in these rising numbers, climate change has also emerged as a major cause of forced migration – one which shows no sign of abating in the near future (Brown, 2008; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2015).

    After receiving the offi cial designation of ‘refugee’, which allows them to remain temporarily in the country of asylum (also known as a ‘host country’), refugees begin the long wait for a more permanent solution. Individuals and families often remain in this ‘temporary’ state for many years, waiting for one of three possible outcomes: The fi rst is voluntary repatriation, if the conditions in the country of origin have improved suffi ciently for refugees to return home safely. A second option is local integration, in which refugees become more integrated into the host country. The fi nal option is resettlement to a third country, with the possibility of obtaining a work visa in the short term, and eventual citizenship in some cases.

    A fact little discussed in the popular media is that only a small fraction (around 8% annually) of refugees are determined to be in need of resettlement. To qualify for this option, refugees must belong to one of seven protected categories,1 all of which preclude the option of repatriation to their country of origin. The number of refugees who are ultimately admitted by receiving countries is signifi cantly lower than the number of those who qualify: less than 1% of all forcibly displaced people are given the opportunity for permanent resettlement. This discrepancy between the need for resettlement and the number of refugees actually resettled stems partly from the limits that most receiving countries place on the number of refugees they are willing to accept. Contrary to some popular beliefs, the application and vetting process for refugee

    This is an excerpt from "Educating Refugee-background Students" edited by Shawna Shapiro, Raichle Farrelly and Mary Jane Curry, and published by Multilingual Matters. The full collection can be purchased here:

  • Introduction 3

    resettlement is onerous and extensive. However, over the past decade, as the number of displaced persons has increased, so has the number of resettled refugees: In 2016, almost 150,000 refugees were resettled via the UNHCR, double the number from 2012 (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2016).

    What happens to refugees after relocation to a third country? This question – particularly as it relates to the education of adolescents and adults – is at the center of this volume. We call this focal population refugee-background students, rather than ‘refugee students’, for several reasons. The fi rst is that the latter term is inaccurate: Once they have relocated permanently – particularly within a resettlement community – these individuals are no longer legally considered refugees, as the term ‘refugee’ refers to a temporary state of asylum, rather than permanent residence. The label ‘refugee students’ is more applicable, therefore, to those who are living and studying in temporary host countries, often in refugee camps. The term ‘refugee background’, in contrast, acknowledges that the refugee condition is typically – and ideally – a short-term label rather than a permanent identity.

    Moreover, as educational linguists, we recognize that the term ‘refugee’ carries a set of discursive connotations that many individuals wish to leave behind after they have relocated to a new community. For many people, the term ‘refugee’ invokes images of helplessness and victimization, rather than the resilience and agency shown by refugee- background students (MacDonald, 2015; Malkki, 1996; Shapiro, 2014). Not surprisingly, adolescent and adult students are often aware of these connotations and many actively resist labels that carry a defi cit orientation (Bigelow, 2010; Roy & Roxas, 2011; Shapiro & MacDonald, 2017). At the same time, experiences of forced migration and resettlement form an important part of many students’ stories. We therefore employ the label ‘refugee-background’ to allude to these experiences, while simultaneously highlighting that being a former ‘refugee’ is not the only aspect of identity that matters to students – or to us as researchers.

    Why Focus on Refugee-background Students?

    Much of the educational research in resettlement communities has tended to lump students with migrant backgrounds into one group – for example, ‘immigrant and refugee students’, ‘linguistic minority students’ or ‘English learners’. We focus on refugee-background students for a few reasons: First, these students’ educational backgrounds can vary widely. This variation is a crucial factor in understanding educational outcomes for certain populations (Bigelow & Vinogradov, 2011; DeCapua & Marshall, 2011; Feuerherm & Ramanathan, 2015). While some students may have had access to high-quality – even elite – education before leaving their country

    This is an excerpt from "Educating Refugee-background Students" edited by Shawna Shapiro, Raichle Farrelly and Mary Jane Curry, and published by Multilingual Matters. The full collection can be purchased here:

  • 4 Educating Refugee-background Students

    of birth, others have had few if any such opportunities and may not have developed print literacy in their home languages, if it exists (Hannah, 1999; McBrien, 2005; see also Browder, this volume). Moreover, the nature and availa