Comprehensive FINDings from the Finance in Displacement Research
Joint Lessons Report Examining Financial Integration of Refugees in Jordan, Kenya, Mexico, and Uganda.
In this issue of Fresh FINDings we are excited to share our newest report title Finance in Displacement: Joint Lessons Report. We also feature a story of successful refugee resettlement featuring the Zako family and their pet Roko, a Major Mitchell’s cockatoo.
Please visit the Journeys Project at Tufts University for previous studies, ongoing research, videos, maps, and artwork on refugees and migrants in the Middle East and Mediterranean, Latin America, and Africa.
· Finance in Displacement: Joint Lessons Report
· Roko the Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo and the Iraqi Family that Adopted Her
· Oral Presentation at the German Stiftung Politik und Wirtschaft (Politics and Economy Foundation)
Finance in Displacement: Joint Lessons Report
We are thrilled to announce the launch of the Finance in Displacement: Joint Lessons Report. Between 2019-2021, a research collaborative between Catholic University Eichstaett-Ingolstadt, Tufts University, and the International Rescue Committee conducted research in Jordan, Kenya, Mexico, and Uganda on refugees and migrants, focusing on those who had been in their host countries between three and eight years. Throughout the research, 428 interviews were conducted alongside organized field observations and focus groups in two locations. Our final report shares our research findings and examines how refugees and migrants financially integrate into their host surroundings and how financial services play a role in that integration.
Roko the Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo and the Iraqi Family that Adopted Her: A Refugee Resettlement Success Story in Australia
“This is my hobby from Iraq,” stated Karam as a large Major Mitchell’s cockatoo sat perched on his arm. Bright, Australian sunlight glistened on the bird’s pinkish feathers before taking flight over a suburban neighborhood.
In October 2021, an Australian news source released an interview featuring Karam Zako, his wife, daughter, and their Major Mitchell’s cockatoo, Roko. Though highlighting the unique bird and the joy Roko brings to the local community, the news story also serves to illustrate a feel-good story of resettlement. Karam and his family, now Australian citizens, came to the country five years previously as refugees fleeing persecution and violence by ISIL in Iraq.
Resettlement is a durable solution intended for individuals who meet the definition of refugee in the 1951 Refugee Convention—“someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.”
Karam and his family are not new to the Journey’s Project. One of our researchers interviewed Karam to discuss his journey from Iraq before he and his family were resettled in Australia, and like many refugee stories we’ve heard, Karam and his family met this threshold for resettlement. As he told us back when the Journeys team met him:
We ran because ISIL had captured women and girls in another area close to our village and we were afraid that it could happen to us. ISIL was giving people three options: 1. Become Muslim, 2. Be killed, or 3. Pay money to remain Christian. For us, those weren’t options, so we finally left.
He was willing to share his story with one of researchers conducting interviews about the journeys of migrants and refugees. She recounted their meeting:
It’s rare to build a genuine—if fleeting—connection with a stranger while traveling. Even more so when you’re conducting research and have a self-imposed wall invisibly constructed to maintain a professional distance from the people with whom you’re speaking. However, the type of research the team conducting the “Financial Journeys of Refugees” project (of which I was a part) undertook was explicitly feminist and non-hierarchical in its design. The Lean Research approach, and my mandate to consider my role as a researcher, my relationality to the people telling me their stories, and how my identity influenced how those stories would be told, helped me connect with Karam in an unforgettable way.
I met Karam on a street corner while trying to catch a taxi in rush hour. We struck up a conversation and he seemed genuinely interested in getting to know me (instead of the other way around, which had been my experience approaching folks and asking them to participate in our research). This warm interaction paved the way for several conversations I had with Karam.
Throughout the interview, Karam explained the difficulties of flight, as he, his wife, and his then-infant daughter maneuvered around pockets of ISIL, skirmishes between armed forces, and once out of Iraq, financial insecurity.
Since coming to [a transit country], I haven’t used transfer services. We have only small amounts of money, food stuff from churches and individuals who have helped us. There is no money to transfer or receive. Every six months we get meat for the holidays.
Karam ended the interview by stating that he was pursuing resettlement to Australia as life in was expensive where his family currently resided, and unsustainable given the restrictions on refugees’ ability to move freely and work in the country. If he was unable to be resettled, Karam stated that he and his family would be forced to live in a camp in Iraq to survive.
In 2016, Karam and his family were resettled in Australia. According to Karam, his adjustment to the new country would not have been successful without help from the Australian government, the welcoming local community, and Roko the Cockatoo. As reflected on by our researcher:
Karam shared the news to me over Facebook Messenger a few years ago, and in the snippets I see of his life, between the happy birthdays and happy new years, looks more peaceful than the stories I heard from him in our interviews. In his new home, there’s room to work, to raise his family, and even to raise his birds, as this joyful video attests. Karam’s story is an ongoing reminder of how these stories extend beyond our research and how kindness spans time and borders.
Unfortunately, successful stories of refugee resettlement are often the exception and not the rule. According to the UNHCR, there are over 20.7 million refugees of concern throughout the world, yet less than one percent of refugees are resettled each year. Though the United Nations touts the promotion of durable solutions—voluntary return, local integration, and resettlement—prolonged conflict and the politicization of the refugee crisis has resulted in millions of persons stuck in limbo.
In protracted refugee situations, “legal status is temporary and precarious and security conditions are uncertain.” Additionally, though the humanitarian right to life is maintained, other fundamental human rights including the right to free movement, employment, adequate healthcare, and education are often suspended for decades. The current system forces refugees to become dependent on aid, “draining government budgets of both host countries and donor governments.” Dependent on outside support to meet basic needs, refugees are in constant fear that crucial aid will be defunded or that an individual’s refugee status will be revoked. The traumatic, prolonged stress accompanied by prolonged displacement contributes to negative mental and physical health outcomes of this population.
Photo Source: World Bank 2019.
In conjunction with the rise of xenophobia and anti-refugee sentiment, “the past decade has seen an unprecedented number of persons forced to flee their homes because of war, conflict and persecution.” Despite the circumstances, stories of resilience and kindness endure as communities continue to welcome refugees.
“What a beautiful story”…“Welcome to Australia”…“We are so lucky to have Roko and his family in our Community” …“Everyone loves Roko, Thank you Zako family” “Roko joined me on my run today! My kids love him.”
Thousands of welcoming sentiments poured into the comment section of the video, illustrating the positive impact the Zako family and their Cockatoo have on their new community.
Oral Presentation at the German Stiftung Politik und Wirtschaft
One of our principal investigators, Hans-Martin Zademach, will be giving a presentation on the research results of the FIND project. The presentation will take place at a workshop from the German Stiftung Politik und Wirtschaft (Politics and Economy Foundation) on February 10 at 11:15-12.30 CET.
All interested are welcome to attend. For more details please contact Hans-Martin Zademach: Zademach@ku.de.
Fresh FINDings is made possible through a partnership among Tufts University, the Katholische Universität Eichstätt – Ingolstadt (Catholic University or KU), the International Rescue Committee and GIZ. Fresh FINDings also features work sponsored by Catholic Relief Services, Mercy Corps, and the International Organization for Migration.