Between 2014 and 2019, the United States plans to resettle approximately 50,000 Congolese refugees from The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. At least 20% of incoming refugees are expected to be resettled under the “women-at-risk” designation, widely operationalized in practice as refugees who are single women and single mothers.
This study aimed to understand the concerns, challenges, risks, and strengths of adult Congolese refugee women resettled to the U.S. under the women-at-risk category to help policymakers, service providers, and other stakeholders prepare for future arrivals. Using qualitative methods, researchers conducted semi-structured interviews and focus groups with 57 key informants (28 Congolese women and 29 service providers) in Lexington, Kentucky; San Antonio, Texas; and Salt Lake City, Utah.
The findings of this study reveal the complex and dynamic nature of Congolese refugee women’s resettlement experiences in the U.S., influenced by pre- and post-migration factors. While the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program emphasizes economic integration and self-sufficiency, this study highlights the need to take into account unmet needs such as social support and mental health. The report presents recommendations to the refugee resettlement practitioner, policy, and donor communities, intended to complement existing efforts underway and to enhance the resettlement of refugees in the U.S.
This study was a collaboration between researchers from The University of Texas at Austin and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, and was supported in part by funding from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).