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Fam Process. 2011 Mar;50(1):27-46. doi: 10.1111/j.1545-5300.2010.01344.x.

Secondary migration and relocation among African refugee families in the United States.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1601 W. Taylor Street, Chicago, IL 60201, USA.


The purpose of this study was to understand the secondary migration and relocation of African refugees resettled in the United States. Secondary migration refers to moves out of state, while relocation refers to moves within state. Of 73 recently resettled refugee families from Burundi and Liberia followed for 1 year through ethnographic interviews and observations, 13 instances of secondary migration and 9 instances of relocation were identified. A family ecodevelopmental framework was applied to address: Who moved again, why, and with what consequences? How did moving again impact family risk and protective factors? How might policies, researchers, and practitioners better manage refugees moving again? Findings indicated that families undertook secondary migration principally for employment, affordable housing, family reunification, and to feel more at home. Families relocated primarily for affordable housing. Parents reported that secondary migration and relocation enhanced family stability. Youth reported disruption to both schooling and attachments with peers and community. In conclusion, secondary migration and relocation were family efforts to enhance family and community protective resources and to mitigate shortcomings in resettlement conditions. Policymakers could provide newly resettled refugees jobs, better housing and family reunification. Practitioners could devise ways to better engage and support those families who consider moving.

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