Human Rights–based Practice in Social Work: The Case of Asylum Seekers in Canada

Chammas, Grace (2021)

Journal of Human Rights and Social Work

For the last three decades, Western host countries have been implementing restrictive immigration measures toward asylum seekers aiming to keep them out, to contain them in their country of origin or to toughen their living conditions in the host country. These measures have deeply affected the civil and political rights of asylum seekers as well as their social and economic well-being. Using an exploratory approach, this study explored how social workers dealt with situations of social and economic human rights violations experienced by asylum seekers in Canada. Findings revealed that many factors shaped social workers’ conceptions of human rights and their decisions to engage in human rights–based practice. These factors were academic training, social workers’ personal stance toward human rights, and social workers’ approach to structural disadvantage carried out in public institutions toward asylum seekers. Findings suggested social workers developed different understanding of inland immigration measures and the effect of structural disadvantages in asylum seekers’ host countries. Findings also illustrated interventions centered around human rights that followed from empowerment, such as consciousness-raising, critical thinking and actions of mobilization.