Who is a refugee?

"A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries." 

Who is an IDP?

"An internally displaced person (IDP) is a person who has been forced to flee his or her home for the same reason as a refugee, but remains in his or her own country and has not crossed an international border. Unlike refugees, IDPs are not protected by international law or eligible to receive many types of aid. As the nature of war has changed in the last few decades, with more and more internal conflicts replacing wars among countries, the number of IDPs has increased significantly."

Definitions taken from USA for UNHCR, http://www.unrefugees.org/what-is-a-refugee/

What can be done to help refugees?

Many refugees want to better their situation and have no desire to remain refugees. These are a few solutions that can sometimes be used to help them:

  • Voluntary repatriation. A returnee, or voluntary repatriate, is a refugee who returns to their country of origin. This only happens when what caused someone to flee is no longer an issue. Voluntary repatriation may take place over a period of time, beginning with visits to the home country. Assistance may be needed for legal issues and family reunification. 
  • Local integration. When returning to the home country is not possible, if the country where a refugee has fled allows, local integration is possible. Asylum is not easy to achieve, and if there is a large number of refugees, it can place strain on the neighboring country. However, if done properly, refugees are able to contribute to their host country rather than be a burden.
  • Third-country resettlement. If a neighboring country is unwilling to let refugees integrate locally, it is often the case that refugees become "warehoused" near the border in refugees camps for years at a time. Resettlement to a third country like the United States is a very difficult option to secure and is always used as a last resort. Less than 1% of refugees around the world are resettled to a third country. Of those that are accepted, refugees in the United States are resettled in partnership with the government and other non-profit organizations. See below to learn more about how refugees come to the United States.

The need is great. This is why we serve refugees and the displaced.

Information used from UNHCR: http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c11.html

Information used from UNHCR: http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c11.html

Refugees in the United States

What is the vetting process for a refugee coming to the United States?

A refugee who has gone through the vetting process has gone through:

  • 8 U.S. Federal government agencies
  • 6 different security databases
  • 5 separate background checks
  • 4 biometric security checks
  • 3 separate in-person interviews
  • 2 inter-agency security checks
  • The entire process is conducted abroad and can take up to 2 years 

Information used from http://refugees.org/news/extreme-vetting-mean/

General facts about refugee resettlement:

1. Refugees cannot apply for resettlement

2. A refugee’s life, liberty, safety, health or other fundamental rights are considered to be at risk

3. Refugees cannot pick their country of resettlement

4. Persons found to have committed serious crimes would not be referred for resettlement

What are some stories of refugees who have gone through the vetting process?

Click here to read the stories of people from Iraq and Somalia who both went through the vetting process to come to the United States. 

What happens after refugees arrive in the United States?

In the first 90 days, agencies contract with the Department of State to provide for refugee's food, housing, employment, medical care, counseling and other services to help the refugee make a rapid transition to economic self-sufficiency.

Is there any research about whether or not refugees continue to use benefit programs after they have arrived?

According to this report from the Migration Policy Institute, "During the 2009-11 period, less than one-quarter of refugee households with at least a decade of U.S. experience received food stamps, compared to 11 percent of U.S. born; and only 3 percent of refugee households received cash welfare benefits, compared to 2 percent for the U.S. born." 

A more recent case study, conducted in the past 7 years in Philadelphia, shows that according to basic economic indicators, "quite a few refugees are doing as well as or perhaps better than the average Philadelphian."

What is the goal of refugee resettlement?

The goal for all those who come as refugees is citizenship.

In addition, the United States' entire history is one built on the narrative of immigrants. Many of our core values as American Citizens are tied inextricably to the narratives of those in the world who have fled lives of persecution and war.

The plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty says:

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!