Refugees are people who are forced to flee their country due to war or persecution. They want to return home, but they can’t.
A refugee’s fleeing is sudden and unplanned. They often leave behind family, friends, homes, belongings, jobs and everything that is familiar in order to save their lives.
Most refugees flee to a neighboring country, where they end up in refugee camps or urban areas where they may be unwelcome and experience continued hardship and suffering.
Less than 1 percent of all refugees are resettled to a new country per year. Refugees invited by the U.S. government to resettle in America are the most thoroughly vetted individuals allowed in our country. Once approved to resettle in the U.S., refugees pay for their own flight through a revolving loan fund and enter the U.S. as legal residents.
Refugees start their lives over in the U.S. with next to nothing and face the difficult challenge of learning a new culture and language. What’s more, refugees’ deepest wounds are often emotional. Even after reaching safety in the U.S., many refugees still struggle with fear and loneliness. They need welcome, friendship and a place to belong.
Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world…I was a stranger and you invited me in.”
Key Facts About Refugees
Over 27.1 million people are living outside their home country as refugees. This is the largest and longest global refugee crisis ever recorded.
Refugees do not choose to leave their home country—they are forced to flee due to war or persecution.
Refugees are displaced on average for 17 years.
About half the world’s refugees are under age 18.
Less than 1 percent of refugees are resettled to a new country per year. Refugees who are resettled do not decide the country to which they are resettled.
Refugees entering the U.S. are the most thoroughly vetted individuals allowed in our country.
Refugees pay for their own travel to the U.S. through a Revolving Loan Fund. Refugees are invited to resettle by the U.S. government and enter as legal residents.
Refugees pay taxes and are contributors to the U.S. economy.
How Do Refugees Differ From Others Who Enter the United States?
The international community agreed to a common definition of “refugee” in 1951 with the signing of the United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees. The United States Congress legally adopted this definition when it passed the Refugee Act of 1980. This definition states:
A refugee is a person who has been forced to leave his/her homeland and is unable to return because she or he has experienced persecution or has a well- founded fear of persecution. Persecution can be related to race, nationality, religion, political opinions, or membership in a particular social group.
Exodus’ mission is to mobilize the Christian community to welcome and befriend refugees. We believe it is God’s call to welcome refugees. We partner with agencies who help refugees resettle in the United States so we can connect our new neighbors, who have been vetted and invited by the U.S. government, with caring volunteers.
While Exodus is focused on helping refugees specifically, we recognize that there are many newcomers to our country. A variety of different words are used when discussing these newcomers who enter the United States. Although the words are often used interchangeably, each term has a distinct meaning:
Refugees are people who have been forced to leave their own country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution. Refugees are unable to safely return to their homeland. After seeking refuge in a second country (not the United States), refugees apply to be resettled in a third country. The international community agreed to a common definition of “refugee” in 1951 with the signing of the United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees. The United States Congress legally adopted this definition when it passed the Refugee Act of 1980.
Asylees also flee their own country because of persecution. Asylees are also unable to safely return to their homeland. Unlike refugees, however, asylees are already within the borders of the United States when they request permission to stay. Asylees usually enter the U.S. with a temporary visa (visitor, tourist, etc.) and then request permission to remain permanently.
Humanitarian parolees, like asylees and refugees, flee their country because of war or persecution. They are unable to safely return to their homelands. Yet, instead of requesting asylum from within our country, humanitarian parolees request to temporarily immigrate to our country from their home country or another country. Unlike refugees, their immigration status is temporary and any extension of their time in the country is dependent on decisions made by the U.S. Congress.
According to the International Organization for Migration, “migrant” is an umbrella term, not defined under international law, reflecting the common lay understanding of a person who moves away from his or her place of usual residence, whether within a country or across an international border, temporarily or permanently, and for a variety of reasons.
Immigrants are people who come to the United States for family or economic reasons. Immigrants choose to leave their own country and can usually return safely at any time. Immigrants are allowed to permanently live and work in the United States if they have close family members already living here who are willing to sponsor them or if they have job skills that are in demand in the United States. The term immigrant is also used broadly to refer to anyone who has come to reside in the United States from another country.
Unauthorized immigrants (sometimes referred to as undocumented immigrants) are people who come to the United States for a variety of reasons, including fear of persecution, economic necessity, or to be close to family members. The difference between undocumented immigrants and other immigrants, refugees, or asylees is that undocumented immigrants enter the United States illegally, without official authorization to live and work here.