The Plight of Refugees

70.8

Million

25.9

Million

37,000

17

DISPLACED PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD

REFUGEES LIVING OUTSIDE THEIR HOME COUNTRY

NEW DISPLACEMENTS EACH DAY

YEARS MOST REFUGEES ARE DISPLACED

Refugees are people who are forced to flee their home country due to war or persecution and are unable to return home.

Their fleeing is sudden and unplanned. To save their lives, they often must leave behind family, friends, homes, belongings, jobs and everything that is familiar.

Many refugees have experienced extreme trauma. Most flee to a neighboring country, where they may be unwelcome and where they face continued hardship and suffering.

Less than 1 percent of all refugees are resettled to a new country. 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 here with next to nothing. They 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

Definition of a Refugee

Refugees flee violence and persecution in their homeland. During their refugee journey, they experience destruction of possessions, murder of family members, torture, terror, and hopelessness. They arrive in the United States with almost nothing but the clothes they are wearing and face the difficult challenge of starting over in a new language and culture with limited help from the government and voluntary agencies.

Refugees’ deepest wounds are often emotional. Even after reaching safety in the United States, many refugees still struggle with fear and loneliness. They need welcome, friendship and a place to belong.

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.

How Do Refugees Differ From Others Who Enter the United States?

A variety of different words are used when discussing newcomers to our country. Although the words are often used interchangeably, each term has a distinct meaning:

Refugees

Refugees are people who have been forced to leave their own country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution. Refugees are outside the borders of the United States when they request an opportunity to begin a new life in our country. Unless the situation in their country changes, refugees are unable to safely return to their homeland.

Asylees

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.

Immigrants

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 Sates 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.

Undocumented Immigrants

Undocumented Immigrants (sometimes referred to as illegal aliens) 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.

These terms refer to newcomers who intend to reside permanently in the United States. Another category of newcomers are those who enter the United States with a temporary visa to visit friends and relatives, travel or study. Most temporary visitors cannot legally work in the U.S. and must return to their homeland when their visa expires.