Refugees have a story of incredible perseverance and resiliency in the face of unimaginable persecution, trauma, and loss. Forced to leave their home countries, they’ve been displaced out of necessity and separated from their families. Learn more about how to develop long-term dignity giving relationships with these new neighbors who ache for security, community, and a place to belong where their many strengths and talents are welcomed.
Traci Harrod is the founder and director of Refuge, a non-profit organization that provides workshops, training, and consultation to faith communities and other groups who desire to engage with our neighbors in the U.S. who came through refugee resettlement. She is committed to building communities that reflect the inclusive love of God by shifting from an “us/them” mindset to thinking about how we’re “becoming us” together.
Refuge began in 2008, with the primary purpose of providing information and mentoring in understanding the challenges and barriers experienced during the refugee resettlement journey, along with responses to these challenges that express justice, compassion, and humility. Refuge provides guidance and support by offering consultation, workshops, and training to deepen understanding and build skill sets for those seeking to engage with members of our communities from diverse backgrounds in ways that reflect the welcoming, inclusive love of God.
Immigrants – People who have chosen to move to another country and settle there, often in search of safety, work, or educational opportunities for their children
Refugees – People who have fled their home country due to persecution based on race, religion, nationality, social group, or political opinion, and have been verified and classified by the United Nations as refugees.
Asylum Seekers – People who have fled their home country due to persecution and apply for protection in another country after they arrive.
HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE DISPLACED IN THE WORLD TODAY?
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, 65.3 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes in 2015. Of those, 21.3 million were refugees, 40.8 million were internally displaced persons, and 3.2 million were asylum seekers.
WHAT DOES “RESETTLEMENT” MEAN?
Resettlement is the process of transferring people from an asylum country to a country that agrees to accept them on a permanent basis. The vast majority of refugees never get the rare opportunity to resettle in a third country.
WHAT IS THE LEGAL STATUS OF PEOPLE WHO RESETTLE IN THE U.S.?
People who resettle in the U.S. have been selected by the U.S. State Department and admitted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. According to the Refugee Act of 1980, they have full legal status, including authorization to work, upon arrival. One year after they arrive, individuals who are admitted as refugees are required to apply for adjustment of status to that of Lawful Permanent Resident. After five years, they can apply to become U.S. citizens.
HOW MANY OF THE WORLD’S REFUGEES ARE RESETTLED?
Less than 1% of the world’s refugees are “resettled,” or given the opportunity to start over in a new country like the U.S. (In 2015, 0.7% of the world’s refugees were referred for resettlement.)
HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO BE ACCEPTED FOR RESETTLEMENT IN THE U.S.?
The U.S. refugee resettlement program involves a more rigorous screening and security process than for any other people admitted to the U.S.. Learn more about this process here:
WHAT ARE THE PRIMARY COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN FOR FAMILIES RESETTLING IN THE U.S.?
In 2015, the top ten countries were Burma (also known as Myanmar), Iraq, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bhutan, Iran, Syria, Eritrea, Sudan, and Cuba.
AREN’T REFUGEES FLOODING IN FROM SYRIA BY THE THOUSANDS?
Unlike Europe, displaced people from Syria are not arriving via boat or land to the U.S., nor can they fly into the country without being approved for refugee status. That process frequently takes 18 months or more, meaning refugees are arriving in the U.S. at a very slow pace compared to the numbers by which they are arriving in Europe. (usnews.com)
HOW DOES THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE COMING TO THE U.S. WITH REFUGEE STATUS COMPARE TO OTHER TYPES OF IMMIGRANTS AND VISITORS?
Refugees make up a very small percentage of the people who enter this country each year as immigrants or visitors. Annually, the U.S. admits approximately 85,000 refugees, while admitting nearly 70 million visitors (for whom the screening process is much less thorough). See the following chart:
DO PEOPLE GET TO CHOOSE THEIR RESETTLEMENT CITY?
People who are approved for resettlement in the U.S. do not choose which city or state they will be resettled in. If they are being reunified with family members who have already resettled, they are usually sent to that city. Otherwise, the process of matching newcomers with receiving communities happens at a national level and newcomers themselves have no choice where they are initially sent.
The UN Refugee Agency: Global Trend
The UN Refugee Agency: Figures At A Glance
Migration Policy Institute: Refugees and Asylees in the United States
US Department of State: Refugee Admissions Reception & Placement Program
Embrace Refugees: Clear explanation of refugee experience, highlighted by informative, inspiring videos and short stories.
U.S. Committee For Refugees And Immigrants: Helpful information from the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.
We Welcome Refugees: Encouraging a hopeful and compassionate response, specifically to the Syrian refugee crisis.
The UN Refugee Agency: United Nations Refugee Agency, the international organization in charge of protecting and assisting refugees.
International Rescue Committee: Seven common myths about refugee resettlement in the U. S.
The UN Refugee Agency: Downloadable PDF Report “Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2015”
The UN Refugee Agency: Figures at a Glance Chart
NPR The Two Way: Article regarding worldwide displacement “Refugees, Displaced People Surpass 60 Million For The First Time, UNHCR Says”
International Association For Refugees: Downloadable PDF with helpful terminology distinctions “Terminology of Forced Displacement”
U.S. RESETTLEMENT PROCESS:
The White House: Infographic details of the screening process for Refugee Entry to the U.S. “For Refugee Entry Into The United States”
Office Of Refugee Resettlement: Resettlement resources and contacts by state.
Refugee Processing Center: Reports on Admissions and Arrivals
Migration Policy Institute: Fact Sheet “Ten Facts About U.S. Refugee Resettlement”
CULTURAL AWARENESS AND UNDERSTANDING:
The Refugee Center Online: Extremely helpful overview of Cultural Humility and other foundational principles.
Foreign to Familiar. By Sarah A. Lanier; McDougal, 2000.
This book creates within us a greater appreciation for our extended family around the world and an increased desire to better understand them.
A Beginners Guide to Crossing Cultures. By Patty Lane; Intervarsity Press, 2002.
Patty Lane demonstrates God’s heart for building bridges across cultures and shows how you can reach out to people of every nation, culture and ethnicity.
Cross Cultural Servanthood. By Duane Elmer; InterVarsity Press, 2006.
This book gives practical advice for serving other cultures with sensitivity and humility. The author offers principals and guidance for avoiding misunderstanding and building relationships in ways that honors others.
Cultural Orientation Resource Center: The Cultural Orientation Resource Center provides Culture Profiles regarding specific groups being resettled.
STORIES AND INFORMATION ABOUT THE REFUGEE EXPERIENCE
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network: Information about the impact of trauma in the refugee experience.
International Association For Refugees: Downloadable PDF Article “The Work of Jonathan”
Medium: “Everything Is Yours” by Clemantine Wamariya. A story of fleeing Rwanda.
CNN: “Sanctuary Without End” by David McKenzie and Brent Swails. Interactive article about Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp.
What Is The What. By Dave Eggers; Vintage Books, 2006.
Valentino Achak Deng was forced to leave his village in Sudan at the age of seven and trek hundreds of miles to find freedom. When he finally is resettled in the United States, he finds a life full of promise, but also heartache and myriad of new challenges.
The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down. By Anne Fadiman; Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 1997.
This book explores the clash between a small county hospital in California and a refugee family from Laos over the care of Lia Lee, a Hmong child diagnosed with severe epilepsy.
YouTube Video: Reality of Life For a Refugee Family – Yaman & his brother Mohammed had to flee Syria.
YouTube Video: Most Shocking Second a Day Video – A Young Girl’s Life Gets Turned Upside Down.
YouTube Video: Meet the 1%: One Refugee Family’s Road To A New Life In The United States
INSPIRATION FOR “BECOMING US”
She Loves Magazine: “Approaching the Table of Radical Grace” by Fiona Koefoed-Jespersen.
We are all equally welcome at the table of grace.
Assimilate or Go Home: Notes From A Failed Missionary On Rediscovering Faith. By D.L. Mayfield; Harper One, 2016.
In this collection of stunning and surprising essays, Mayfield invites readers to reconsider their concepts of justice, love, and reimagine being a citizen of this world and the upside-down kingdom of God.
When Helping Hurts – How To Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting The Poor… and Yourself. By Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert; Moody, 2009, 2012.
This book encourages us to see the dignity in everyone, to empower the materially poor, and to know that we are all uniquely needy.
Healing Invisible Wounds: Paths to Hope and Recovery in a Violent World. By Dr. Richard Mollica, Director of the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma; Harcourt, Inc, 2006.
This book reveals how in every society we have to move away from viewing trauma survivors as ‘broken people’ and ‘outcasts’ to seeing them as courageous people actively contributing to larger social goals.
USEFUL RESOURCES FOR CHURCHES AND OTHER GROUPS
International Association For Refugees: Downloadable PDF – Ten Common Myths Concerning Refugees
International Association For Refugees: Downloadable PDF – Refugees in the Bible
International Association For Refugees: Downloadable PDF – Welcoming The Stranger: Affirmations for Faith Leaders
YouTube Video: Welcoming Strangers Into Your Home – One man’s story.
Downloadable PDF: “How To Be Hospitable in a Multi-Ethnic, Multi-Religious World,” by Rick Love, Phd.
Sojourners: “Rejecting Refugees, Rejecting Christ,” by Stephen Mattson.
RESOURCES FOR HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS
EthnoMed: Integrating Cultural Information Into Clinical Practice.
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network: Trauma Informed Guidance for Primary Care Providers
Refugee Health Technical Assistance Center: Providing technical assistance and support on refugee health and mental health for providers in the U.S.
RESOURCES FOR EDUCATORS
The Refugee Center Online: How to Teach Refugee Students in Your Classroom – Education Background Profiles.
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network: Guidance for Teachers and Educators