The refugee crisis that is happening around the world is overwhelming and often confusing with so much information coming at us each day. With so many different refugee issues happening around the world, it seems daunting often to even try to understand the myriad of humanitarian issues. First off, though, it’s important to understand what defines a refugee and why it is important to have that status.
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) website, a refugee can be defined this way:
“Refugees are people fleeing conflict or persecution. They are defined and protected in international law, and must not be expelled or returned to situations where their life and freedom are at risk.” (http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/refugees.html)
Often many countries offer resources to those who have refugee status and there is a security to being able to stay in a country because of this status.
United States has a very rigorous process in order to be considered a refugee. With the current administration, the amount of refugees being allowed is constantly being disputed, but still about 800-900 are coming into the United States each week. Unfortunately, that is just a drop in the bucket considering the millions of refugees worldwide.
A person must first be considered a refugee by the United Nations Refugee Agency before he or she can even apply to the United States. After that, a long vetting process ensues which involves agencies such as the FBI and Homeland Security among others. Once admitted into the United States, refugees are provided with travel money that must eventually be repaid once settled.
The first three months in the states provide the most support for a refugee. When entering the country, a refugee is connected to a refugee resettlement agency. This involves finding a city for the individual or family where they already know someone, or where it would be a good fit for them. They find them a place to stay and help to furnish it. They are also given a stipend for the first three months, but are encouraged to find employment as soon as possible. There are countless other ways that agencies get involved, from helping locate a school for children to connecting families to health resources. This is a daunting process for refugees who often do not speak the language or know the culture.
The complexity of a refugee’s life as a new member of society in the United States is hard to comprehend, but it is important to understand that it is complex and there is no one size fits all of what works. That’s why having organizations like Thrive that work to fill in the gaps that agencies are unable to fill and to be flexible to the different situations. To find out more about what organizations are doing in Michigan and beyond, be sure to check out some of the links below to read more about what is happening.
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Blog written by Susan Saylor.