The term “refugee” is a legal status granted by the United Nations (overseas) and by the US (for those who enter through the US Refugee Resettlement Program). It refers to an individual who has been forced to flee their country due to well founded fear of persecution on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, political affiliation, or membership in a particular social group.
Today there are more than fifteen million people worldwide who fall into this category (not including the more than forty million who are forcably displaced within their home country or who have fled due to reasons of natural disaster, famine, violence and poverty). The United States is one of more than a dozen nations around the world who agree to admit a designated number of refugees each year through a program run by the US Department of State. Despite being the largest refugee resettlement program in the world, the US this year expected to admit less than one third of one percent (<0.03%) of the refugee population currently under United Nations designation and care. Those who are invited to begin new lives in peace in Greensboro or any of the other towns and cities across America where refugees call home, are those for whom all possible options have been exhausted.
Many of the refugees entering the US today have fled decades old persecution and have been living without rights, protection or safety for much if not all of their lives. For us here at CWS, the two biggest populations we expect in 2012 are those originally from Bhutan and Burma. The Bhutanese are coming to the US from refugee camps along the border in Nepal where they have been since being forced to flee their home country in 1991 during an ethnic cleansing campaign. Those coming in 2012 will have spent 21 years in captivity – the children will have no memories of freedom or acceptance, the US will be the first country to recognize them as citizens when they eventually naturalize.
The other major populations are coming out of Burma where a military dictatorship has brought terror to its people for more than six decades. Populations coming from Burma are ethnically diverse and have varied experiences. Some have fled into established refugee camps in Thailand (many of these are of the ethnic group Karen) while others fled into urban areas in Malaysia (mostly Chin) and India.
More information about both these groups along with general information about refugees and about the US program can be found below. CWS provides Intro to Refugee Resettlement as well as cultural competency training throughout the year. If you’re interested in learning more, please email Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Refugee Quick Facts - Provides current information about the world’s refugee population at a glance.
Resettlement Program Terms - Information about the US Refugee Resettlement Program.