A refugee is a person who "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country..."
The 1951 Convention relating to
the Status of Refugees
Who is a refugee?
The 1951 Convention was approved by the United Nations on July 28, 1951. It is the key legal document in defining who is a refugee, and the kind of legal protection, other assistance and social rights he or she should receive from states parties to the document. Equally, it defines a refugee's obligations to host governments and certain categories of persons, such as war criminals, who do not qualify for refugee status.
Who is an Asylee?
Also known as a person seeking “political asylum.” This status is granted by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (link to http://uscis.gov/graphics/services/asylum/faq.htm#how2)
to an alien residing in the US as a result of a well-founded fear of persecution in the person’s individual’s country because of race, religion, ethnic group, or social group. This status is similar to refugee status. The difference being is that refugees are granted their status abroad while persons individuals seeking asylum apply after they enter the US.
What are some of the reasons that force people to leave their countries?
Refugees may flee their country of origin to due persecution based on their religion, social status, ethnicity, gender, economic status, or political beliefs.
What is the difference between a refugee and an immigrant?
Generally speaking, an immigrant is considered to be a person who chooses to leave his or her country, and is usually seeking employment and education opportunities that are either not present or inadequate within their own country. Refugees flee their country because of the threat of persecution and cannot return safely to their homes in the prevailing circumstances.
What kinds of benefits and services are refugees eligible for?
Refugees are eligible for a variety of federal assistance programs which entitle them to medical assistance, cash assistance, social service programs.
How many refugees enter the US each year?
In 2004, 52,868 refugees were admitted into the United States. (Source: U.S. Department of State ). For the 2005 fiscal year (i.e. October 1, 2004 - September 30, 2005), the total ceiling is set at 70,000 admissions (Source: USCIS). Additional historical documents archived at http://www.state.gov/www/global/prm/admissions_resettle.html
What are the regulatory responsibilities of the CDC in response to arriving refugee populations?
As a federal agency the Center for Disease Control (CDC) (link to CDC Mission Statement) is mandated to prevent the spread of illness and disease within the US as well as from abroad. Therefore refugees who plan to come to the US must undergo an overseas medical examination before arrival, notify state and local departments of arriving refugees.
Who determines how many refugees will resettle in the US?
Each year, the State Department prepares a Report to Congress on proposed refugee admissions, then the U.S. President consults with Congress and establishes the proposed ceilings for refugee admissions for the fiscal year. For the 2005 fiscal year (i.e. October 1, 2004 - September 30, 2005), the total ceiling is set at 70,000 admissions and is allocated to six geographic regions: Africa (20,000 admissions), East Asia (13,000 admissions), Europe and Central Asia (9,500 admissions), Latin America/Caribbean (5,000 admissions), Near East/South Asia (2,500 admissions) and 20,000 reserve.
What are some of the obstacles refugees face while resettling in the US?
Refugees who are resettling in the US may face a variety of obstacles and challenges primarily related to health, education, culture shock and language barrier, loss of livelihood, and economic hardship.
What is the role of a resettlement agency?
There are many voluntary agencies that assist refugees in resettling in the US. The primary role of resettlement agencies (link) is to provide temporary assistance to refugees during their initial state of resettling within a new culture. “Temporary” may mean anywhere from 6 months to several years depending on the needs of the refugee and nature of the resettlement agency. The assistance offered also varies and agencies will assist refugees in finding employment, housing, literacy and education courses, counseling, primary health care services and public assistance. Resettlement agency staff members and volunteers will also assist refugee families resettle by helping them cope with the cultural shock of language barriers and social differences.
Take the Refugee Quiz!
Visit a Voluntary Resettlement Agencies (VOLAGs) website:
Church World Services
Episcopal Migration Ministries
Ethiopian Community Development Council, Inc.
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
International Rescue Committee
Immigration and Refugee Services of America
Iowa Bureau of Refugee Services
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services
United States Catholic Conference/Migration and Refugee Services