Do you have five minutes to educate yourself about refugees? If so, keep reading.
Conversations with friends about refugees go something like this, “The number of refugees world wide is going up and refugee resettlement in the US is down by at least half. In 2016 we resettled 95,000 refugees and in 2017 we only resettled 24,559.” The common response is, “Hmm…I didn’t know.”
Although my husband works for World Relief and I know a little about refugees, there is much that I don’t know. Following is the result of a morning of refugee research. Interestingly, the articles I found had been published in 2016 or early 2017. Interest in refugees appears to be waning, so click on a few of these links and educate yourself.
Did you know that 65.6 million people were forcibly displaced world wide, and 22.5 million of them are refugees. And that’s as of the end of 2016.
Did you know that refugees are defined as those who have left their countries due to violence or persecution, and they likely cannot return home. Internally displaced people (IDPs) are those who have been forced to leave their homes but have not left their countries. There are 40.3 million people who have been internally displaced and 22.5 million refugees have left their countries.
Did you know that 2.6 million people live in refugee camps? Refugee camps, once designed for temporary shelter and emergency aid, have become permanent homes for many. It’s not unusual for a family to spend 10 or 20 years in a refugee camp. 51% of refugees are under the age of 18, and hopefully they get an decent education in refugee camps. Entire economies are developing within these camps and many refugees are starting businesses or learning useful work.
Did you know that the US has been the global leader in refugee resettlement? We have welcomed 3 million refugees since 1975.
What has changed in our attitudes toward accepting refugees? Terrorism is a primary fear, but fear of terrorism from refugees is not backed up by data. CNN reported, in January 2017:
No person accepted to the United States as a refugee, Syrian or otherwise, has been implicated in a major fatal terrorist attack since the Refugee Act of 1980 set up systematic procedures for accepting refugees into the United States, according to an analysis of terrorism immigration risks by the Cato Institute.
The Cato Institute policy analysis puts it this way:
…the chance of an American being murdered in a terrorist attack caused by a refugee is 1 in 3.64 billion per year while the chance of being murdered in an attack committed by an illegal immigrant is an astronomical 1 in 10.9 billion per year.
The economic impact of refugees is a bit more difficult to quantify. Americans worry that refugees will take their jobs or cause wages to decline, but as this PBS article describes, it depends. Young refugees with skills will be good for the economy after they have overcome language barriers and adjusted to life here, while older or low skilled refugees may be a drain in the short term.
Did you know that refugees apply to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR – the source of many of my links) and when names are given to the United States they are screened by eight agencies? It is an elaborate process that can take 18 – 24 months, and that’s for the names that the US received. The other millions of refugees wait. And wait.
Do you know how God feels about refugees? I could quote a number of Scriptures to make this point (you can check here or here for references), but I’d rather speak of God’s heart as revealed in the Bible. He is a God who created every man, woman and child in his image, and he loves each one of us. He has always commanded that we treat foreigners, aliens and the marginalized with care and respect. His way is always the best way, even when it means problems on this earth. Somehow – and we may never understand – he will use even the refugee crisis for good. Fear isn’t in his vocabulary, and he desires that we act in faith rather than fear. God always honors faith.
What could be done for refugees by faith in our good, gracious, and loving God? Certainly more than we are doing now.
Do you know a little bit more about refugees than you did five minutes ago?
Photo: By Ggia [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia