Why should refugees matter to you?

65.6 million is a dehumanizing figure.

65.6 million displaced people (and counting) are currently searching for a place to call home, fleeing natural disasters, oppressive governments, civil wars, persecution and conflict. This 65 million figure, based off statistics from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), is composed of internally displaced peoples, refugees, stateless peoples, and asylum seekers.

What’s the difference between these groups?

Internally displaced peoples have been forced to leave their homes, but remain in the same country. They rank among the most vulnerable of these groups because it is much more difficult for the UNCHR and other human rights organizations to aid displaced peoples who remain under the protection of their government. Asylum seekers are people who have emigrated from their home country, and are seeking but have yet to be granted asylum in another country. An individual can seek asylum if they fear persecution if they return to their country of origin. Stateless people are those who are denied a nationality completely, meaning that their country of origin does not claim them as a citizen or national. The Rohingya minority fleeing Myanmar/Burma have been denied citizenship since 1982, making them stateless. Refugees are people who have been forced to leave their homes and lives due to conflict or persecution. An individual or group could be defined by more than just one of these terms, and often is. For example, many Rohingya refugees are also stateless.

shinkiari-81770_1920
Shinkiari Refugee Camp in Pakistan

So…  why should you care?

Refugees come from all walks of life. They are children, grandparents, professors, engineers, parents, scientists, business owners, and everything in between. They have lived in tents, tiny apartments, and compounds, they have traveled by boat, train, plane, bus, and on foot. They are not enduring immense hardships to “seek a better life” as immigrants are often painted, but because they have no other choice.

If refugees do not speak to the humanitarian piece of you, look at them for the benefits they could provide you and your nation.

Persecution, civil war, and natural disasters are not selective in who they impact. It is not uncommon for displaced peoples to be highly skilled in their trade, fairly wealthy, and eager for an opportunity to work. In research completed in the United States, this is demonstrated by “Likely Refugees” holding the highest percentages of entrepreneurship when compared to both other immigrants and U.S. born citizens. They contribute an estimated $20.6 billion in taxes, and earned a collective $56.3 billion in disposable income to use at U.S. businesses. (New American Economy 2017)

If refugees are, on average, so successful… aren’t they taking jobs from hard-working Americans?

Probably not.

We’ve already discussed refugees’ high rates of entrepreneurship, which would create jobs for Americans and refugees alike, instead of taking any away. In addition, The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine found in their report, The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration (2017), “little to no negative effects on overall wages and employment of native-born workers in the longer term.”

Refugees, in the United States and throughout many other nations where they are received, contribute positively to the economy, participate in the community, and help the nation grow. The time for misplaced fears is long gone; it is time to open arms and allow refugees and displaced peoples into the nations of the world, giving everyone the opportunity to grow.

 

For more information on refugees, displaced peoples, and their role in the communities where they are resettled, check out these websites:

http://www.rcusa.org/contributions-of-refugees-to-the-us/

http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/figures-at-a-glance.html

http://www.newamericaneconomy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/NAE_Refugees_V5.pdf

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