In 1951 The United Nations Refugee Convention adopted a definition of Refugee as follows: “A refugee is any person who “owing to 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, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it”(p. 18). The UNHCR-USA defined an asylum-seeker as “someone whose request for sanctuary has yet to be processed”, and noted that every year about 1 million people seek asylum, and that at the end of 2018 there were more than 3.5 million people worldwide awaiting decisions on their asylum petitions. Each country has specific laws governing the process for seeking asylum. The laws for the US can be found at this link.
The United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) published a Resettlement Handbook in 2011 and noted that the UNHCR mandate “also extends to persons who are affected by the indiscriminate effects of armed conflict or other events which have seriously disrupted public order…(and includes people) unable to return to one’s country owing to serious and indiscriminate threats to life, physical integrity or freedom resulting from generalized violence or events seriously disturbing public order” (p. 19). The United States vetting for refugee status is extensive after a refugee goes through the UNHCR process. Only one of every 500 refugees were resettled worldwide in 2018.
This 2018 graphic shows that North America and Europe have more refugees and asylum seekers than South America or Africa. Countries in the Middle East, South America, and Africa all have double the aggregate number of asylum seekers and refugees who live as Internally Displaced People! The UNHCR notes that Internally Displaced People (IDPs) “have not crossed a border to find safety. Unlike refugees, they are on the run at home.”
According to the Pew Research Center, the number of global refugees has increased 50% since 2013. In 2019 there were more than 70 million people worldwide who have migrated or who have been forced to migrate. The current situation is called a crisis because more people have left home as refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people than were displaced by World War II. The sizes of refugee camps are staggering, some approaching a million. The UNHCR estimates that 85% are being hosted in developing countries.
The UNHCR has a graphic that provides information about the world’s and the USA’s resettlement facts. The National Immigration Forum has a fact sheet about US resettlement. This fact sheet indicates that in 2016, the United States accepted 85,000 refugees through the State Department Refugee Resettlement program. The proposed number for the 2019 fiscal year was reduced to 30,000.
Immigrants make significant contributions to the workforce and the economy, and enrich the communities where they settle. The New American Economy website provides information about how immigrants contribute to the economy in Alabama.
Rooted in the tradition and principles of how Americans have helped "the huddled masses yearning to breathe free," ALIRP believes in refugee and asylum-seeker rights regardless of status or country of origin. We believe migration is a human right. How can we help refugees and asylum seekers, both locally and globally? How do we stand as individuals and how does our community stand? Join ALIRP’s efforts to identify and implement ways to support refugees and asylum-seekers!