Understanding

the Refugee Crisis

by Brittany Harms

     We see it on the news and hear countless opinions from talking heads, social media influencers,
world leaders and the like. But what exactly is the refugee crisis, and how is it unfolding around the
world?
This article will clarify what the global refugee crisis is and offer an understanding of what happens
to refugees after they flee their countries. What is a refugee?
According to the United Nations, “A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, or political opinion” (Refugee Facts and Statistics, 2018). To find security in another country, refugees must prove that they are truly endangered in their home country and be legally recognized as a refugee. Displaced persons are like refugees in that they are forced to flee their homes due to imminent
danger, but they are different in that do not leave their country’s borders. Unlike refugees, migrants are those who voluntarily leave their countries in search for a better life in another nation (Refugees and Resettlement, 2018).

Where do refugees come from?


     Historically, refugees have fled from around the world during times of war and political turmoil.
Today, refugees primarily come from war-torn areas in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. World Vision
reported in February 2018 that the top five nations with the highest numbers of refugees are Syria,
Afghanistan, the Lake Chad Basin (which includes parts of several nations), South Sudan, and Somalia
(Huber, 2018). Hundreds of thousands of refugees flee other countries as well, including Myanmar, D.R.
Congo, the Central African Republic, and Eritrea.

Why do they leave?
     When a country is in turmoil, refugees must seek shelter from immediate physical danger. Civil wars,
terrorism, bombings, persecution, famine, and other dangers force families away from their homes.
Where do they go?
The countries accepting the highest numbers of refugees are, naturally, those bordering the affected
nations. These include Turkey, Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Jordan. Typically, a refugee family will enter
one of these neighboring countries for immediate aid in a refugee camp. Refugee camps offer
temporary security and shelter for families and individuals who have fled their homes with nothing.
Often the camps are without electricity, running water, employment opportunities, and schools, making
life difficult for families in need of long-term security. Most refugees remain in camps until they can be
resettled locally or repatriated to their country of origin.

A small fraction of the most endangered refugees is resettled to nations in places like Europe and
North America. This process can take years, and refugees have no choice in which country they will be
resettled to (Refugees and Resettlement, 2018). Resettlement programs such as the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) help relocate refugees to the safest location available based on
their needs. The United States has the largest refugee resettlement program in the world and currently
houses the most vulnerable refugees from around the world.

What is life in their placement country like?
     After resettlement, refugees must rebuild their lives in a new and unfamiliar country. In the first few
months following their arrival they are given limited assistance with housing, food, cultural integration
and employment from government agencies and non-profits (Refugees in America, 2018). Their greatest
obstacles are cultural and language barriers as well as finding employment and escaping poverty.
The whole world is affected by the destruction unfolding in war-torn countries. Refugees face
incredible hardship, giving up their livelihoods for a long journey towards security. As the refugee crisis
unfolds, nations try to resettle and assist refugees in finding new lives in safety.