Series on World Refugee Day: The Five W’s of Refugee Resettlement (Part 2 of 3)

Today we will examine the Who, What, When, Where, and Why for refugee resettlement. Resettled refugees are often a marginalized and economically disadvantaged population. On this World Refugee Day, we will advocate for the protection and empowerment of resettled refugees around the globe.

Credit: Red Cross
Credit: Red Cross

Who? While governments determine how many refugees are resettled in their respective countries (host countries) each year, resettlement NGOs and their affiliates manage the major aspects of physical resettlement like assigning refugees to their new residence locations and providing direct personal, medical, and legal assistance.

What? After a refugee is accepted to the US Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), he or she is eligible for short-term Refugee Cash Assistance, which helps with living expenses and furnishings. Resettlement NGOs determine what each refugee’s additional needs are – including medical, educational, cultural, legal, economic, or social psychological needs – and coordinate with affiliate organizations to ensure proper services.

When is resettlement complete? “Resettlement” refers to the creation of a place of residence for a successful applicant to the USRAP. Thus, a refugee has been resettled when he or she has his or her own residence within the host country. However, many NGOs feel that the resettlement process ends after the refugee has been integrated into his or her new community and after his or her needs – medical or otherwise – have been met.

To aide in the process of integration, resettlement NGOs can encourage refugees to participate in programs that cater to their individual needs, like the Preferred Communities Program.  The Preferred Communities Program is designed to enable the resettlement of newly-arrived refugees in communities where they have many opportunities to become self-sufficient and integrated, and it provides support for refugees with special needs who require intensive case management.

Where? Many refugees are placed in communities where a significant number of individuals from their home country have already resettled. For instance, Afghan refugees may be resettled to Northern California, where a large Afghan expatriate and refugee community currently reside.

Why? The United States has a tradition of offering refuge to those fleeing persecution and war.  While most refugees and displaced persons return to their home countries when peace and stability are restored, many others cannot because conditions in their home countries never improve and they would risk being persecuted.  Because many host countries are unable to accept these refugees permanently, resettlement to a third country, like the United States, becomes necessary to ensure the legal protection of a refugee’s human rights.