Who is a refugee?
As defined by Article 1 of the 1951 Refugee Convention: a person owing to a 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.

How many refugees come to the United States?
58, 238 refugees were resettled in the U.S. in fiscal year 2012. The number of refugees from each country to be accepted for U.S. resettlement is determined by the government each year. Among industrialized countries, the United States has consistently accepted the largest number overall, but in terms of land area and per-capita falls behind its European counterparts. The US resettles less than half of 1% of refugees worldwide. Developing nations host three quarters of the worlds refugees.

What do refugees receive when they arrive?
In January 2010, the governments one-time allocation on behalf of each refugee arrival was increased to $1,800 from $900. In Utica, that means $1,100 of federal money is spent on first months rent, security deposit, furniture, clothing, household goods and other items for approximately 500 people annually.

What services do refugees receive when they arrive?
Refugees are provided with referrals to health professionals and social services, assistance with registering children for school, and orientation to their local community and American norms, laws, and culture.

What health and security screenings do refugees receive?
Refugees undergo medical screening and treatment before they are granted permission to resettle in the United States.  Upon arrival, refugees receive further health screening and receive appropriate vaccinations. The Department of Homeland Security conducts in-depth checks of each refugee prior to being admittance to the United States.

How are public safety services affected?
Each newly arriving refugee learns how to interact with the police and public safety services during cultural orientation, and practices traffic safety with an on-site training course.  MVRCR also has experience offering training for communicating effectively with refugees to public safety officers.

Are refugees eligible for public assistance? 
Refugees are eligible for federally reimbursed public assistance for the first eight months after arrival in the United States under the Refugee Cash Assistance program. Refugees also qualify for Refugee Medical Assistance, which pays the costs for many initial health services. These two programs are funded through the Department of Health and Human Services. Refugees are usually eager to begin work soon after they arrive in the United States In order to attain economic self-sufficiency and repay their loans for travel to the US as quickly as possible.

Do refugees pay taxes?
Refugees pay all taxes, including property taxes. The average immigrant (including refugees) pays $1,800 more in taxes than she receives in benefits, according to a landmark study by the National Research Council and National Academy of Sciences. Over their lifetimes, the average immigrant and her immediate descendants contribute $80,000 more in taxes than they receive in benefits.

Where will the refugees find work?  Who will help them find work?
MVRCR’s Employment Unit provides job counseling within a month of arrival, refugees generally begin to work within three months of arrival. Refugees are placed in entry-level positions as they begin to work in the United States. Because many have limited English skills, they usually start with manual labor such as factory work, washing dishes, or hotel housekeeping.

Will the refugees learn English?
Within weeks of their arrival, adult refugees without primary caregiver responsibilities are placed in English as a Second Language classes, and are required to attend until they find jobs and become self-sufficient.

What does the term refugee mean?
Refugees are migrants who have left their countries of origin and are unable or unwilling to return because of persecution, or a well-founded fear of persecution, on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group, or political opinion. The term refugee does not refer to migrants who have left their country of origin as a result of economic pressures or environmental catastrophe.1

How many refugees are there? Who are they?
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that in 2009 there were 15.2 million refugees in the world. The top three countries of origin for the worlds refugees were Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia. Increasingly, the largest proportion of the worlds refugees comes from Asian and Pacific countries.2

What other types of people are forcibly displaced?

Other forcibly displaced people include asylum seekers and internally displaced persons (IDPs):

  • Asylum seekers3  Migrants in the process of seeking protection in a country outside of their country of origin. Asylum seekers are different from refugees because they seek protection from a country they have already entered. In 2009, the United States received nearly 40,000 asylum applications.4
  • Internally displaced people (IDPs)5  Migrants who have been uprooted from their homes but remain in their country of origin, unlike refugees who have left their countries. At the end of 2008, there were more than 16 million IDPs in the world. The countries with the largest number of IDPs in 2008 were the Sudan, Colombia and Iraq.6


1 Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, UNHCR.ORG, 1 September 2007, United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, 17 September 2010, http://www.unhcr.org/protect/PROTECTION/3b66c2aa10.pdf.

2 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees- Division of Programme Support and Management,  2009 Global Trends: Refugees, Asylumseekers, Returnees, Internally Displaced and Stateless Persons, UNHCR.ORG, 15 June 2010, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 17 September 2010, http://www.unhcr.org/4c11f0be9.html

3 Asylum-Seekers, UNHCR.ORG, n.d., United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, 17 September 2010, http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c137.html

4 Immigration Courts: FY 2009 Asylum Statistics, Executive Office for Immigration Review Office of Planning, Analysis, and Technology, March 2010, U.S. Department of Justice, 17 September 2010, http://www.justice.gov/eoir/efoia/FY09AsyStats.pdf

5 Internally Displaced People, UNHCR.ORG, n.d., United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, 17 September 2010, http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c146.html

6 Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees