REFUGEES & Frequently Asked Questions

What is a refugee?

Refugees are people who have fled their country because it is no longer safe. A refugee is defined by the 1951 Refugee Convention as someone who “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/her nationality.”

How many refugees are in the world today?

According to the 2014 Global Trends data published by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, by the end of 2014, 59.5 million individuals have been forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations. This 2014 data is 8.3 million persons more than the year before (51.2 million) and the highest annual increase in a single year. Of the 59.5 million forcibly displaced, 38 million have been uprooted within their own countries, and 21 million are refugees and asylum seekers.

How long do refugees live in refugee camps?

Stays can vary from 1 month to 20 years. Refugees stay in a camp until they are able to return safely to their homes (repatriation) or until the UNHCR decides to resettle them permanently in another country. This decision is sometimes reached only after a generation living in refugee camps. Currently, there are actually more refugees living in urban settings than in camps.

Do refugees come here speaking English?

Some refugees learned English in their home countries before they were displaced, and some had access to some English education in the refugee camps. While some arrivals are fluent English speakers, others have had few opportunities to learn it, although they may speak many other languages.

Do refugees come here with an education or job skills?

Some refugees were highly educated working professionals before they were displaced, while others have been essentially warehoused in refugee camps for most of their life and were unable to work. Some camps provide good educational opportunities for the children, and others do not.

Do refugees get to decide where they want to go?

No. They could be sent to any of the 28 countries which resettle refugees. They can turn down a resettlement placement, but would then have to wait again for another option elsewhere.

What countries did the refugees come from?

In the last two decades, Grand Forks has become home to refugees from Bosnia, Burundi, Bhutan, Ethiopia, Iraq, Liberia, Somalia, Sudan, and Uganda. Currently most arrivals to Grand Forks are coming from Bhutan and Somalia.

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