Refugees people who are outside their countries because of a well-founded fear of persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group, and who cannot or do not want to return home, according to the UNHCR. They must be recognized by the UNHCR through the refugee status determination (RSD) procedure, during which the applicant proves he or she is a refugee.
- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) only refers 1 percent of all refugees to third country resettlement. The UNHCR will try to return refugees to home country or settle in the current country of residence. The countries that have established resettlement programs include: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.S.
- The UNHCR then refers refugees to the U.S. Resettlement Program (USRP).
- The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) oversees the USRP by developing application criteria, refugee admission ceilings, and presenting eligible cases to a division within the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
- If the refugee application meets all the criteria, a USCIS officer travels to interview the refugee applicant and help them complete the USCIS Form I-590 and gather their family biographical information. The USCIS officer also determines if the applicant is considered a refugee under the U.S. law. (Recognition as a refugee by UNHCR does not guarantee recognition by the USRP).
- Once approved, applicants are matched with one of the eleven refugee resettlement organization that will care for the refugees as they settle into their American lives. World Relief is one of these organizations.
- The final steps before coming to the U.S. include health and security screenings and cultural orientations, which may take two months to two years.
- The International Organization for Migration arranges air travel for most U.S.-bound refugees.
- After the refugee’s arrival in the U.S., the resettlement organization takes over and helps the refugee apply for a social security number, school registration, medical evaluation and English training.
- Within six months of arrival, all working-age, capable refugees are expected to find jobs and become a contributing member of the American community.
- Refugees may apply for Permanent Resident Alien status (green card) one year after arrival, and apply for citizenship after five years. (refugees.org)
For more information, visit:
Imagine living with no basic healthcare, sanitation or education systems. You have no citizenship because of a corrupt government. You can’t find a job because of discriminatory practices. You struggle to find food, water and shelter for your family.
That is reality for the residents of the Rakhine State in southwest Burma/Myanmar.
Although 800,000 residents of the Rakhine State were allowed to vote in November 2010 elections, they were given temporary registration cards that will soon expire without guarantee of permanent residential status.Without residential or citizen status, the people of the Rakhine state are considered stateless with no guarantees of basic rights.
There are currently 808,000 stateless persons in Burma, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. (http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/page?page=49e4877d6)
When inter-communal fighting began in the Rakhine State in June 2012, 75,000 residents fled from their homes and became internally displaced persons. This number added to the current 340,000 IDPs in Burma, according to the UNHCR.
The UNHCR is currently working to provide basic needs, such as sanitation, water, health and shelter for the Rakhine people. Additionally, the UNHCR is advocating the Burmese government to improve citizenship for displaced and undocumented residents.
World Relief Fort Worth settles many refugees from Burma, including the Chin and Karen people.
The Burmese Chin refugees
Every day, the Burmese Chin and Karen people fear being exposed. Thousands are forced to be illegal immigrants in neighboring Malaysia, Thailand and India.
They are vulnerable.
The Burmese Chin and Karen are vulnerable to sexual assault, employment abuse and denial of essential needs. Because of their illegal status, they are not protected and cannot report abuses without exposing themselves and risking arrest.
Political, ethnic and religious tensions have caused thousands of Chin and Karen people to flee to neighboring countries for protection.
According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, the following are all reasons for the Chin and Karen people to flee:
1. Discrimination against Christianity (mostly for Chin people)
2. Forced conversion to Buddhism (mostly for Chin people)
3. Harassment from soldiers extorting food and money from villagers
4. Punishment for actual or assumed support for the Chin National Front or Chin National Army
5. Consequences for support for the National League of Democracy
6. Intimidation and forced labor for the military service
7. Sexual violence by Burmese soldiers
Chin Culture Facts and life in U.S.
There are 1.5 million Chin people in the world, but only 600,000 of those still live in the Chin State (Christian Solidarity Worldwide). There are more than 30 distinct ethnic groups with 20 to 25 mutually unintelligible languages.
The Chin culture is very agrarian. Every household has a vegetable garden, and most Chin people work in the agricultural sector. Their households are very conservative and traditional with men as the head and sons are the sole heirs to property.
Missionaries arrived in the Chin state in 1899 converting the Burmese to Christianity. Now, 90% of Chins are Christian.
In 2012, more than 415,000 refugees were resettled from Burma, thousands of these were Chin. When they arrive to the U.S., they have little or no education from the rural areas and/or refugee camps.
The Chin view eye contact as a challenge and cross their arms in front of their bodies to show respect, not hostility.
Karen Culture Facts and life in U.S.
Although the Karen people were the first to convert to Christianity, 70% are still Buddhist or Buddhist-Animist and 20-30% are Christian.
There are no first or last names in Karen society, only names, and nicknames.
The Karen people often say “no” instead of “yes” in order to show modesty and politeness, but it makes it hard to assess their needs.
Just as with the Chin people, the Karen people do not make direct eye contact. They are quick learners and hard workers, but after living on refugee camps, they need to be taught to use modern appliances.
World Relief Fort Worth is one of the 23 local offices for World Relief, an international nonprofit organization aiming to help vulnerable people. Each year, the U.S. offices help “Welcome the Stranger” by resettling thousands of refugees into their new lives in the U.S. Nationwide, World Relief is the largest evangelical refugee resettlement agency in America.
Internationally, World Relief has offices in 16 countries on four continents and helps 2.8 million people annually. While the U.S. offices work mainly in refugee resettlement, the international offices work in the fields of health, child development, agriculture and food security, disaster response and microfinance.
The history of World Relief:
World Relief was founded in 1944 in New York City as the War Relief Commission of the National Association of Evangelicals to address the needs of the vulnerable people living in war-torn Europe. By 1950, War Relief changed its name to World Relief and began to expand services to Korea, Vietnam, Chile, Peru and Bangladesh.
In 1975, World Relief launched its refugee resettlement ministry becoming the only evangelical agency authorized to resettle refugees by the U.S. State Department.
World Relief Fort Worth
Since our founding in the 1970s, our mission at the Fort Worth office has been: Empowering the local Church to serve the most vulnerable. We accomplish this mission in accordance to our values: being an example of Jesus, empowering the Church, valuing diversity of people, achieving continual excellence, leading resettled refugees, volunteers or local partners to create sustaining change, partnership and prayer.
Programs offered at World Relief Fort Worth
Our office works in seven main programs with about 30 employees and interns.
Reception and Placement
- Receives and cares for more than 500 refugees each year from the time they arrive at DFW airport. R&P provides the basic furnishings and necessities for the refugees’ apartments, trains families in American culture and hygiene standards, enrolls children in school, and helps families with paperwork and finding employment.
Provides services to clients so that they will obtain self-sufficiency in their first 180 days in the U.S.
Refugee Cash Assistance
Provides temporary assistance to new refugees to aid them in becoming self-sufficient in 9 months.
Creates service plans for newly arrived refugees with goals in financial stability, health, English skill, child welfare, employment, transportation, housing and food, etc.
Mental Health Services and Elderly Assistance
– Provide additional help for people in the refugee population who need special care.
Employment Services –
Partners with local business to find refugees suitable jobs according to their English and professional skills.
Immigration Services –
For a fee, our office can provide immigration counseling, legal documents and notary services.
For more information about our headquarters visit: http://worldrelief.org