This Wednesday, June 20, is World Refugee Day, which is a perfect time to learn about refugee issues at home and abroad.

According to the UNCHR, there are 65.6 million people worldwide who have been forcibly displaced. 22.5 million are registered refugees. 10 million are stateless. Compared to this, the total number of refugees that were resettled around the world in 2016 was a mere 189,300.

55% of refugees worldwide come from three countries: South Sudan, Afghanistan, and Syria. Top refugee hosting countries are Turkey (2.9 m), Pakistan (1.4 m), Lebanon (1.0 m), Iran (979,400), Uganda (940,800), and Ethiopia (791,600).

Those displaced lose everything they owned. They leave their homes with mostly clothes on their bodies and the few items they can hold. Sometimes they lose family members during the journey as they leave their country.

The transition from refugee camps to resettlement is long and hard, and often entails starvation, fear, abuse, lack of clean water, few job prospects, and limited educational opportunities. Some refugees spent in excess of 10-20 years from start to finish to apply for and finally get resettled. Statistically, refugees have a smaller chance of being accepted for resettlement than an applicant has of getting accepted to Harvard.

First the refugee goes through a UNCHR screening process and then a rigorous process of vetting. If a refugee is lucky enough to complete the process, they then are settled into a city by the sub-contracted voluntary agencies. We have three such agencies in the Greater Kansas City area, including JVS, Catholic Charities, and Della Lamb. These agencies are paid to help resettle the refugees. They are expected to help them for the first 90 days, during which time the agencies find them housing to rent and assist them to access temporary benefits, like food stamps and Medicaid. The refugees are registered in ESL classes, kids are enrolled in schools, and the adults start their job search.

90 days are sometimes not adequate to help refugees learn a new language and secure employment. The $930 one-time payment given per refugee also doesn’t last long. Communities help by donating furniture and household items. Mentoring, ESL classes, and job search assistance can also help refugees to maneuver the cultural and social issues resettlement.

At the end it’s about people working together to build their own communities, where all of us feel safe, secure, and are able to work to the best of our potential.


About the Author
Dr. Sofia Khan is the founder and president of KC for Refugees. She has been involved in local and international refugee relief efforts for over a decade. KC for Refugees is a local, 100% volunteer-run, humanitarian group that provides support to locally resettled families through collaborations with other agencies and by educating our community on refugee issues. More information can be found at and on Facebook: KC for Refugees.

Click here for information on how you can participate in a World Refugee Day celebration in Kansas City ĺČ.