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What is a refugee?

A refugee is someone who is forced to leave the country they were living in because conditions in that country make it too dangerous or impossible for them to stay there. Examples of dangerous conditions include war or a natural disaster, where a person’s home and the surrounding country are completely destroyed.  Another common example is fear of persecution. This is when a person who stays in the country may be killed because of their race, their religious beliefs, or their political affiliations.

What’s the difference between a refugee and an immigrant?

An immigrant is a person or a family who leaves their country to settle in a new one, usually to become a citizen of a new country. Someone might immigrate to a new country for many reasons, such as to reunite with family, to escape political issues in their home country, or simply with the hope of creating a better life somewhere new.

What countries do refugees most often come from?

A refugee can come from any country, however, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the top ten countries that refugees come from are: Afghanistan, Iraq, Somali, DR Congo, Myanmar, Colombia, Sudan, Vietnam, Eritrea, and China.

What is a refugee camp?

A refugee camp is a place where refugees go as soon as they leave their home country. Since a refugee must often make the decision to leave very quickly, it is very rare that they would already have arrangements made for the new place they will go to live.  So refugees often have to stay in a large, crowded refugee camp, which is usually just across the border of their country. These camps provide the very basic necessities of food, water, and usually some type of simple shelter. Refugees often have to wait for a very long time, the average is 17 years in these camps, before having the chance to move to a new permanent home country, such as the United States.

How can you help a refugee?

Because refugees often arrive in their new home country with nothing more than the few personal items that they can carry, they often require a great deal of help when they first arrive.  They need clothes, food, and help with understanding the language and the laws of the country they have moved to. They also need help finding a job so that they can provide for themselves and their family.  Kids who come to the United States as refugees are sent to public schools. You can help by welcoming a new student and helping them to learn the language and make friends at their new school.

Learn More

Video: a story of a refugee’s journey to Columbus, OhioThe United Nations Refugee Agency(PDF) Books on this topic(PDF) Books on this topic part 2

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