AROUND THE WORLD: 2011
• For the fifth consecutive year, the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide surpassed 42 million.
• It was marked by a succession of major refugee crises with conflicts erupting in the Ivory Coast, Libya, Somalia and Sudan.
• 46 percent of refugees were children below 18 years of age.
• 22 countries admitted 79,800 refugees for resettlement; the U.S. received the highest with 51,500.
Source: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
WHO IS A REFUGEE?
A refugee is someone who is unable or unwilling to return to his/her country of origin or nationality because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group, or political opinion.
Source: The Refugee Act of 1980
ROAD TO BECOMING A REFUGEE IN THE U.S.
Each fiscal year the president, in consultation with Congress, determines the number of refugees that will be admitted.
• Since 2008, the annual ceiling for the number of refugees admitted has remained at 80,000. However, the current ceiling is 65 percent lower than the 1980 ceiling of 231,700.
• Refugees receive permission to immigrate to the United States while they are still abroad. The State Department contracts nongovernmental agencies to do prescreening interviews and prepare applications of prospective refugees.
• The applications are then submitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which runs background checks, interviews individuals and determines whether a person is approved for resettlement.
• Once approved, an applicant, either alone or with his or her close family (spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21), is eligible to come to the United States through the refugee resettlement program.
• Refugees resettled in the United States are automatically eligible to work and to receive public aid cash assistance and medical assistance for up to eight months as an individual and up to five years as a family.
• They can apply for permanent residence after one year. Five years after obtaining permanent residency, they can apply for naturalized citizenship.
Source: Migration Policy Institute