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A Refugee is one who has lost everything.

A Refugee is one who has lost everything.
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Oneworld Guide - Refugees | Worldwide Refugee Information - U.S. Committee for Refugees

"Yo soy refugiado. Venimos del Salvador porque los querian matar los cuilios...." "I am a refugee. We came from El Salvador because they were trying to kill us...."

A Salvadoran child at Mesa Grande Refugee Camp
(approximate translation)

"I was nine years old when the Khmer Rouge took over my country. I saw so much death, that life itself lost all meaning. Every day, I had to kill my own heart in order to endure. Life, one human life, meant nothing. If you cared about someone, the suffering was unbearable. And those who did not die lived at the very edge of death. We were half-starved. In the wildness of those moments, I did not realize what it meant when children would go out into burial grounds seeking food. It was worse than a nightmare. I am here to tell the world to stop shooting, to stop arguing, to stop trying to be right. When I was a child in Cambodia, of course, I did not know enough to question why there was no interest in saving us. It seemed as if it was our destiny to die."

Excerpts from a speech by Arn Chorn Pond at an Amnesty International Human Rights Day, December 1987.

Some Facts and Observations:

  • The world's population of refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced persons totaled more than 30.4 million at the end of 1998 - an increase of more than 500,000 over 1997

    World Refugee Survey, September 1999 - U.S. Committee For Refugees (USCR).
  • Refugees leave their homelands because of persecution, political violence, civil warfare of abuse of human rights. Other problems that often contribute to the plight of refugees are hunger, poverty, illiteracy and disease.
  • Refugees leave behind everything important to them: family, friends, homes, lands, possessions, and livelihoods.
  • Refugees suffer after leaving home. There have been savage acts of piracy, armed attacks on refugee camps, acts of forcible return or rejection at the frontier, unjustifiable detention, and manifestations of discrimination towards refugees.

    UN High Commissioner for Refugees, June 1984
  • As many as 85% of all refugees are children. Most, orphaned or with only one parent, live in detention centers, where condition are sometimes appalling.

    Migration & Refugee Services, U.S. Catholic Conference
  • Almost every major refugee-producing conflict has been extant since 1979 or earlier. We are approaching the age of the permanent refugee....
  • Countless thousands of young refugees - the children of a dozen years ago - have grown to adulthood under the most violent and brutal of circumstances.... At the very least, these refugees deserve a secure sanctuary, free from the fear of being forced back into the violence and brutality that they risked their lives to escape.

    World Refugee Survey

Despite a Generous Spirit

  • The developed world's flagging interest in refugee resettlement diminishes hope for the refugee. The U.S. is accepting a fraction of the number of refugees it once did, and other countries are following this lead.
    Migration & Refugee Services, U.S. Catholic Conference
  • Increasingly, refugees are presented not as people in need of help, but as people who constitute a threat to the order of things; they do not have problems, they are the problem.

    World Refugee Survey
  • There is a difference, in U.S. policy, between a refugee and an asylum seeker, While both flee persecution or the fear of persecution in their home countries, an asylum seeker enters the U.S., often illegally, and then tries to gain the right to stay in this country. An asylum seeker does not pass through the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program.
  • The U.S. does not particularly welcome many of those seeking asylum in this country, especially those from countries "friendly" to the U.S.

    U.S. Committee for Refugees
  • In 1987, the U.S. accepted almost 65,000 refugees into the country; this number is small compared to the estimated 300,000 to 500,000 residents from El Salvador who have come to this country for safe haven.
  • The U.S. has granted refugee status to very few Central Americans and Haitians , who are considered as economic migrants in U.S. policy.

Immigration & Refugee Program, Church World Service

  • Many are therefore dead today who otherwise would have been alive if given the chance to ... enjoy asylum. Some died quickly, others in horrible ways. We do not cut throats, but we are busily cutting lifelines.

    Peter Nobel, World Refugee Survey


  • Building Bridges Supplement, 1986, Church World Service Immigration and Refugee Program, 475 Riverside Drive, Room 656, New York, NY 10115.
  • Migration and Refugee Services, United States Catholic Conference, 1312 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20005.
  • Despite a Generous Spirit, 1986, U.S. Committee for Refugees, 1015 Vermont Avenue NW , Suite 900, Washington, DC 20005.
  • Refugee Resettlement Appeal, 1988, Church World Service Immigration and Refugee Program, 475 Riverside Drive, Room 656, New York, NY 10115.
  • World Refugee Survey, 1987, U.S. Committee for Refugees, 1015 Vermont Avenue NW , Suite 900, Washington, DC 20005.

Produced by the Office on Global Education, National Council of Churches, 2115 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218-5755 - A program of the Divisions of Education and Ministry, and Church World Service For more information, Please contact: Immigration and Refugee Program, 475 Riverside Drive, Room 656, New York, NY 10115.

updated: 23 April, 2014