Refugees 101


A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee their home due to the fear of war, persecution or natural disaster, and has crossed an international boarder to find safety in another country.

Refugees must find their way to a Refugee Camp, which is a safe haven that provides basic necessities in emergency situations. Most camps are heavily guarded and operated by the UNHCR, the refugee branch of the United Nations.

The number of people living in refugee camps today is about  24 million. While camps are not meant to be permanent solutions, refugees often spend years even decades in a camp. The average stay is 17 years.


Less than 1% of refugees worldwide resettle in places like the United States. Refugees must go through a lengthy and secure vetting process conducted by multiple intelligence agencies. Once approved, refugees sign a travel loan agreeing to pay back the cost of their plane ticket and are assigned to a local resettlement agency. 

Resettlement agencies meet refugees at the airport and help with basic needs for up to 90 days. Refugees are authorized to work and are expected to find immediate employment and education.

After one year of living in the U.S., refugees are required to apply to become permanent residents.  After five years, they are eligible to apply for citizenship. 

In the last two decades, refugees from Afghanistan, Burma, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Nepal, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and the Ukraine have resettled in cities across the United States.

The state of Nebraska has some of the highest rates of refugees due to the relatively low cost of living, the availability of meat packing plants and family members already living here.


Although grateful for the opportunity to live here, refugees are unique in that they had  no intention of leaving their country. They were forced to flee and now must adapt in order to survive. 

The loss refugees experience is unmeasurable.  They have lost their country, culture, home, livelihood, possessions, and in many cases, their family members.  As a result, many experience feelings of hopelessness, fear, vulnerability, and powerlessness. The emotional stress their traumatic experiences have created often leads to mental health issues that manifest as PTSD, anxiety, depression and isolation. 

Even though the challenges are many, refugees are known for their resilience and adaptability. We can support the refugee community by taking small steps to help restore the dignity and hope they need to thrive.