Refugee Series, Part I

At Birch Psychology we are seeing clients from a host of backgrounds, cultures and traditions. We see people not for their status (e.g. native, immigrant or refugee) but for the person who is in front of us, sharing their story that they have lived. With the recent election many of our clients are faced with a new range of emotions as they look at the future effects of certain decisions that are being made in the oval office, Congress and local legislature. A couple of weeks ago, the 45th President of our country signed an executive order prohibiting entry into the United States if immigrants and refugees were from certain countries, and this was attributed to “extreme vetting.” Many of the practitioners at Birch have parents from other countries, are from other countries themselves, or have a passion of working with immigrants and refugees. We wanted to take a moment to start a conversation about refugees and are going to take the next couple of weeks on the blog to discuss: the refugee crisis that is often referred to in the news; the current process refugees have to go through which was in effect prior to this administration; and what the resettlement process looks like. If there are questions during this series, as always please comment with questions or areas of clarification you would like to see. We hope this is an area we can all seek come clarity around and start a compassionate dialogue surrounding.

First, lets start with the definition of a ‘refugee’ as this term is often used interchangeably with immigrant, which is not accurate. In addition to ‘refugee,’ there are terms including ‘internally displaced person,’ ‘stateless person,’ and ‘asylum seekers’ for people that have had to flee their homes and look for safety. Those definitions can be found here

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a refugee is:

someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.

A refugee and his or her family determine that due to the “well-founded fear of persecution,” their futures are no longer safe if they stay at their home, and must flee their country to survive. This is a snapshot, based on the UNHCR data from 2015, of how many people in the world experience this reality (Image 1). Once they flee, refugees must find a place where they can get their basic human rights needs met, rest, eat, get health needs met, and be safe. This is often in a refugee camp, which is set up by a hosting country (Image 1). The following images indicate the growing global problem, and the respective numbers, and top receiving/hosting countries (Image 2).

Next week the current refugee screening process will be explained. Sneak Peak- this process averages between 18 months and 3 years prior to being accepted and entering the United States.

 Jordan Huber, Birch Psychology 

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Image 2: