St. Stephen's and refugee resettlement
St. Stephen’s Church has a history of helping refugees escape life-threatening situations in their home countries and settle in the United States. These refugees have included a Ukrainian family escaping the Soviet Union in the 1950s, Sun Ho Nuon and his family and one other Cambodian family during the reign of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge; a family fleeing the regime of Idi Amin in Uganda, an Iraqi family who came to Richmond in the fall of 2015, and the Ahmadi family of Afghanistan, who also came here in the fall of 2015 after their lives became threatened because of Sultan Ahmadi’s work on behalf of the United States government. The current global refugee crisis is historic, and includes millions of people displaced by the civil war in Syria.
Sultan is working and has secured his Virginia Driver's License (though transportation is often a challenge). Nooria gave birth to their son Yusuf soon after they arrived here, and the Ahmadis' daughter is attending St. Stephen's Preschool. Nooria is studying English (Sultan already spoke English when they arrived). The family is doing well, but there are numerous ways to help them. Please contact Deb Lawrence about ways to support the Ahmadis.
Gary Jones wrote about refugees on his blog; you can read that post here.
The following information about refugees comes from Episcopal Migration Ministries.
Refugees and the current global refugee crisis
Who is a refugee?
Refugee is a legal term used to define an individual who “...owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”
Refugee status is conferred on those whose refugee claim has been definitively evaluated by the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) or by the country of first asylum. During situations that cause mass flight of people from conflict or violence, where it is generally evident why they fled, refugee status is conferred prima facie.
An asylum-seeker is a person who has fled their home and has crossed a border seeking safety and protection. Asylum-seekers enter the Refugee Status Determination process and may be conferred refugee status once their asylum claim has been adjudicated by the UNHCR or by the country of first asylum.
Refugees and asylum-seekers have fled their countries on account of persecution and because their home governments are unable or unwilling to protect them.
Refugees and asylum-seekers are distinct from other vulnerable migrant populations in that they have crossed an international border seeking protection. When individuals are displaced by conflict and violence within the boundaries of their home country, they are known as internally displaced persons (IDPs).
The term ‘migrant’ encompasses all individuals who travel across borders, for any reason. But, importantly, migrants who do not fall into the categories of refugee or asylum-seeker are still able to seek the protections of their home governments. Refugees and asylum-seekers flee because their governments are unwilling or unable to protect them, and are, oftentimes, the source of a refugee or asylum-seeker’s persecution.
Current refugee crisis
At the end of 2015, the UNHCR reported that there are more than 65.3 million refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people worldwide – the highest level ever recorded. Of the 65.3 million displaced, 21.3 million are refugees, over half of whom are children.
The United Nations has deemed this the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II. While the crisis in Syria has dominated the media, it is important to remember, hold in prayer, advocate for, and support refugees from conflict zones across the globe—as well as the countries that host them.
The largest refugee populations are from Somalia, Afghanistan, Syria, Sudan and South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The largest internally displaced populations are found in Colombia, the DRC, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Syria. The top refugee-hosting countries include Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Pakistan, Sudan, Turkey, and Uganda. As the list demonstrates, developing countries bear the greatest burden in international humanitarian response to refugee crises. Western, developed nations host a minuscule percentage of the world's refugees. Many refugees remain in camps for decades before they are able to repatriate, integrate locally, or be resettled to a third country.
After a refugee has fled persecution in his or her native country, there are three durable solutions that will allow the refugee to rebuild his or her life in peace and dignity:
- Voluntary repatriation to his/her home country;
- Local integration into the country of first asylum;
- Resettlement to a third country.
The United States has long been the international leader in refugee resettlement. The number of refugees that are resettled to the United States is determined annually through what is called the “presidential determination,” a determination released by the president after conferencing with Congress, administration officials, and refugee/migration experts about admissions levels. In October 2015, the Obama administration announced an increase in the presidential determination for the next two years: 85,000 refugee arrivals for fiscal year 2016, and 110,000 refugee arrivals for fiscal year 2017. On January 27, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order that suspends the entire U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days; bans the arrival of Syrian refugees; and, reduces the overall number of refugees who will enter the United States this year from 110,000 to 50,000. Episcopal Migration Ministries is committed to doing its part in the work to resettle refugees and honoring both the Episcopal Church's baptismal covenant and the historical role of the United States as a safe haven for those seeking freedom from oppression. EMM is committed to carrying these values and commitments forward into the future on behalf of the Church. In light of the global refugee crisis, it has never been more important for citizens to raise their voices in support of their refugee neighbors and the resettlement program.
Learn more about what you can do at http://episcopalmigrationministries.org/how_you_can_help.aspx.
Along with the United States, traditional resettlement states are Australia, Sweden, Norway, New Zealand, Canada, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands.
Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Iceland, Ireland and the United Kingdom established resettlement programs in the last decade, and more recently, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Paraguay, Portugal, Spain, Romania and Uruguay have formally announced the establishment of resettlement programs.
The United States Resettlement Program
The U.S. resettlement program, known as the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), is an interagency effort involving many departments of the federal government, as well as domestic and international NGO’s, including faith-based organizations. It is based in a strong model of public-private partnership.
The primary populations being resettled to the United States through the USRAP include Afghanis, Bhutanese, Burmese, Congolese (Democratic Republic of Congo), Cubans, Eritreans, and Ethiopians, Iranians, Iraqis, Somalis, and Sudanese. In the fiscal year ending on September 30, 2016, fewer than 12,500 Syrians had been resettled to the United States. The Syrian Civil War has produced more than four million refugees.
Political pushback, misunderstandings, and misrepresentations of the program and of refugees were an issue throughout the recent campaign season; immigrants, refugees, Muslims, and others who appear to be of immigrant heritage are facing discrimination, bigotry, and threats. Advocacy and support for refugee resettlement and for your immigrant, refugee, and Muslim neighbors have never been more important. To learn more about the Episcopal Church’s ministry of advocacy, visit http://advocacy.episcopalchurch.org/.
Domestically, nine resettlement agencies work in this partnership with the federal government. Episcopal Migration Ministries, the refugee resettlement service of The Episcopal Church, is one of these agencies. The others are Church World Service (CWS), Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC), Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), International Rescue Committee (IRC), US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS), United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and World Relief Corporation (WR).
Episcopal Migration Ministries
Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM), the refugee resettlement service of the Episcopal Church, is a living example of the Church’s commitment to be a presence of hope, comfort, and welcome to refugees.
Each year, Episcopal Migration Ministries, through a network of 30 local organizations, provides a wide spectrum of services, including resettlement, employment, intensive medical and mental health services, and volunteer programs to enhance community navigation and integration, to thousands of refugees, asylees, special immigrant visa holders, and Cuban/Haitian entrants.
These new Americans rely upon this assistance and support as they rebuild their lives in security and peace in communities across the United States. In addition to Episcopal Migration Ministries’ collaboration with local partner organizations, EMM staff members equip, support, and empower dioceses, congregations, and individuals to learn about and find their own place in the welcoming ministry of refugee resettlement.