The Refugees' Story
Written by Dasom Ham
For the past year, politicians and the media have been talking about the Syrian refugee crisis. While other states refused to accept refugees after the Paris and San Bernardino attacks, Minnesota is poised to receive a number of refugees in 2016. With a wave of refugees coming into this state, we cannot help but wonder about the process that refugees face as they resettle into the United States.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) defines refugees as ones who are fleeing from persecution or armed conflict.
According to Kaying Yang, one of the founders of the RedGreen Rivers that works with women and girls from the Mekong River area and a Hmong refugee, “The refugee process is a very long process.”
She stated that refugees face several screenings with the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR), the United States State Department, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). For the first two organizations, refugees go through thorough backgrounds checks.
“Officers screen refugees to verify if their stories are true or not and if they fit under a list of criteria,” Yang sad.
Afterwards, they are enrolled in cultural orientation classes where they learn about the United States and are checked for medical issues.
“They have to check if they have contagious disease,” Yang said. If a refugee is sick with a contagious illness such as tuberculosis, he or she have to stay at the refugee camp until he or she fully recover.
During this entire process of screenings and classes, refugees may be resettled several times. Yang added, “It may take at least six months to a year. That’s just a bare minimum until they can get resettled.”
After careful background checks, medical screenings, and cultural orientation classes, refugees are then resettled with the help from contracted resettlement agencies. They are also sponsored by voluntary agencies, such as churches. But once refugees settle down in the United States, they face debt. According to Yang, refugees have to pay back the airplane tickets after they resettle. This debt will be especially large for those who have several children.
Contrary to the media and politicians’ portrayals, “this process is very difficult.”