REFUGEES AND IMMIGRANTS: FACTS AND FIGURES
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A REFUGEE, ASYLUM SEEKER, AND IMMIGRANT?
Refugee Transitions began in 1982 serving only refugees. However, in 2000 the agency began serving low-income immigrants and asylum seekers. Refugees are defined by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as “persons who are outside their country and cannot return owing to a well-founded fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, or political opinion or membership of a particular social group.” Refugees are brought to a country by the government and given permanent residency. Asylum seekers differ from refugees in that refugees are assigned their status before they enter the host country, whereas asylum seekers first seek sanctuary in another state and then apply for 'asylum' – the right to be recognized as a bona fide refugee and to receive legal protection and material assistance. Immigrants migrate (voluntarily) to another country, usually for permanent residency.
IN ORDER TO QUALIFY AS A REFUGEE IN THE UNITED STATES, WHAT ARE THE ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS?
According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, an applicant must:
(1) be of special humanitarian concern to the United States; (2) meet the refugee definition as set forth in section 101(a)(42) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA); (3) be admissible under the INA; and (4) not be firmly resettled in any foreign country. A person who USCIS has determined meets the refugee definition may nonetheless be inadmissible to the United States due to criminal, security, or other grounds, and therefore ineligible for refugee resettlement.
HOW MANY REFUGEES, ASYLUM SEEKERS, AND OTHERS OF CONCERN ARE THERE AROUND THE WORLD?
According to the UNHCR Statistical Yearbook 2009, the total population of concern to the UNHCR was estimated at 36.5 million people. Of those:
- 10.4 million are refugees
- 984,000 are asylum seekers
- 14.4 million are internally displaced people (IDPs) protected/assisted by the UNHCR
- 2.2 million are IDPs who retured to their place of origin
- 604,000 are refugees who returned home in 2008
- 6.6 million are stateless people
- 412,000 are others of concern
In 2009, only 0.003% (112,400) of the total population of concern were actually resettled to third countries. Of the 112,400 resettled refugees, 79,900 were resettled in the United States.
HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE ADMITTED TO THE UNITED STATES AS REFUGEES, EACH YEAR?
In 2009, 79,900 people were admitted.
HOW MANY REFUGEES ARE RESETTLED IN CALIFORNIA, AND FROM WHERE DO THEY ORIGINATE?
According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, 9,480 refugees were resettled in California in 2008, and 11,267 refugees in 2009. Of those who were resettled in 2008, the largest groups came from the following countries of origin: Burma (519), Bhutan (259), Iran (4,380), Iraq (2,924), Thailand (237), Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (499), and Vietnam (249).
HOW MANY IMMIGRANTS RESIDE IN THE UNITED STATES?
According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the total foreign-born population residing in the United States in 2009 was 31,220,000. Of those, 20,470,000 were considered legal residents and 10,750,000 were considered unauthorized residents.