About Refugees

What is a refugee?
According to the 1951 Geneva Convention, a refugee is a person with a 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 unwilling to return to it.

How does a refugee get to America?
Once refugees leave their home country, most go to refugee camps to live…and wait. The average stay in a refugee camp is five years. Some refugees may marry and have children in refugee camps. Refugees await an interview and approval from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to go to a refugee receiving nation. For those who may come to the United States, the refugees also await approval from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS). Only those refugees with sufficient proof of a well-founded fear of persecution in their homeland will be allowed to go to a new country.

Once approved, refugees must find a sponsor or borrow money to pay for the cost of transportation. Refugees will then fly to America. Before they arrive, they will have been assigned to a refugee resettlement agency such as World Relief or Lutheran Refugee Services. These agencies help the refugees with their settlement needs for the first ninety days in the United States. Since ninety days isn’t much time to get a household setup, find a job, learn English, etc. resettlement agencies also work to find sponsors to help the refugees long-term. Unfortunately, a majority of refugees are not sponsored.

Following their ninety days in the States, Friends of Refugees continues to provide long-term care and services to refugees.

Who we serve

Afghanistan Croatia *Kenya Sudan
Angola Cuba Kosovo **Thailand
Belarus Eritrea Liberia Togo
Bosnia Ethiopia Moldova Turks from Russia
Burma Former USSR Nigeria Ukraine
Burundi Indonesia North Korea Vietnam
Cambodia Iran Sierra Leone
Congo Iraq Somalia

*children from Solmalian or Sudanese families born in refugee camps.

**children from Southeast Asian families born in refugee camps

If you would like more information about the cultural backgrounds of refugee populations, please visit The Cultural Orientation Resource Center


PROGRAMS