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 their nationality and is unable or unwilling to return to it.
Once someone leave their home country, most go to refugee camps to live…and wait. The average stay in a camp is seventeen years. Some refugees may marry and have children in camps. Refugees await an interview and approval from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to go to a receiving nation. For those who may come to the United States, they must also await approval from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS). Only those with sufficient proof of a well-founded fear of persecution 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 arrival, they will be assigned to a resettlement agency. The agencies help 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.

New Americans in our community have come from well over 100 ethnic groups globally. Here are some of the people groups who have arrived in Clarkston.

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


*Nepali-speaking Bhutanese people from the southern area of Bhutan.  Registered as refugees in Nepal during the mass deportation of the 90’s
**Children from Somalian 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