By Sabrina Guo, 12
Until reading the recent news headlines, you may have had the impression that the refugee crisis that occurred from 2015 to 2016 was over. However, as we are quickly learning, the refugee crisis is ongoing, and not just in the United States. There has been a sharp rise in the number of people going to Europe to claim asylum, and governments within the European Union (EU) have been trying to stop any movement of undocumented migrants with their countries. The EU has done many things to stop asylum seekers, such as closing legal routes, which leads refugees to take more dangerous routes with a higher level of dependence on people smugglers. This leads states to try to crack down on refugees even harder, and the cycle is exacerbated. Also, many refugees are stuck in refugee camps, while others struggle to start a new life in places they’ve already settled in. Even though many different countries have tried to stem the flow of refugees to their countries, there are still more and more people who are trying to flee persecution in their home countries by seeking asylum in European countries and the United States.
Which leads me to my next point! Did you know that there are more than 65 million people in the world who have been forcibly displaced from their home countries? And that nearly half of all refugees are children? Almost half! So when we read about refugees, we’re often reading about kids our age or the age of our siblings, cousins, and friends.
This got me thinking: what are some things that a refugee child might experience when trying to migrate to our country? Sometimes, on the news, it can sound like it’s a simple, fast process to immigrate to the United States. But as I read up on the issue, I found out that it’s far from easy or quick. For example, I read this article on the International Rescue Committee website (link below) that described—in easy to understand graphics—what one family had to go through to come to the U.S. from Syria. This family lived in a conflict zone, and after the father in the family was hit in the stomach by a stray bullet, the family registered their request to leave Syria with the UN. And then they waited for three years before they heard anything back. Three years! Can you imagine waiting to hear back about whether you could leave for three years? I think about the kids in that family. The article says the parents were very scared for their children’s lives in Syria. But on a more minor level—can you imagine living your life in limbo for that long? For example, these children must not have known they would stay in the same country as the friends they were making at school. After waiting for three years, the family finally heard back from the UN, and from there, it took about eight months of interviews and processing before they were vetted and could leave Syria for America. The whole process took nearly four years! The length and difficulty of the process really struck me.
And then when once a refugee family or child gets to the U.S., there’s still the process of assimilation to go through, not to mention the pain of leaving other family members, friends, and an entire way of life behind in their home country. Once in their new country, refugees often face discrimination at school or in public. For example, many people across the globe think that Syrian people are terrorists, which is not true. Syrians are against ISIS, and they do not support them. ISIS is a criminal organization, and Syrian citizens are the ones that are truly paying the price.
Many refugee children need psychological support because of having suffered through terrible circumstances in their home countries, including being separated from their parents and family because of conflict, having to travel hundreds and thousands of miles in unfamiliar surroundings without the protection of their guardians. Without any support, they are in danger of being abused, treated poorly, or physically harmed. These are just some of the ways that refugee children may experience trauma. Luckily, some schools in the US have already started some programs that will help create more friendly interactions between children with different backgrounds, and help them learn about each other’s cultures.
There are also many other organizations, psychologists, and artists who are working with refugee children to help them make sense of their experiences and circumstances. Certain organizations, like Another Kind of Girl Collective, hold workshops for the children in refugee camps, helping them to express themselves and their experiences through art. Other organizations, like War Child, provide education and psychological care for children in conflict zones around the world. And there also plenty of organizations and opportunities to help with the current refugee crisis in the United States. I’m including a list of links below for any readers who would like to become involved and help kids our age.
If I could say anything to the children coming over to the US, I may not fully understand your struggles, but I am trying to comprehend the many hardships you may face each day. I welcome you to America, and I hope that you will enjoy settling in here. I hope you find an America that is warm and supportive of you, and I hope you will like your new home with us.
The process of coming to America (with easy to understand graphics):
The Trump Administration’s travel ban has led to confusion and fear for countless people wondering if they will be allowed to start a new life in the United States, as well as for families already in America waiting for loved ones to join them. For now, the fate of these innocent families rests with U.S.
The vetting process to come to the US:
2. Interview with the United Nations. The United Nations decides if the person fits the definition of a refugee and whether to refer the person to the United States or to another country for resettlement. Only the most vulnerable are referred, accounting for less than than 1 percent of refugees worldwide.
A UNICEF study showed that half of all refugees are children:
Children now make up more than half of the world’s refugees, according to a Unicef report, despite the fact they account for less than a third of the global population. Just two countries – Syria and Afghanistan – comprise half of all child refugees under protection by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), while roughly three-quarters of the world’s child refugees come from just 10 countries.
Types of trauma refugee children can undergo:
Many refugees, especially children, have experienced trauma related to war or persecution that may affect their mental and physical health long after the events have occurred.
The number of refugees there in the world:
Around the world, 70.8 million people have been forcibly displaced. That’s the most since World War II, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Most people remain displaced within their home countries, but about 25.9 million people worldwide have fled to other countries as refugees. More than half of refugees are children.
Common myths about refugees:
While resettlement is a lifesaving and lasting solution for those with nowhere else to go, there has been a recent political backlash against welcoming refugees to the U.S. We fact-check some of the myths and falsehoods being spread about refugees.
The refugee crisis that dominated the news in 2015 and 2016 consisted primarily of a sharp rise in the number of people coming to Europe to claim asylum. Arrivals have now dropped, and governments have cracked down on the movement of undocumented migrants within the EU; many thousands are stuck in reception centres or camps in southern Europe, while others try to make new lives in the places they have settled.
Prolonged wars in Syria, South Sudan, and Afghanistan have contributed heavily to a global refugee crisis. The number of refugees today, estimated at 65 million, is the highest it’s been in 20 years. Populist rhetoric has fanned an international wave of anti-refugee sentiment, leading to growing calls to stem the flow of refugees into the United States, Europe, Australia, and elsewhere.
Ways you can help with the current refugee crisis in the US:
Here’s a list of organizations that are mobilizing to help the influx of immigrants crossing the Texas-Mexico border
Government agencies are grappling to respond to the number of immigrants coming into the country. Many tax-funded shelters housing immigrants are overcrowded, and there are reports some have substandard living conditions. We’ve compiled a list of organizations that are mobilizing to help.
Make a difference in the life of an unaccompanied immigrant child by volunteering to serve as a Child Advocate in Chicago, Houston, San Antonio, Harlingen, Phoenix, Los Angeles, New York, or Washington, D.C. A Child Advocate is an adult who volunteers to spend time with and advocate on behalf of an individual unaccompanied immigrant child while he or she is subject to deportation proceedings.
A list of organizations that work directly with refugees:
Mercy Corps: https://www.mercycorps.org
Project Lift: http://www.projectlift.org.tr/about-us/
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF): msf.org
Refugee Trauma Initiative: https://www.refugeetrauma.org
War Child: warchild.org
Amel Organization: http://amel.org
Art Refuge UK: https://www.artrefugeuk.org
Save the Children HEART (Healing and Education through the Arts): https://www.savethechildren.org/us/what-we-do/global-programs/education/healing-and-education-through-the-arts
Another Kind of Girl: http://anotherkindofgirl.com
The International Rescue Committee: https://www.rescue.org/who-we-are
The Young Center: theyoungcenter.org
The Inside Out Project: https://insideoutsideproject.org