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The Refugee Crisis: Background

Mark Your Calendars

There will be a teach-in about immigration and refugee issues featuring Gustavus faculty and staff on March 22, 6:30 - 8:00, Beck 101.


Asylum Statistics for Europe from Eurostat

Europe's Asylum Seekers from Pew Research

U.S. refugee admissions from the State Department

World refugee statistics from the UNHCR

Opinion polls 

Most Americans Oppose Syrian Refugee Resettlement from Bloomberg

U.S. Public Seldom Has Welcomed Refugees from Pew Research

News from UNHCR

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What Is the Issue?

Syrian Refugees

photo courtesy of the World Bank

In 2014, the UNHCR (the United Nations agency for refugees, created to assist people displaced by World War II) reported that they were aware of 13 million refugees around the world, half of them in Asia, with another 5 million temporarily settled in refugee camps in the Middle East. The number of refugees fleeing conflicts in the Middle East and Africa seeking asylum in Europe increased dramatically in 2015, creating a crisis for countries whose systems and compassion were severely tested by having tens of thousands arriving - over 860,000 arriving by sea, most of them transiting through Greece. Another 3,500 died or went missing in the dangerous crossing.

In the United States, the president announced that the number of Syrian refugees admitted to the country would rise to 10,000, up from 1,500. However, after the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, a majority of U.S. governors announced they would not welcome Syrian refugees in their states, while others stated that they would welcome them. Apart from a debate over whether there was any connection between the Paris terrorists and refugees from Syria, the controversy has called into question America's feelings about migrants seeking asylum.

In addition to the 12 million Syrians displaced by war, with some three million living in camps in Turkey and Jordan, 3 million Iraqis have been displaced since 2013. Some 137,000 Africans fleeing conflicts in Eritrea, Libya, Gambia, South Sudan, and Nigeria made a perilous crossing by sea. Another 25,000 Bangladeshi's and Rohingya (a Muslim minority persecuted in Myanmar) fled by boat in the first months of 2015, turned away by Malaysia and Indonesia until they bowed to public criticism. Closer to home, 1.3 million Ukrainians have been displaced by war. Though the news tends to report a refugee crisis for Europe and North America, the UN found that in 2014, 90 percent of displaced people lived in the developing world.


Where is Happening? To Whom? And Why?

What Process do Asylum-Seekers Go Through for U.S. Admission?

In response to the controversy, the Department of Homeland Security produced a video describing the screening process for asylum-seekers. The department supports increasing the number of Syrian refugees admitted to the U.S.





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