Knowledge is Power Series: Refugee or Immigrant?

With all of the discussion on immigration, the one term that needs to be clarified is "refugee". What does it mean to be a refugee? What circumstances occur that create refugees? And, where do refugees go?

First, let's define the term. A refugee is a person who is so afraid to stay in his/her country that he/she is forced to leave. 

This fear can be caused by war, religious persecution, the threat of death,  a natural disaster like a flood or a volcanic eruption, or even starvation. In other words, the situation is so bad in the person's home country that he/she is no longer safe to live there. When that occurs, the person or persons flee to another country often with little more than the clothing they are wearing. 

As you have probably seen on television or heard on the news, thousands of people have fled Syria in the last few years because of war. These people have lost their homes, family members, everything they own, and are afraid they will lose their lives or those of their children. They have set out to sea in overloaded boats, crossed dangerous territories, and walked hundreds of miles to find safety. The United Nations believes that over 4.8 million people have left Syria as refugees. Where do they all go?

Over one million have fled to Europe, but the majority of these refugees are still in the Middle East. Most of these people end up in camps set up by foreign governments to hold the war-weary peoples until another country agrees to take them. But conditions in refugee camps are not great. The majority of these refugees are women and children who do not have enough food, clean water, warm clothes, or even in most cases are suffering from the loss of a parent, brother or sister, grandparent, aunt, or uncle. Some are even alone, separated from their families and left to fend for themselves.

It's important to remember that a refugee is different from an immigrant. A refugee is forced to leave because they fear for their life, and an immigrant usually goes to another country for economic reasons or to be with family already there.

If you want to know more, you can check out these organizations dedicated to helping refugees.

World Vision Syrian Crisis

Refugees International

The White Helmets

Doctors without Borders

International Rescue Committee 

Remember: Knowledge is the Power that Conquers Fear!

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