Refugees are people who have fled their home country and who have proven to the United Nations that they are unable to return to their country because of credible fear of persecution on the basis of national origin, religion, ethnicity, political opinions or membership in a particular social group. They are ordinary people caught in extraordinary circumstances. Immigrants are people who have chosen to relocate to the U.S. through a specific path of immigration, usually through a family member or employment, some waiting for years to enter the U.S. legally. Refugees and immigrants have many thing in common once they arrive, though their path our community may be very different.


  • There are 11 million refugees worldwide.
  • The average refugee spends 17 years in a refugee camp awaiting resettlement.

In the United States

  • Each year the President signs legislation specifying how many refugees will be resettled on a region-by-region basis.

In Syracuse

  • In 2009 about 500 refugees were resettled by InterFaith Works, who is an affiliate agency of both Church World Service and Episcopal Migration Ministries. The Catholic Council of Bishops also resettled refugees in Syracuse through Catholic Charities.

Commonly Asked Questions:

Do refugees choose to come to Syracuse? Not quite. They do choose to resettle in the United States. But (unless they already have family members here) they are randomly assigned to one of many cities in the US who have resettlement programs.

Where are refugees coming from? Currently (2009) most refugees are coming here from Burma, Bhutan, Somalia, and Iraq.  Also the Sudan, Cuba, Rwanda and the Congo.

Will they speak English? Maybe. ESL classes for adults is offered at the Syracuse City School Refugee Assistance Program, as well as several other agencies in town.

Links to learn more:

© 2010 InterFaith Works of Central New York.
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