Frequently Asked Questions about Immigration and Refugees
Answering FAQs, Addressing Common Misconceptions, and Sharing Factual Information
Why do people really migrate? Migration is the act of moving from one place to another, temporarily or permanently. People migrate for many different reasons. Migrants are people who choose to leave their country, and these individuals are moving for various reasons. Conflict, political insecurity, economic security, and environmental disasters are often motivators for those migrating. It is important to note people are often leaving their country because they believe that their futures have been compromised and feel like they have no other choice.
Why are refugees forced to migrate? Refugees are forced to migrate, and are often doing so because they’re being denied the rights they are entitled to.
Who are refugees? Refugees are forced to migrate, and are often doing so because they’re being denied the rights they are entitled to.
Who are migrants? Migrants are people who choose to leave their country, either to improve their livelihood or for personal reasons. It is important to note that the term “migrant” is also often used as a broad term for anyone who migrates, without implying voluntary or forced status.
Who are asylum-seekers? An asylum-seeker is someone who has left their country and is seeking protection from war, violence, persecution, or conflict but has not yet been granted refugee status.
Who are internally-displaced persons (IDPS)? Similar to refugees, these individuals are forced to flee their homes for their own safety. Unlike refugees, these individuals do not cross any international borders and stay in their home country.
Who are immigrants? An immigrant is someone who moves to a foreign country, often with the intention of staying permanently.
How many migrants are in the world? As of 2018, roughly 3% of the world population were international migrants. Contrary to popular belief, migration has not dramatically accelerated. Between 1950 and 2017, the relative number of migrants has remained stable. The percentages have fluctuated between 2.7 and 3.3 percent of the world population. There are more people in the world, therefore, more migrants. While it is true that the number of international migrants has almost doubled between 1960 and 2000, the world’s population has grown at the same pace. Forced migration, on the other hand, has nearly doubled in the last ten years. In 2010, 41 million people were forcibly displaced and in 2020, 78.5 million people had been forcibly displaced.
Are migrants, refugees, and immigrants stealing your job? Contrary to popular belief, migrants, refugees, and immigrants are not stealing jobs. The number of jobs in the economy is not fixed, it’s flexible. Which means, as population sizes continue to grow, so do the opportunities for employment. This false narrative is incredibly dangerous as it allows for individuals to put their problems and woes on to the blameless. A 1990 survey conducted by the American Immigration Institute, four out of five prominent economists agreed that immigrants have a favorable impact on economic growth. The ACLU states that immigrants pay more than $90 billion in taxes every year and receive only $5 billion in welfare, proving that they are good for the economy. Furthermore, they reported that immigrants are often blamed for unemployment and are often blamed on immigrants because Americans only see the jobs immigrants fill. They neglect to consider the jobs immigrants create through productivity, capital formation and demands for goods and services. It is also worth noting that Americans generally agree that immigrants are usually working the jobs most Americans don’t want to work.
Are migrants more likely to abuse welfare systems? Despite the fact that many immigrants and/or their children could be eligible for health and human services, many never apply for such benefits. This is largely due to the complexity of the application process and eligibility rules, language barriers, transportation challenges, and an overwhelming fear and mistrust for such systems.
Who gets to decide who a refugee is? Refugee Status Determination is determined by nation-states and their governments and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The UNHCR is typically involved if and when the states are not party to the 1951 Convention. The UNHCR also tends to be involved when refugees stay in “second countries” in refugee camps before resettling in host countries.
What rights do refugees have? Refugees have the rights to safe asylum, as well as other basic human rights such as the right to freedom of religion, and access to education. The right of association, the right to employment, and right to employment are also supposed to be granted to refugees, but they frequently face restrictions and opposition in attempting to claim them. It is not uncommon for refugees, in their countries of asylum, to be denied the rights they are entitled to, especially considering the fact that there are numerous countries who have not signed the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol.
What is refugee resettlement? Refugee resettlement is a lengthy process in which refugees are moved from the state they sought protection into another state that has agreed to give them permanent residence. Resettlement offers displaced persons a long-term solution by ending their displacement and offers them protection when their fundamental rights are at risk. However, only 1% of refugees are typically resettled.
Where do most refugees flee to? It is a common misconception that most refugees flee to the U.S., Europe, Australia, and Canada. While the refugee resettlement rates are high in those nations, refugees are not usually able to flee directly to those countries. Often, refugees are only able to go as far as the country neighboring the one from which they are fleeing; so the top host countries are actually Turkey, Pakistan, and Uganda. Often, refugees wait in camps or temporary settlements in neighboring countries for years until they are able to be resettled to the U.S., Europe, Australia, Canada, or other resettlement sites.
Do refugees live only in camps? Approximately 75 percent of refugees live in urban areas, not in camps. It is easy to envision rows of tents and makeshift shelters, which is an all too familiar reality for many refugees; however, that is not the only reality refugees can find themselves in. And while urban resettlement allows for refugees to have a fresh start in what feels like a new home, it also means that resources are harder to come by. Refugees are left to fend for themselves with little or no money and usually struggle to find safety and adequate shelter.
Are refugees a burden on receiving nations? Research has actually found that accepting refugees boosts national economies. While the initial cost of resettling may be high, accepting refugees is a good investment in the future. According to the Migration Policy Institute, refugee men ages 16 and over were more likely to work than American men. Refugee women were equally as likely to work as American women. According to Hein de Haas, a professor of Sociology at the University of Amsterdam and contributor to the organization Migration Matters, migrants and refugees often accept employment opportunities that local populations do not want to do. This, in turn, has a positive effect on economic growth. In 2017, it was found that refugees actually end up paying more in taxes than they receive in welfare benefits after just eight years of living in this country. According to the Fiscal Policy institute, employers that hired refugees saw positive outcomes in their business - meaning, refugees are not bad for the workforce.
Why might someone be denied or granted refugee status? In order to be granted refugee status, an individual must be able to prove that they have been persecuted in the past and/or will be persecuted if they return to the country they are seeking refuge from. However, the Refugee Convention only provides refugee status and the associated protections for those seeking protection from being persecuted for their race, nationality, religion, social group, or political opinion. This narrow framework excludes a lot of other very real threats such as sexual and gender-based violence, environmental conditions or natural disasters, and extreme poverty. These conditions forcibly displace people on a daily basis but leave them unable to seek substantial protection. In other words, individuals seeking protection from sexual and gender-based violence, environmental conditions or natural disasters, or extreme poverty would be denied refugee status in many cases. These are only a few examples; many more real world reasons for fleeing exist that fall outside of the refugee framework and protection mechanisms and leave people vulnerable and without protection. While a few countries have passed additional legislation in order to protect more vulnerable individuals, there is so much more to be done. More efforts are needed in order to ensure that the protection of human rights are being extended to all individuals, not just those who fit within a definition that has not been updated since its inception.
How do I make a difference on an individual level? While it may feel like one person can’t make a difference, it is not true. Donating to organizations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Migration Policy Institute, and Alight, to name a few. Locally, organizations such as Beyond, Dignity and Asylum, Catholic Charities of Boston and the International Institute of New England accept donations that allow for them to provide services and resources for refugees and immigrants. Volunteering, petitioning and raising awareness are just a few more things that can be done to help those affected by the refugee crisis.