World Refugee Day is a time to celebrate the many ways people from refugee communities enrich Washington state, a time to raise awareness of the challenges facing refugee communities locally and globally, and a time to take action in support of our refugee neighbors.
This World Refugee Day we face a difficult reality. 79.5 million people – 1% of humanity – have been forced to flee their homes due to violence and persecution. At the same time, there are fewer and fewer opportunities for displaced people to safely return home or to begin building again in a new country.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Refugee Act, which created our modern refugee resettlement program and enshrined into law our nation’s commitment to welcoming refugees. But we’re hardly in a position to celebrate this milestone. This year the U.S. will resettle no more than 18,000 refugees, by far the lowest number in the past four decades. Drastic cuts to the resettlement program have left thousands in harm’s way overseas, kept families unnecessarily separated, and caused immense harm to refugee communities here in Washington state. Efforts to increasingly deny refugees safety and stability in the U.S. have also coincided with relentless attacks on the rights and livelihoods of asylum-seekers, TPS recipients, undocumented communities, and other immigrants.
Refugee resettlement cuts have impacted some communities more than others. For instance, refugees who are Muslim made up 46% of arrivals in 2016, but just 16% in 2019. In recent years the U.S. has welcomed very few refugees who’ve fled Syria, Iraq, and Somalia – among the largest and most prolonged refugee situations in the world. As displacement from places like South Sudan and Venezuela has skyrocketed, opportunities for resettlement have not followed.
To respond to these worrying trends, push back against harmful refugee and immigration policies, and to create a community that’s truly welcoming for all refugees and immigrants, none of us can stay on the sideline. Let World Refugee Day serve as a day to not only raise awareness, but a day to commit to ongoing action. Here are some ideas to help get you started:
- Share and purchase artwork by local artists from refugee communities.
- Support refugee and immigrant owned businesses, such as Food Innovation Network's entrepreneurs.
- Shop at Tukwila Village Farmers Market which opens June 24th. Gardeners from the IRC’s New Roots program will be selling fresh, organic produce on a weekly basis. SNAP benefits accepted and doubled with SNAP Market Match.
- Help IRC assemble and deliver 230 at-home learning kits to newcomer students in South King County to support summer learning.
- Sew and donate cloth face masks for newcomer families. Right now, families we help at IRC are particularly in need of masks in children's sizes.
- Take action to ensure federal COVID-19 recovery measures include all refugees & immigrants by contacting your members of Congress. Urge Governor Inslee and state legislators to establish a “Washington Worker Relief Fund” for undocumented communities with a minimum of $100 million in funding.
- Call on Congress to preserve the refugee resettlement program, which has experienced drastic cuts the past 4 years.
- Donate to the IRC in Seattle’s Emergency Fund to help local families impacted by COVID-19 meet basic needs
- Learn more about challenges facing refugee communities worldwide. Check out UNHCR's global trends report released this week.
Have questions about any of the above opportunities? Contact us at Seattle [at] Rescue.org. Thank you for making #RefugeesWelcome this World Refugee Day and everyday!