Who are Refugees?

Who is a Refugee? A refugee is a person who leaves their country because of a fear of persecution. Refugees come from many backgrounds and countries.  Refugees must have lived in another country or a refugee camp before their resettlement and must go through a complex process in order to be relocated.  All refugees who resettle in the United States are invited by the United States government.  Refugees are not immigrants who arrive for job or economic opportunities.

Who relocates refugees?  The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) helps refugees to make better lives for themselves and their families. The UNHCR works with local organizations in the state where the refugee moves to.  Tucson currently has three relocation agencies that settle refugees in our area.  These organizations include Refugee Focus, Catholic Community Services, and International Rescue Committee

Where do refugees come from? Refugees come from any country where people suffered or feared persecution. Some of the refugees Iskashitaa works with come from the countries described below. Including Iraq, Somalia, Congo Kinshasa, Congo Brazzaville, Burundi, Eritrea, and Bhutan.





Over 4 million people were displaced from Iraq and about 2 million live in neighboring countries.

Iraq became a battleground after the US- led invasion in 2003.

Iraq has the world's third largest reserves of crude oil but attacks, corruption, and smuggling have
crippled exports of this valuable resource.

Iraqi citizens also flee persecution because of their Jewish, Christian, or other non Arabic religious beliefs or because of pressure because of their gender or sexuality.

Iraqis who worked with the US government often have to leave the


Somalia has not had effective government since the Somali Civil War in 1991.

A third of Somalia's population currently depends on food aid and Somalia has had its worst drought in six decades.  The drought left millions on the verge of starvation. 

Thousands of Somalis flee each day to surrounding refugee camps.  The majority of them are women and children.

The Somali Bantu are a minority group in Somalia. During the Somali Civil War, this group was targeted by militia for violence and looting.

Somali Bantus fled to camps to avoid persecution.

Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo Kinshasa)

Congo is struggling to recover after the second Congo War from 1998 to 2003.  This war is also known as the Great War of African because it involved 8 African nations and more than 25 armed groups.

The war resulted from ethnic clashes between Hutu and Tutsi as well as their supporting powers and other armed groups.

Rape was widely used as a weapon during this conflict and has led to a great deal of trauma and shame for survivors.

Thousands fled to neighboring countries and refugee camps to escape the violence.

Republic of the Congo (Congo Brazzaville)

Militia and civil wars have plagued the country.  Neighboring countries have fought with and against the Republic of Congo in this country.  

In the 1990's ethnic and political tensions fueled horrible civil wars and left thousands of citizens fleeing to refugee camps. 

Civil wars have ended but in 2005 relief was delayed following corruption allegations.


The origin of the Hutu and Tutsi conflicts in Burundi lasts at least as far back as early colonization by Belgium.

By the time Burundians elected their first Democratic president, the ethnic violence had become common.

As the Hutu's and Tutsi's changed power, genocide and mass killings followed.  Over the next twelve years, countless citizens fled to neighboring countries and refugee camps.

After the  government and last active rebel group signed a cease fire, Burundi began rebuilding its shattered economy to forge national unity. Burundi continues to work towards healing and rebuilding.


The government of Eritrea has been accused of numerous human rights violations.

Eritrean citizen's right to free speech, press, religion, and assembly are very limited.

Eritreans found  rebelling against the government are arrested. Those arrested are held without trial, are not convicted of a crime, and are held indefinitely. 

Compounding these issues was the displacement of civilians who fled the Eritrean-Ethiopian war. After the war, each country sent back the other sides' citizens. Thousands of Ethiopians remain stranded in Eritrea unable to pay their reentry fee.


Many of the Bhutanese refugees are ethnically Nepali. Their ancestors settled in Bhutan but they retain their Nepali language,culture, and religion.

In the 1980's the Bhutanese government became worried about the growth of the ethnic Nepali population in Bhutan. The government created laws that took away many ethnic Nepali's rights.

In 1990, the government announced that any ethnic Nepali who could not prove citizenship since 1958 had to leave the country.

Many fled and have resided in refugee camps. New arrivals may have been in camps for over 20 years.