ISSUES

So what is World Refugee Day?


So what is World Refugee Day?

By Laura Wagner

Celebrating world refugee day

I once remember driving a refugee client from Rwanda to a medical appointment and he asked me why I work in resettlement. I didn’t hesitate. After over a decade of working with refugees and asylum-seekers, it was an easy answer for me. Working with newcomers is a self-serving endeavor because I know that my community is better, my community benefits when it welcomes immigrants and refugees, and even more so when we allow them to thrive. When we give them opportunities to share their existing skills and talents, not only are they able to reclaim a sense of purpose, our communities win. 

On campus communities this is even more true. I met a student with a refugee background for coffee on campus and as we chatted about his classes, he shared that one of his favorite classes was on security and climate change and he proceeded to explain his research on the ownership of the Nile River. What better perspective could you have in the class than someone whose life has been directly impacted by the diplomacy of the Nile?

What better perspective could you have in the class than someone whose life has been directly impacted by the diplomacy of the Nile?

Laura Wagner
Director of Refugee Access
Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration

Long before Adam Grant’s column in 2021 about how people felt during the pandemic, “languishing” was a common term we used to describe the status of refugees. While the media cover the latest conflict and cause of displacement, the majority of refugees are languishing in protracted refugee situations with little or no hope of returning to their home country. We always hope that conflicts are resolved quickly and those displaced can return to their homes swiftly to rebuild, but the reality is that is rarely the case. We see refugee populations that have been displaced for decades; refugees are born in camps and may have never set foot in their home country. In 2022, more than 1 in 74 people worldwide remained forcibly displaced, and almost 90 per cent of them in low- and middle-income countries.

In the refugee humanitarian field, we seek “durable solutions” – pathways that will offer individuals physical, emotional, and legal protection as well as a means of making a living. In many countries hosting the majority of refugees, there are restrictions on refugees’ mobility, rights, and employment opportunities. When there is no indication of peace in one’s home country, one is not permitted to work in the host country, and there is less than a 1% chance of being resettled, this is truly a state of languishing.

This is why this World Refugee Day, I am celebrating the creation of a new pathway for young refugees that not only provides an opportunity for education and resettlement, but also provides hope! The Welcome Corps on Campus is a life-changing, historic program that was launched by the U.S. Department of State this past year. With Welcome Corps on Campus, colleges and universities and their campus communities can sponsor refugee students living abroad to come to the U.S. as refugees through the U.S. refugee admissions program and enroll as first year undergraduates.

This fall the very first cohort of refugee students will arrive on U.S. campuses, thanks to the commitment of campuses who believe in the talent refugee students bring to their community and have answered the call to support resettlement on their campus. We are currently seeking institutions to commit to welcoming for Fall 2025, applications are due September 15, 2024, please reach out to me (laura@presidentsalliance.org) to start mobilizing your campus to participate. You can also check out the Refugee Resource Hub for additional resources on enrolling refugee students.