Research: Commentary

Refugee Messaging

September 27, 2016 | Letter

By Jeff Blum

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Refugees – who have been forced to flee their homes because of violence and persecution – are mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, just like us. And just like us, they seek only the chance to live their lives in peace and create a better future for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Many Americans are the children or grandchildren of refugees. It goes against our personal and national values to turn our backs on today’s refugees, regardless of race, religion or nationality.

Refugees entering the United States go through a rigorous screening process that takes anywhere from 18 to 24 months, including pre-screening by the United Nations and investigations by multiple law enforcement, intelligence and security agencies in the U.S.

American national security experts and luminaries from across the ideological spectrum agree that providing refuge to those fleeing violence, persecution and hardship is consistent with our nation’s founding ideals and enhances U.S. security.

Many migrants displaced because of economic, political or environmental upheaval don’t meet the definition of “refugee” under the 1951 Refugee Convention. We must expand that definition so that those facing such calamities aren’t forced to return to a place where their lives or freedoms would be threatened.

States taking in refugees and migrants must offer the same human and labor rights protections they offer nationals. Irregular migrants’ rights at work and outside of work, must also be respected -- including access to healthcare, reproductive health services for women, accommodation, and access to education for children.

We must raise awareness that women and girls fleeing violence and economic hardship are vulnerable to sexual exploitation, violence and abuse; and we must do more to increase options for assistance.

In the next few decades, climate change will most likely be another major factor fueling refugee crises. Experts say that by 2050, between 50 and 200 million people could be displaced because of climate change.


Primary hashtags:

  • #USforRefugees
  • #RefugeesWelcome
  • #USforRefugeesMigrants
  • #UnitedforRefugees (used in Canada)
  • #WeStandforWelcome
  • #NationofImmigrants

Additional hashtags that are continually used in the broader welcoming movement are:

  • #WithRefugees
  • #WithSyria
  • #refugeecrisis
  • #OpentoSyria
  • #WelcomeWorld
  • #AmericaWelcomes

Sample tweets (copy and paste):

  • 21 million of the world’s 60 million refugees come from Syria, Afghanistan & Somalia #RefugeesWelcome
  • .@AFLCIO Executive VP @Tefere_Gebre, who fled Ethiopia in 1982: “I am a proud American”
  • .@AFLCIO Executive VP @Tefere_Gebre, who fled Ethiopia in 1982: “#Refugees look just like me”
  • Bipartisan experts agree: Admitting more refugees enhances US national security #RefugeesWelcome
  • Admitting #Refugees to the US takes 18-24 months and screens out any terror threats
  • The US must do more to help those fleeing poverty & violence in Central America #RefugeesWelcome
  • GOOD NEWS: President Obama to boost number of refugees admitted to the US by 30% #RefugeesWelcome
  • Between 50-200 million people could be displaced by 2050 because of #ClimateChange #RefugeeCrisis
  • “Mass migration into Europe from the Middle East has been accompanied by a surge of violence against women”



More than 60 million people are forcibly displaced worldwide and 54 percent of the world’s 21 million refugees come from three countries: Syria (4.9m), Afghanistan (2.9m) and Somalia (1.1m) [Source]

More than half of all refugees are under the age of 18. [Source]

Fewer than 1 percent of refugees under the auspices of the United Nations Refugee agency have been resettled. [Source]

A recent U.N. report found that 210,000 people have been killed and another 840,000 have been injured as a result of the Syrian civil war. Combined, that's 6 percent of Syria's total population. [Source]

The screening process for refugees entering and re-settling in the United States is extremely rigorous:

  • Step 1: The UN Refugee Agency screens and refers asylum candidates who pass background checks for resettlement abroad.
  • Step 2: The US government then performs its own screening process, with precautions increased for those coming from volatile areas like Syria.
    Multiple law enforcement, intelligence and security agencies perform “the most rigorous screening of any traveler to the U.S.,” including in-person applicant interviews and biometric and biographical screens to weed out potential terror suspects. 
    50% of applicants pass this screening process, which can take anywhere from 18 to 24 months. 
    The recent “surge operation” to meet President Obama’s September 2016 deadline of resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees in the U.S. will take less time because of increased American staff and resources dedicated to the process. The security portion of the process has not been compressed. [Source] [Source] [Source]

National security luminaries from all sides of the ideological spectrum agree that accepting refugees advances U.S. interests and that welcoming refugees regardless of their race or religion counters terrorist propaganda. [Source] [Source]

Frontline states taking in the most refugees, particularly countries taking those fleeing the civil war in Syria, need more financial support in order to adequately sustain their basic needs. [Source]

“Since 2014, tens of thousands of children and families from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, also known as the Northern Triangle region of Central America, have fled to the United States and neighboring countries to escape extreme violence and poverty.” [Source]

The Obama administration has recently announced that it will increase the amount of refugees the U.S. will take in, including increases from Central America and the Middle East. [Source] [Source]


Refugees aren’t a drag on the economy. Having taken in millions, the Turkish and Lebanese economies have actually expanded, and Jordan’s GDP rose by about 3% in 2015. [Source]

Syrian refugees in Turkey have displaced unskilled informal and part-time workers, but they have also generated more formal non-agricultural jobs and an increase in average wages for Turkish workers. [Source]

Syrians are actually meeting demands for unskilled labor in Turkey and are employed in areas where Turks aren’t willing to work. [Source]

Jordan has taken more than 600,000 Syrian refugees and unemployment has not increased in areas where Syrians have resettled. Syrian workers have tended to find employment in low-skill sectors that Jordanians typically avoid. [Source]

Refugee men quickly move into the labor force while women become increasingly integrated over time. And refugees start businesses which helps expand local economies. [Source]

Experts say that refugees aren’t a burden on the economy in which they resettle. [Source]

According to a U.N. report, 80% of Syrians lived in poverty in 2014; 30% lived in abject poverty, unable to meet basic food needs. [Source]

The Syrian economy declined at an annual rate of more than 30 percent in 2012 and 2013 and was projected to have shrunk by about 10 percent in 2014. [Source]

“…[R]efugee resettlement saves lives and strengthens communities. … We urge unwavering commitment to provide support to those fleeing oppression and violence to build a better life among us. We will continue to call upon our government to live up to its obligation to meet the needs of refugee families.” – AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, 11/18/15 [Source]


Women and girl refugees fleeing Iraq and Syria face violence, assault, exploitation and sexual harassment at every stage of their journey, including on European soil. [Source]

Mass migration into Europe from the Middle East has been accompanied by a surge of violence against women. From forced marriages and sex trafficking to domestic abuse, women report violence from fellow refugees, smugglers, male family members and even European police officers. [Source]

Almost 60 percent of refugees and migrants leaving for Europe in 2016 have been female or children, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner of Human Rights reported. In contrast, young, single men predominantly made up last year’s flow. [Source]


Between 50 million and 200 million people — mainly subsistence farmers and fishermen — could be displaced by 2050 because of climate change, according to estimates by the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security and the International Organization for Migration. [Source]

The latest figures from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre 2015 report show that more than 19 million people from 100 countries were forced to flee their homes in 2014 because of natural disasters. [Source]

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