World Refugee Day: Saturday, June 20.

We often become so involved with our immediate communities that we forget to take a look at humanitarian aid from a global perspective. I recently heard about tomorrow’s World Refugee Day and did a little research about people who have been displaced from or fled their homes. I found some startling facts:

  • There are about 14 million refugees and asylum seekers across the globe. (2008 World Refugee survey)
  • The number of refugee admissions to the United States was set at 80,000 last year. The policies regarding refugee admissions to the United States are designated by the State Department. Refugees are entitled to refugee status here for one year. After one year, refugees are eligible to become legal permanent residents, and after five years, they can apply for citizenship.
  • There are 2,800 refugees expected to settle in Chicago this year. There were 2,412 refugees who settled here last year, according to the World Refugee Day Web site

If you do the math, considering there are more than 6 billion people in the world, 14 million refugees is a significant part of the Here are some observations to put it into a better perspective:

  • If all refugees came together and founded their own city, it would be the eighth largest city in the world – larger than Dhaka, Bangladesh and Buenos Aires, Argentina.
  • The number of refugees in the world is greater than the population of the entire state of Illinois. In fact, the population of refugees is greater than the population of any state, except for California, Texas, New York and Florida.

Refugees across the world are helpless – but not hopeless. We can work together to recognize their hardships and help them rebuild their lives after having experienced such unimaginable circumstances. World Refugee Day takes place every year across the globe (this year it’s Saturday, June 20 in Chicago), and American Red Cross chapters across the country will be taking part to show their support for the cause. World Refugee Day draws attention to the plight of refugees, celebrates their courage and renews commitment to solve refugee problems. We’ll also recognize the contributions refugees make to their communities.

The Greater Chicago Red Cross does work with refugees on a daily basis through our International Tracing work. Our highly trained team of tracing volunteers works with national societies around the world to help reconnect families that have been separated by war, civil disturbance or natural disasters. For more information, or to locate a family member, contact our International Services department at (312) 729-6100 or visit the Red Cross International Committee Family Links website.

Gentry Lassiter is an intern in the Marketing & Communications department of the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago

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