Forced to flee their home country due to war and persecution, international refugees are at a crossroads in life. Caritas of Austin’s Refugee Resettlement services during refugees’ first months in Austin provide the comprehensive support needed to acculturate and achieve self-sufficiency. Each year, Caritas of Austin serves more than 500 refugees from various countries as they transition to life in the United States and work to achieve self-sufficiency.
Who are Refugees?
Under both international and U.S law (UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951 and U.S. Refugee Act of 1980), a refugee is someone with a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, and who is unable to avail themselves of protection from the government where he or she is located.
Individuals who have left their homeland voluntarily in search of a better life are not considered refugees. They are economic migrants. Many governments, including the U.S., partner with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to protect and assist refugees who are unable to return to their home countries.
How do refugees get to the U.S. for resettlement?
Refugees must meet one of the three priorities in order to be resettled in the U.S. They must be referred by the UNHCR or a non-governmental organization (NGO), be part of a group identified as having specific concern to the U.S., such as Iraquis and Burundians, or be eligible for family reunification.
Once a refugee has been interviewed by a federal program officer, has undergone all of the screening requirements, and has received approval for resettlement in the U.S., he or she is paired with a Voluntary Agency (VOLAG) in the U.S. to begin the reception and placement process. These VOLAGs work with the U.S. Department of State to assure appropriate placement and services for the refugee once he or she arrives in the U.S.
From which countries do refugees come that are resettled by Caritas of Austin?
Last year, Caritas of Austin resettled refugees from Afghanistan, Bhutan, Burma, Burundi, Congo, Cuba, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Somali, Sudan, Cameroon, Uganda, Syria, and Zambi
What services does Caritas of Austin provide to refugees?
Caritas of Austin provides the immediate needs for safety, food, and housing and links refugees to resources leading to their self-sufficiency in 6 months. Those resources include healthcare, English language training, financial assistance, transportation, education, immigration, employment and community services.
How can I volunteer directly with refugees?
There are many opportunities to support refugees through volunteerism. Please visit our Volunteer Page to view volunteer positions.