Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What makes a person a refugee?

Refugees are men, women, and children who have fled war, persecution, and political upheaval in their home countries. A person becomes a “refugee” when he or she crosses a border to seek safety in another country. Refugees leave behind jobs, houses, and personal possessions and endure great hardship in their fight for safety and survival. Over three quarters of the world’s refugees are women and children.

The 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees defines a refugee as a person who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”

Q: How many refugees are there and where do they come from?

At the end of 2015, there were an estimated 21.3 million refugees worldwide. Refugees exist throughout the world in areas of conflict.

Q: What happens after a person becomes a refugee?

Most refugees can safely return to their country of nationality when conflict ceases. However, some refugees are forced to remain in a refugee camp if their country of nationality remains unstable or if they have a well-founded fear of persecution. Refugees sometimes have the opportunity to integrate into the country of their asylum if they receive agreement from that country.

A very small percentage of the world’s refugees are resettled in a third country, like the U.S.  Resettlement can be a slow process; many refugees spend up to 20 years in a refugee camp before they are resettled.

Q: How many refugees does the U.S. government accept each year?

The U.S. accepts a limited number of refugees each year. The U.S. may accept up to 50,000 refugees in 2017.

Q: How many refugees and immigrants are there in King County?

According to the 2010 Census, 20% of King Country residents are foreign-born. Since 1984, King County has been the fifth largest recipient of refugees in the U.S.

Q: What challenges do refugees face in the U.S. and what benefits do they receive?

Refugees step off the plane with little more than the clothing on their back and the hope for a brighter future. Refugees come from traumatic experiences and work extremely hard to rebuild their lives in the U.S. For many refugees, the initial transition to life in the U.S. is difficult. Most newly arrived refugees face language barriers and struggle to secure living-wage employment. As a result, many refugees are at risk of homelessness, suffer from loneliness and depression, and face great instability.

Recognizing the challenges that newly arrived refugees face, all refugees receive limited assistance from the U.S. government and up to 90 days of assistance from resettlement agencies (ReWA is not a resettlement agency).

Q: What is the difference between ReWA and resettlement agencies?

Refugee resettlement agencies are the first organizations to work with refugees who have just arrived new in this country. Agency staff pick them up from the airport, bring them directly to temporary housing, and provide them with food, toiletries, and money. The agencies receive money from the federal government to provide refugees with these services for 90 days. By the end of the three-month period, the refugees are required to have permanent housing and have some other source of income. While resettlement agency staff can help refugees start the application processes for housing and Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF), their work with refugees generally ends after a family’s first three months in the U.S.

ReWA may start work with refugees soon after they arrive in the country, however we are able to continue working with them long after the three month period ends. In addition to helping address the refugee’s housing and financial needs, ReWA’s multi-lingual, multi-cultural case managers help our families enroll in English classes, apply for permanent U.S. residency, enroll their children in schools, address their mental health needs, and much more that supports their road to self-sufficiency. Please see our services page for a complete list.

Q: How does ReWA respond to the challenges that refugees and immigrants face?

ReWA restores hope and helps refugee and immigrant women and families thrive in the U.S. Our wrap-around services help the entire family pursue their dreams and achieve self-sufficiency. Through our services, refugees and immigrants learn English, secure stable housing, find jobs, and become U.S. citizens. We work with our clients to build community and navigate life in the U.S. so that their transition is as smooth as possible.

Q: How do refugees contribute to our community?

Most refugees embody resilience and make successful transitions to life in the U.S. They learn English, continue their education, build careers, contribute to the economy, purchase homes, and give back to their communities. After 5 years, refugees are eligible to become American citizens.

Q: Does ReWA serve only refugee women?

ReWA provides comprehensive services for refugee and immigrant women, men, and children.

Q: How can I help?

Thank you for your interest in helping our newest neighbors. There are many ways to help refugees! Help refugees on their path to self-sufficiency by volunteering in ReWA’s ESL classes, Youth Program, and Citizenship classes. You can donate household essentials or support ReWA’s work financially. You can also contact your representatives and let them know that you support refugees.