Three Myths About Refugees
In Chinese, the word “crisis” consists of the characters for “danger” and “opportunity.” With more than 20 million refugees in the world and more being added each week, the refugee situation is the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. To many, refugees can appear to be a threat. This kind of mentality is often undergirded by misheard myths about refugees. However, these myths can be dispelled when the refugee crisis is viewed as an opportunity rather than a danger.

  1. Refugees are a burden on the economy. In the most recent election, voters ranked the economy as the most important issue. Naturally, then, the expected effect of refugees on the economy will influence the types of resettlement policies that people support. Though refugees may initially be a financial burden as they resettle, economists have found that the immigrants have a net positive fiscal impact on the countries that receive them. The tax revenue gained from immigrants outweighs the costs of the benefits they consume. Columbus, Ohio is proof positive that pro-refugee policies are economically beneficial. Refugees in Columbus have not only taken jobs, but they have also helped to create them. In Central Ohio, refugees are about twice as likely to start new businesses compared to native residents.
  2. Refugees are more likely to be dangerous extremists. This myth about refugees could not be further from the truth. To be considered a refugee, an individual must have a reasonable fear of persecution due to ethnicity, religion, politics or social class. In the past decade, only 27 percent of refugees to the United States have been from the Middle East. Of these, more than 60 percent have been women or children under the age of 14, hardly the type likely to be violent extremists. In the United States, the probability of being killed by a terrorist refugee is one in 3.64 billion. Even in light of such statistics, suspicions about refugees remain, in large part because of another myth about refugees.
  3. Refugees are not adequately vetted. An application for resettlement to the U.S. can take up to two years to process. Individuals seeking resettlement must apply with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. UNHCR then refers the individual to the U.S. government, which conducts multiple security checks and interviews. Five separate background checks and three in-person interviews are just a couple of the components of the vetting process. If the government determines the candidate qualifies for resettlement, it assigns the refugee to one of nine agencies that assist with successful integration.

Despite what these myths about refugees might lead one to believe, receiving countries need to see the tremendous opportunity, not the questionable danger, in the refugee crisis.

Rebecca Yu

Photo: Flickr