June 20, 2016 was recognized by organizations, communities and leaders alike as World Refugee Day. According to a report conducted by the United Nations, there is a record number of 65.3 million refugees who were displaced due to war by the end of 2015. This is more than the population of France, California, and Texas combined, with more than half of these refugees being children.

With such a high traffic of refugees being displaced globally, understanding the truth about this displaced population is more relevant than ever. Recent studies have shown an increase in anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments in classrooms and the workplace. One such study, conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center revealed in a survey that included over a third of American teachers reported an increase of anti-immigrant sentiments in their classrooms.

However, these sentiments are often caused by general fear and media misrepresentation rather than the refugees themselves. In fact, refugees are very beneficial to the communities they move in to, offering an increase in both civic participation and great economic contributions. World Refugee Day sheds light on these facts and aids in the perception of refugees.

A recent study of refugees residing in Columbus Ohio showed that these displaced families and individuals made economic contributions of about $1.6 million. Moreover, these refugees also contributed to social diversity as well which is ultimately conducive to building a more globalized identity.

Refugee settlement and mentor programs, such as those conducted by The Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans (CCANO), which spur acceptance, tolerance and the chance at assimilation for many displaced individuals and families result in amazing rewards for the communities that establish them.

According to a study by The Refugee Integration Survey and Evaluation (RISE), which focused on the integration progress of refugees over a span of five years, most refugees offer valuable and productive roles in the communities they are displaced to. Programs such as those conducted by CCANO simply quicken the process. And events, such as those in Rochester, New York on June 18, 2016, held in honor of World Refugee Day, allow refugees to share their stories as well as their cultures, reminding us that these displaced people are first and foremost, people.

Jenna Salisbury

Photo: Flickr