Refugees and the Refugee Experience

What is a Refugee/Asylee?


For more information on the refugee resettlement process in the United States click here.

What Have Refugee Families Experienced?

Many refugees, especially children, have experienced trauma related to war or persecution that may affect their mental and physical health long after the events have occurred. These traumatic events may occur while the refugees are in their country of origin, during displacement from their country of origin, or in the resettlement process here in the US.

While in their country of origin, refugee children may have experienced traumatic events or hardships including:

  • Violence (as witnesses, victims, and/or perpetrators)
  • War
  • Lack of food, water, and shelter
  • Physical injuries, infections, and diseases
  • Torture
  • Forced labor
  • Sexual assault
  • Lack of medical care
  • Loss of loved ones
  • Disruption in or lack of access to schooling

During displacement, refugee children often face many of the same types of traumatic events or hardships that they faced in their country of origin, as well as new experiences such as:

  • Living in refugee camps
  • Separation from family
  • Loss of community
  • Uncertainty about the future
  • Harassment by local authorities
  • Traveling long distances by foot
  • Detention

Refugee children may feel relieved when they are resettled in the US. However, the difficulties they face do not end upon their arrival. Once resettled in the US refugees may face stressors in four major categories: Traumatic Stress (e.g. community violence), Acculturation Stress (e.g., new school environments), Resettlement Stress (e.g., financial hardship), and Isolation (e.g., discrimination).




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