Celebrate the Essential Contributions of Refugees on World Refugee Day

June 19, 2020

Illustration of people in the shape of a speaking bubble

Every minute of every day 20 people are forced to leave their homes because of violence, war, or persecution. Worldwide, a total of 79.5 million people (26 million of whom are refugees) have been displaced, more than at any point in human history.

Numbers that huge can be so hard to understand that we might begin to forget or ignore the human lives behind them. These are people: people who’ve had to leave behind everything they know in search of a safe place to call home.

These are also people who are working hard right now to keep us safe from the coronavirus. This World Refugee Day, as the COVID-19 crisis continues to spread across the globe, we and our partner, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), want to recognize refugees’ critical role as essential workers on the frontlines of the pandemic. We hope you’ll join us in honoring them and demanding that our leaders take immediate action to protect and advance their rights.


Contributing to Our Communities

So many studies highlight how refugees provide a huge boost to the economy and the community wherever they go. Think about it: refugees bring a startling range of experiences with them—they’re farmers, engineers, scientists, and doctors.

Speaking of doctors, it’s impossible to overstate the contributions that refugees and other immigrants are making right now in the fight against the coronavirus. According to the IRC, 29% of America’s doctors were born outside of our borders, and 17% of our entire healthcare workforce is made up of immigrants. These men and women are risking their lives to help us.

Of course, refugees, migrants, and immigrants also hold essential jobs in other industries, like food services and transportation. And yet, despite being called “essential,” these workers and their families still have a difficult time accessing and paying for medical treatment should they get sick. That has to change—and with your help it will. They deserve the expanded healthcare coverage and economic relief that so many other Americans have received because of the COVID-19 crisis.


Arms Wide in Welcome

Looking beyond their contributions during the pandemic, imagine all we would miss out on if refugees weren’t able to settle in our neighborhoods, towns, and cities.

Studies have demonstrated that diversity itself just flat out makes us better: the more diversity around us, the smarter and more creative we become (and we work harder too). In fact, the earlier we experience diversity, the better: diverse classrooms help students score higher on tests and lead to increased college enrollment.

Despite the many unfounded myths and fears about refugees, it’s clear that welcoming them to our communities isn’t just a good thing, or even just the right thing, to do—it helps society thrive. We need them. And the truth is, right now, they also need us.


Take Action

The refugee crisis isn’t going away. Remember those numbers we mentioned earlier? Hopes and wishes aren’t going to solve a problem of this magnitude. Millions of people, many of them children, are seeking shelter and safety. They have been through experiences most of us cannot even begin to imagine. They only want what we all want: A safe place to call home, food on their tables, healthcare so that they can see a doctor if they’re sick. After all the sacrifices they’ve made to keep us and our communities healthy during this deadly pandemic, we owe them that.

As we honor the 40th anniversary of the Refugee Act, we’re calling for systemic changes in three areas that will ensure all refugees are treated with respect, fairness, and justice. First, displacement of communities due to war, violence, climate change is a worldwide problem and so worldwide cooperation is needed to solve it. Second, every individual country needs to ensure that its asylum process is humane and effective. Finally, we need to encourage more understanding between host communities and newcomers.

We don’t have all the answers, but we do know that if we all work together, we can make a big difference in the lives of millions of people. Join us today in supporting the International Rescue Committee and their work helping refugees rebuild their lives.