Refugee Assistance Program
A refugee is a person who is outside their home country and who is unable or unwilling to return to that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
-101(a)(42) of the Innigration and Nationality Act (INA)
"Refugee" is a very specific immigration status - Refugees are not to be confused with migrants such as the thousands of people streaming into Europe, or immigrants who freely relocate to the United States through various visa programs, or the undocumented who enter the country illegally. They are people who have had to flee their homes because of violence and persecution. They are invited to the United States by the U.S. Department of State after living, sometimes for several years, in refugee camps around the world. .
Once the process starts in the refugee camps, the resettlement process can take from 18-24 months. Besides extensive medical screenings and treatment, all refugees are subject to the highest level of security checks of any category of traveler to the United States, involving the National Counterterrorism Center, the FBI including its Terrorist Screening Center, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense.
Refugees in Rhode Island - Rhode Island refugees come from 20 to 30 countries, evenly divided among men and women, ranging in ages from infants to 80. While arrivals from countries differentiate every year, recent arrivals include a large number of individuals from East Africa.
For the last 25 years, the numbers of refugees entering Rhode Island has fluctuated between 150 and 345 refugees each year. For federal fiscal year 2018 (October 1, 2017 through September 30, 2018), it is projected that 160 refugees will be resettled in Rhode Island.