In a calendar year marked by polarization, inspiration, and activation, identifying a clear inflection point is a tough task. For the world’s refugees, the organizations that protect them, and the communities that welcome them, 2017 was a year defined by unprecedented challenges and pulling together to overcome them. And then overcoming some more.
Never before has there been a greater need to find sustainable solutions for the world’s displaced. In the annual Global Trends Report report released on World Refugee Day in June, UNHCR estimated that by the end of 2016, “65.6 million individuals were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations.” On average, that’s one out of every 113 people.
Paired with the United States’ abrupt retreat from its traditional role as the global leader in refugee protection—through antagonistic political rhetoric, overly restrictive policies ranging from flat out bans to the lowest refugee admissions ceiling in history, and a pronounced drawback on the international stage—the geopolitical uncertainty affecting refugees has undoubtedly increased over the past 12 months.
At the same time, the level of mobilization in support of refugees during the last year, both in the United States and abroad, has reached new heights.
In a year like this one, every act, no matter how big and small, mattered.
- The lawyers in the United States who pledged to fight against each iteration of the administration’s attempts to ban refugees and Muslim travelers, including HIAS, our local resettlement partners in Seattle and Silicon Valley, and the others affiliated with Jewish Family Service v. Trump. U.S. District Judge James Robart issued a ruling on December 23 in JFS v. Trump, largely blocking implementation of the administsration’s most recent refugee restrictions.
- The hundreds of thousands of Americans who took to the streets, public squares, and airports to oppose the Trump Administration’s various refugee and Muslim bans.
- The Syrian families who escaped civil war and restarted their lives in American cities such as Charlotte, North Carolina and Framingham, Massachusetts.
- The political activist from Cameroon who found safety in Ukraine and is now learning Ukrainian with the help of HIAS partners.
- The HIAS legal team in Greece who won Syrian asylum seekers the right to marry.
- The more than 380 North American synagogues and countless volunteers who, as part of the HIAS Welcome Campaign, welcomed refugee families as if they were their own.
- The advocates in Costa Rica who saw a need for refugee legal services and started an office that now serves more than 350 clients a month as part of HIAS’ operations there.
- The HIAS resettlement partners in Buffalo, Toledo, Ann Arbor, and across the country who developed unique programs to better serve their clients.
- The gardeners in Chad who trained Sudanese refugees how to practice self-sustaining food production.
- The military veterans who volunteered to furnish the home of an Afghan interpreter resettled with his family in New York.
- The legal staff in Israel who gave hope to 38,000 African asylum seekers facing mounting social and political pressure from the government.
- The Jewish women in New Jersey who started a supper club to introduce Syrian refugees and their wonderful cuisine to their community.
- The more than 2,000 American rabbis who raised their voices in support of welcoming refugees.
- The dedicated staff in Venezuela assisting thousands of refugees under increasingly difficult circumstances in their home country.
- The two former refugees who were elected to local office in Virginia and Montana.
2017 has proven that each of our actions can have a deep and lasting effect on the lives of human beings fleeing violence, genocide, and terror.
During the last fiscal year, HIAS resettled approximately 3,300 refugees and SIVs in the United States and offered assistance and legal protection to tens of thousands more in 11 countries around the globe. Each individual refugee served represents a human life afforded safety, stability, and the opportunity to reach his or her full potential.
In the months ahead, as we collectively rededicate ourselves to the protection and welcome of refugees, let us strive to continue making a positive impact.
To learn more about HIAS’ work this past year, read our 2017 Impact Report. And to stay up to date about refugees and the communities that welcome them, follow HIAS on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.