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2017: Fighting Unprecedented Challenges for Refugees

Dec 24, 2017

Blog Post

Gabe Cahn,

Fadi K. (L), hugs his daughters Hanan, 8 and Lian, 5, for the first time in more than two years as his wife Razan looks on after the family was reunited at John F. Kennedy International airport in New York City following a flight from Amman, Jordan, February 2, 2017. The family had been prevented from traveling after President Trump signed the first executive order on January 27, but intervention from HIAS and others allowed them to reunite.

(Bill Swersey/HIAS)

Thousands of demonstrators gather spontaneously on Saturday, January 28, 2017 at JFK Airport to protest the implementation of the Trump Administration's first executive order banning refugees and Muslim travelers.


Demonstrators protest during a rally in support of refugee outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., January 30, 2017.

(Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Marchers in support of immigrants and refugees in Seattle, Washington on January 29, 2017.

(Jason Redmond/AFP/Getty Images)

HIAS Institutional Development Manager Shari Edelstein speaks to the crowd in Denver as part of the National Day of Jewish Action for Refugees, February 12, 2017.

(Michael Aubrey)

A HIAS organized rally drew hundreds of demonstrators against President Trump's immigration ban at Battery Park on February 12, 2017 in New York City. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Rep. Keith Ellison were among the speakers who addressed the crowd.

(Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images)

Hundreds braved sleet and freezing temperatures for hours during the Jewish Rally for Refugees in Battery Park, New York, on February 12, 2017.

(Gili Getz)

African asylum seekers take part in a protest against Israel's deportation policy in front of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) in Jerusalem on January 26, 2017.

(Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images)

Refugees begin gardening in refugee camp in eastern Chad as part of a new HIAS permagardening initiative, February 2017.

(Thomas Cole)

Participants in a New York City vigil commemorating the voyage of the MS St. Louis hold yahrzeit candles, in memory of those turned away nearly 80 years ago, June 6, 2017.

(Harold Levine)

Sonja Maier Geismar, who was a five year old passenger aboard the MS St. Louis, points to a photo of herself at the St. Louis Vigil in New York City, June 6, 2017.

(Bill Swersey/HIAS)

Participants read accounts of MS St. Louis passengers and contemporary refugees as part of the St. Louis Vigil in Washington, D.C., June 6, 2017.

(Lloyd Wolf/

An activist holds a welcome mat at a World Refugee Day rally co-sponsored by HIAS in front of the White House on June 20, 2017.

(Rachel Nusbaum/HIAS)

Chris Walker (L), who served three combat tours as a captain with the Marines in Afghanistan, carries an air conditioner donated through a synagogue coalition effort into the new Queens, New York home of a refugee from Afghanistan who worked as an interpreter with U.S. forces, June 25, 2017.

(Andrew Lichtenstein)

Campers learn how plants grow at the Toledo Botanical Garden as part of the summer camp for refugee women and children organized by US Together, HIAS’ local resettlement partner in Toledo, Ohio, August 2017.

(Maddie McGarvey)

Khaled*, a 23 year old Syrian refugee, and Noor*, a 21 year old Syrian asylum seeker, stand during their civil marriage ceremony at the Mytilini Municipal Theater in Lesvos, Greece, August 7, 2017. A legal challenge by HIAS attorneys led to the couple being granted the right to marry.

(Suma Hussien)

HIAS volunteers gathered outside the U.S. Capitol hold a signed Rosh Hashanah card to President Trump, calling on him to make this a sweet new year for refugees, September 14, 2017.

(Devon Cone/HIAS)

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.  

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 FacebookTwitter and Instagram.