Seven Refugee Facts

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This information is one of several contextual resources provided as part of Wheaton College's 2023 Core Book program. This year, we are reading Daniel Nayeri's Everything Sad Is Untrue. Learn more about Core Book.


Related to Everything Sad Is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri

by Kent Annan, Director of Humanitarian and Disaster Leadership

How Many?

Right now 108.4 million people worldwide who have been forcibly displaced from their homes. Of those, 35.3 million are refugees. Forty percent of people displaced are children.*

I think He’s a God who listens as if we are his most important children, and I think He speaks to tell us so.  (p. 237, location 3550)

From Where?

Syria, Ukraine, and Afghanistan are the source of more than 50% of refugees, with more than 17 million refugees having fled those three countries.*

But the shame of refugees is that we have to constantly explain ourselves. It makes the stories patchworks, not beautiful rugs.   (p. 214, location 3198)

To Where?

Turkey, Iran, and Columbia are the three countries that host the most refugees (almost 10 million refugees combined).*

People in Oklahoma think this must be how refugees are—never sitting, never sleeping, like they have no knees and no dreams.  (p. 155, location 2318)

How Long?

People who are forced to flee and become refugees are then often refugees for many years. For the small percentage of refugees who resettle to the U.S., the American part of their process takes about 2 years.**

She would spend the next few weeks tracking down the new form, filling it out with all the required documentation, and having it officiated and notarized. Then we would wait again in the embassy waiting room. You have to understand, by the fifteenth time we did this, I stopped paying attention…. It was like sticking a wrinkly dollar into a candy machine over and over and having it spit the dollar out over and over, for a year, with a gun to your head.  (p. 277-278, location 4134)

Come to the U.S.

For this year, the maximum number of refugees allowed to resettle in the U.S. is 125,000.**

My mom works different jobs. But she has a real MD and PhD and she’s still stuck by a conveyor belt, cutting big stacks of cardboard.  (p. 138, location 2072)

How Resettlement Happens

National and state government agencies, intergovernmental partners, NGOs, and resettlement agencies (many of them faith-based) facilitate the resettlement process for refugees in the U.S.**

Hope. The anticipation that the God who listens in love will one day speak justice. The hope that some final fantasy will come to pass that will make everything sad untrue.  (p. 346, location 5146)

What Refugees Give to the Places Where They Settle

Using 2015 as an example of how refugees contribute economically, that year refugees in the U.S. contributed $21 billion in taxes. Twenty years after arriving, refugees contribute (on average) $21,000 more in taxes than the original investment required to resettle them. Refugee-owned businesses provided more than $4 billion to the economy in 2015. And these are just some of the economic measurements, and there are so many more ways they contribute in the communities where they resettled–including contributions to culture and art through amazing books like Everything Sad Is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri.***

In Iran, when a guest comes, you tell them they may be angels, they are welcome and the whole house is filled with the joy of their presence. And the person always apologizing is the host, that they might have more to offer. But here, it seems guests are supposed to apologize all the time that they’re taking anything. It’s like they think the host is burdened. I don’t understand it. But I know I never want to go to the house of any of these grown-ups, who make you beg for so little.  (p. 144, location 2167)


References for Statistics

*** Center for Global Development

References for Everything Sad Is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri:
How Many (page 237, location 3550); From Where (page 214, location 3198); To Where (page 155, location 2318); How Long (page 277-278, location 4134); Come to the U.S. (page 138, location 2072); How Resettlement Happens (page 346, location 5146); What Refugees Give to the Places Where They Resettle (page 144, location 2167).