The U.S. Refugee Consultations took place February 21-22, 2016 in Washington, DC. This event was part of the Global Refugee Youth Consultations which occurred all over the globe. These face-to-face consultations were complemented by a virtual global dialogue where refugee youth had the opportunity to interact and share their thoughts and ideas on topics of their choice. Youth from each consultation were selected to participate in the UNHCR NGO Consultations in Geneva, the overarching theme being 'Youth and Adolescents'. The selected youth participated in panels and highlighted youth issues in different sessions. They also lead a one-day workshop presenting the findings from their respective consultation to other stakeholders, including UN organizations, international and other NGOs, and government representatives.
The Vulnerable Minors Working Group of Refugee Council USA, at the request of the UNHCR and Women's Refugee Commission in Geneva, hosted the U.S. Consultation and the event was sponsored by USCCB/MRS, IRC, LIRS, HIAS, USCRI, JRS, ECDC, Women's Refugee Commission, UNHCR, and GRYC.
The following infographic provides a snapshot of the demographics of the 25 youth who participated in the 2016 U.S. Refugee Consultations, as well as their experiences before and after resettlement. Click here to download a PDF of this infographic.
Prior to convening in Washington, DC, the youth organized and executed pre-consultation activities with local refugee and other migrating youth to elicit feedback on their experiences before, during, and after migration. The overarching themes highlighted across the youth-led pre-consultation activities were: 1) language barriers 2) discrimination/bullying 3) educational barriers, and 4) struggles with cultural adjustment. These collective findings served as a springboard for the discussions and activities of the two-and-a-half-day Consultation. In a highly youth-driven process, consultation participants identified the root causes, impacts, and possible solutions for each of these challenges.
Click on the image below for more information on each of the barriers the youth identified or click here to download a PDF version.
Congratulations Aya and Descartes! These inspiring American youth will be taking part in a range of advocacy activities- the annual UNHCR-NGO Consultations in June 2016 in Geneva, a Global Refugee Youth Workshop, the UNHCR Standing Committee and a range of side meetings. They will be sharing the experiences, ideas, and concerns of young people from refugee and asylum seeking backgrounds gathered at the GRYC in the United States.
Aya was born in Sudan. Her politically active father and mother were arrested and in trouble with the government so Aya and her family fled to Egypt. In Egypt, Aya was home schooled and achieved a high GPA while also working long hours a great distance away. After waiting for years, Aya and her family were told that they were going to be resettled to the U.S., but they would have to wait 2 more years. Once resettled in Maine, Aya decided she wanted to help other refugees so she volunteered with the local Catholic Charities as an interpreter. Today she is an official paid interpreter and attends college where she majors in Pre-Med and takes social work classes.
Descartes is from Haiti. He survived the 2010 earthquake, but was separated from his family for weeks before being reunited. Once the dust settled from the earthquake, his father ran for political office, but his political opponents kidnapped Descartes. When his father ran for office a second time, Descartes applied for asylum and was granted aslyee status in the U.S. Descartes managed to register himself for school and achieve a high GPA, despite not knowing English upon his arrival. He now attends college and supports himself. Descartes believes that education is the key to success.
BRYCS is delighted to continue working with all of the amazing youth leaders that participated in the U.S. Refugee Consultations on future projects. Through firsthand accounts from youth, we will better understand their needs and the issues affecting their experiences while working together to find solutions for increasing their protection and capacity for long-term integration.