In February, 25 refugee youth gathered in Washington, DC to identify and discuss the biggest barriers they face adjusting to life in America. The second barrier identified was discrimination and bullying.  These barriers, causes, impacts, and solutions all came from the refugee youth themselves. Please take a moment to better understand the challenges young refugees face and what you can do to help.


Refugee youth deal with discrimination and bullying almost every day in all aspects of life. Discrimination dampens the spirit. It affects refugees emotionally and mentally and keeps them from reaching their full potential and achieving the American dream. Discrimination and bullying is the biggest and most negative issue refugees face.


Many of the causes for the discrimation and bullying refugees encounter are American citizens and society. Sadly, some Americans lack knowledge or awareness in general about refugees and the resettlement process, and therefore have a fear of newcomers which can lead them to hate other cultures. Lately, these fears have been perpetuated by the media. Another major cause of discrimination and bullying is racism. Some Americans look down on refugees because of their skin color and background. Refugees are also discriminated against and bullied because they may wear different clothing, eat different food, practice a different religion, struggle with understanding and speaking English, and have a different culture and customs.


Discrimination and bullying can make refugees feel isolated, fearful, lonely, powerless, and reduces their confidence which can lead to depression and self-harming/suicidal behaviors. Discrimination and bullying pressures refugees to try hard to fit in. This means they give into peer pressure and participate in activities they do not want to, including gang involvement and substance abuse. By giving into peer pressure and trying to fit in, a refugee can easily lose their past and culture, and create strife and cultural divides within their own family and community. When the discrimination and bullying in school is very severe, it makes young refugees drop out and impacts the rest of their lives.


Schools can create bullying prevention programs, educate teachers and counselors about bullying directed at refugees, and create mentorship programs that partner American and refugee students. They can also have an after-school program that teaches all students to stand up for themselves and others and teaches self-confidence, self-respect and self-love.

Refugee resettlement agencies can teach refugee parents about bullying and show them how they can support their children. They should encourage biculturalism and civic engagement, showing refugee families programs in the community they can get involved in.

Organizations that work in refugee camps can teach refugees about bullying prior to their arrival. They can also have cultural orientation classes in refugee camps that teach American culture and cover things like slang terms.

Americans can learn about other cultures, religions, and backgrounds and try to see the value in these differences. The media can promote anti-discrimination and anti-bullying rhetoric in their stories.

Click here to access the full report on integration barriers.