Syrian Refugee FAQ

What are some of the facts of the Syrian crisis?

There are more refugees in the world today than at any point since WWII.  Over 4 million Syrians have fled their country and roughly another 8 million remain displaced within Syria.

How many of the Syrian refugees have come to the US?
Since 2008 there have been 1,729 Syrians resettled to the United States through the United States Refugee Admissions Program.  By far the largest number has arrived this year, amounting to 1,454 refugees, or roughly 84% of all Syrian arrivals since 2008.

The majority of Syrians resettled by all 9 national resettlement agencies have gone to Chicago (IL), Houston (TX), San Diego (CA), Troy (MI), Phoenix (AZ), Tucson (AZ) and Louisville (KY).  Syrians also remain a population with a low US Tie rate (UST=a US family member or friend that the refugee is coming to the US to join), at around 90% without any US Tie.

Currently there are 4,157 Syrian individuals ready to be interviewed by USCIS (US Citizen and Immigration Services) and an additional 1,847 that have been approved by USCIS and are undergoing post-USCIS processing.  Of the cases approved however, only 378 individuals are currently travel ready.

Who decides what refugees come to the US?
Each year the President completes a Presidential Determination setting the annual ceiling for US refugee arrivals. This number was set at 70,000 refugees during this past program year ending Sept. 30, 2015. Approved by Congress, this number also specifies benchmark numbers for the regions of the world these refugees will come from. During this global refugee crisis many are asking the President to increase his overall all determination to a level in line with the growing number of refugees worldwide.

Some anti-refugee videos suggest that the United States has ceded its control over who is admitted to the country to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, or other organizations. This is simply false. While the UN Refugee Agency helps to present applications for resettlement to the United States, every application is presented to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security officer for approval, or denial. Refugees must also pass a rigorous set of background checks conducted by multiple federal agencies before being finally approved to travel to the United States. 

When will Syrians come to Minnesota?
It is unlikely that Minnesota will see a significant number of Syrian refugees in the next year because the majority of refugees placed in Minnesota have family ties in the state. Thus far, only a few Syrian refugees have been resettled in Minnesota this year. There are no other families currently scheduled to arrive to Minnesota this year.

If the US government expands resettlement of Syrians in the future, it is still unlikely many families will be assigned to Minnesota as a primary resettlement destination during the initial phases of resettlement. Under current U.S. policy, refugee families without family connection (non-UST cases) have final destinations determined through the Refugee Processing Center of the US Department of State Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration and the national resettlement agencies. These families are usually assigned to states that have capacity to receive non-UST cases, or have an established Syrian community that can support these new arrivals. At this time, MN’s refugee pipeline is largely allocated to approved refugees who have family and friends in MN already, from well-established refugee communities living here.

I/we would like to help a Syrian family how can we do that?
Historically – going back to the post-WWII influx of European refugees to the United States – resettling refugees was a community endeavor, deeply rooted in faith-based responses, involving churches sponsoring refugee families as they started lives anew in the U.S. Since 1980, the refugee process has been formalized as a federal program within the Department of State, and is structured as a public/private partnership, – federally administered, but carried out in close partnership with faith-based groups in local communities of resettlement around the country. Refugee resettlement today is governed by federal process and guidelines, which help ensure the integrity of the resettlement process. However, community and faith-based engagement remains critical to the success of refugee resettlement and individual refugees’ successful integration into their communities.

Due to the media coverage of the Syrian crisis there is a heightened awareness of the incredible story of refugees. These heartbreaking stories of persecution and harrowing flight have been repeated throughout history for the many refugee groups currently being resettled in MN (the Karen from Burma/Myanmar, Somalis, Bhutanese, and Iraqis).

All 5 of the local MN resettlement agencies eagerly engage with faith communities, individuals and community partners to befriend refugee families coming to MN each and every day. As we see the hearts of Minnesotans open and respond to the desperate situations of Syrian refugees, we are reminded of the many reasons Minnesota has been – and remains – such a good place to resettle refugees. Minnesotans care about their global neighbors. We invite you to consider the motivations that may be pushing you to reach out to Syrians, and join us in the ministry of hospitality to your refugee neighbors here in MN, whose stories mirror the atrocities we see highlighted on the news today.

We invite your investments of time, in-kind donations, and financial contributions to this vital work in welcoming our refugee neighbors to MN.

Web Resources
Local Engagement                                                                                                                                                    To learn more about MCC Refugee Services, volunteer, or donate, go to:

National Advocacy                                                                                                                              To keep updated on new information related to the Syrian crisis, and national level advocacy efforts related to the US response, check out our national partner affiliations :

  • Episcopal Migration Ministries

  • Church World Service

International Information                                                                

To learn more about refugees international, look to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) site, which offers global refugee statistics and situational information.

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