Beginning the Resettlement Process
The refugee process can begin many different ways. Most refugees begin the resettlement process in refugee camps, as urban refugees, or through in-country processing.
In many instances, refugees escape their country of origin to settle in a refugee camp in a neighboring country. Such situations are common in situations of ongoing violent conflict, such as in Burma or Sudan. U.N. agencies and non-governmental organizations support such camps, providing life saving resources and services.
Refugee camps are not indefinitely sustainable, and more durable solutions are needed for refugees to continue their lives. Returning to the country of origin is the preferred option, if the conflict has been resolved and refugees can safely and securely return to their homes. Too often, this is not a viable solution, nor is permanent residency in the second country where refugee camps are located. Thus third country resettlement is often seen as the only viable option for refugees.
Urban Refugees are those who have been forced to leave their home country due to fear of persecution, and have settled in an urban center of another country. Often such refugees are undocumented and must take low paying jobs to support themselves and family at home. UNHCR often provides services and refugee processing for such refugees, like the Chin from Burma in Malaysia and Somalis in Kenya.
Not all refugees have lived in refugee camps before receiving refugee status in a third country. Certain countries have in-country refugee processing, such as the Former Soviet Union, Cuba and Vietnam. Religious minorities from Iran also experience a different path when obtaining refugee status. The provision of in-country refugee processing is a U.S. government decision.