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Mental and Emotional Need of Refugees

In American politics it is common to discuss refugees as if they are just other immigrants. This ignores the fact that refugees have gone through some of the worst trauma a human can imagine. Refugees are not coming because they are looking for something better but because they are fleeing something horrible.

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The lifetime prevalence for PTSD in the U.S. is only 3.6% for males and 9.1% for females but for refugees the number is 37%. To put these numbers into perspective, the problems with PTSD in soldiers coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq has become a national issue, but only 13.8% experienced PTSD compared to the 37% for refugees. If we go back farther the Vietnam war is know as one of the most brutal modern wars and caused massive mental health problems in the veterans that returned. The percentage of veterans that served in Vietnam that experienced PTSD was only 30%. It is important to also remember when looking at these numbers a large portion of them are children that we can not expect to be able to handle PTSD and the trauma that created it.

Refugees not only have a high rate of PTSD due to the trauma that they have experienced but they do not have access to normal support systems like other people do. In the soldiers’ examples they go home and are able to use their family, community, and other support structures in the home. Refugees have left all of that behind. They are in a foreign land with a different culture and no societal connection to where they are. Below is a diagram that illustrates how refugees have a difficult time integrating with a host nation due to the trauma they have experienced. It also shows how, even if they are able to identify with a minority subset of the host nation’s culture, this too can cause problems.

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What does this mean for how the conversations in politics and policies around refugees needs to change? It needs to start with everyone from politicians to everyday citizens understanding that refugees are unique from all other people trying to enter our country and must be treated differently. Politicians must work to put in support structures that are able to give the extra assistance that refugees will need. Every one of us as U.S. citizens must lobby our politicians to make sure they are giving refugees the adequate support that they need, and we must all learn how we can help the refugees that are around us through this trauma that they have experienced. Visit refugee.org or a local refugee support organization to learn how you can get involved.

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The Complicated Economic Impact

There is a common idea throughout the United States that when immigrants or refugees come to the United States they are stealing jobs from Americans. This has been a dilemma for Americans for years and a fear that President Trump ran his campaign on.

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People are convinced that accepting refugees into the US means Americans will not have jobs and as a result the economy will suffer. In the numbers that have been calculated it seems that while this assumption may be true it has little to no impact on the US or any other country’s overall economy.

In the town of Utica, New York the acceptance of refugees has helped to lift it out of an economic decline. Utica claims to love refugees and how they have contributed to their community.

According to economist Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and a senior UN advisor, refugees are a net positive for the economy of the United States.

there are gains when people come, add to the labor market, add skills and generally, earn less than what they can contribute to the society as a whole. – Sachs

In the simplest terms by having more people in the US there is an increase in purchases. therefore more money is going into the economy. Refugees are engaging in the economy of their host countries in order to improve their circumstances and succeed in the new chapter of their lives.

People should be more interested in the fact that it is our humanitarian right to save these people from the civil wars they are so badly suffering from. In 2015 Martin O’Malley claimed “Accommodating sixty-five thousand refugees in our country . . . of three hundred and twenty million is akin to making room for six and a half more people in a baseball stadium with thirty-two thousand.”

The countries bordering Syria have taken in more refugees than any others. With much smaller economies than the United States it would make sense that these companies economies would be suffering, however this is not the case.

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The Turkish economy has expanded 2-3 percent in the past two years and Lebanon and Jordan are seeing improvements in their economies as well. There is little proof to show that accepting more refugees into the United States would negatively affect the economy.