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Refugee Health

About Refugee Resettlement

Who are Refugees?

A refugee is a person who is outside his or her home country and is unable or unwilling to return due to persecution, or well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

For more on the definition of a refugee, refer to the United Nations 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Other categories of immigrants that are eligible to receive refugee services include Cuban/Haitian entrants, asylees, Special Immigrant Visa holders, victims of severe forms of trafficking, certain Amerasians, and lawful permanent residents.

Refugee Resettlement Process

The Federal Refugee Resettlement Program was established by the Refugee Act of 1980, in order to effectively resettle refugees and help them achieve economic self-sufficiency as quickly as possible after their arrival in the United States.
There are three Federal agencies that play key roles in the resettlement of refugees in the United States: the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

There are 9 national resettlement agencies (sometimes referred to as voluntary agencies or VOLAGs) that operate reception and placement programs under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of State. Six of these national resettlement agencies have refugee resettlement affiliates in Arizona. Under the cooperative agreement, the resettlement agencies provide case management to incoming eligible refugees in the form of assistance with transitional needs including community orientation, food, housing, referrals for social services, health services, English language training, and job skills training and placement.

Refugees in Arizona

Every year, Arizona accepts between 2,000 and 4,000 people from around the world who are seeking protection in the U.S. from persecution in their home countries. Between 1980 and 2013 Arizona has hosted more than 62,000 refugees, and consistently ranks in the top 10 states for number of refugees resettled each year.

The largest numbers of refugees have come from (in descending order) Iraq, Vietnam, Bosnia, Cuba, Somalia, Burma, Bhutan, Sudan, USSR, Afghanistan, Iran, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Ethiopia, and 95 other countries.

In Arizona, the Department of Economic Security (DES) is responsible for administering the federally-funded Arizona Refugee Resettlement Program (RRP) and providing support for the resettlement agencies in the state that provide case management services to newly arrived refugees.

Refugee Health Program

Refugees – who have suffered through conflict and persecution and many of whom have been languishing in refugee camps for decades – bring to their new home a unique set of health care needs. Common health concerns include tropical diseases, physical and mental disabilities, malnutrition, STDs, parasites, hypertension, cancer, and post-traumatic stress.

The Refugee Health Program within the Arizona Department of Health Services serves as an advocate, educator, and resource for issues related to the health of refugees. Through collaborations with the Arizona Refugee Resettlement Program, health care providers, Resettlement Agencies, Ethnic Community Based Organizations (ECBOs), Faith Based Organizations (FBOs), and other community members, the Refugee Health Program seeks to increase the well-being of refugees resettled in Arizona.