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About Refugees in Iowa

Who are refugees?

Refugees are people who have been displaced from their home countries and are unable to return due to persecution, war, or violence.  The United Nations estimates that there are nearly 30 million refugees worldwide.  For more about the classification of refugees, you can visit the UNHCR's site.

What percentage of refugees are kids?


Children make up a disproportionate percentage of the global refugee population.  Though they account for less than ⅓ of the total worldwide population, nearly half of all refugees are kids.  The Iowa Department of Public Health published a report in 2018 that demonstrated similar proportions: 51% of all refugees arriving in Iowa were under 18.  UNICEF also reports that one in every three children living outside of their birth countries are refugees, while this is the case for only 5% of adults.

What is Iowa's connection to refugees?

Beginning in the 1970s, Iowa has championed refugee resettlement.  The state's refugee population began to grow significantly following the end of the Vietnam War when the late Governor Robert D. Ray helped resettle 1,200 Tai Dam, a people native to northwestern Vietnam who were displaced by conflict to Thailand and Laos.  This landmark decision sparked future refugee resettlement initiatives like that of the Bosnian population in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and continues to this day.  Myanmar, the DRC, Bhutan, Iraq, Liberia, Eritrea, Sudan, and Somalia are some of the most represented countries in the state.  In 2018, the IDPH also reported that 583 refugees were resettled in Iowa, and over 30,000 have been since the 1970s.

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