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About the Congress
Refugee Congress is an advocacy and advisory organization comprised of refugees
from across the United States who seek to champion domestic and international
The Refugee Congress seeks to advocate on behalf of refugees on domestic and international refugee issues through partnerships with UNHCR and local resettlement organizations. It provides a way for people most affected by refugee policies to contribute to policy discussions in the U.S.
The Refugee Congress is comprised of refugees from each of the 50 states who represent the diverse populations resettled in the U.S. In looking towards the future, the state delegates to the congress draw on their experiences and share their views on how to address issues of most concern to refugees.
The Refugee Congress advocates for improving the protection and lives of refugees here and around the world by providing a forum for
• Refugees speaking for refugees
As we mark 60 years of refugee protection we look to people who were themselves uprooted for insight and guidance on the way forward. The planning, proceedings and outcomes of the congress will reflect the priorities of refugees in the United States.
• Celebrating achievements, addressing obstacles
The United States has a long history of welcoming displaced and persecuted persons from around the world. Many resettled refugees have gone on to build successful lives and to contribute to their communities. The congress will examine how the tradition of helping refugees can be sustained and improved to better respond to the needs of new arrivals.
• A refugee perspective on global displacement
The participants at the congress will speak on behalf of the millions of refugees who have begun new lives in the United States. Their work in Washington D.C. will help ensure that those who are still in need of protection are not forgotten.
The UNHCR hosted the first “Refugee Congress” on 3 August, 2011 steps away from Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. The historic event brought together 60 refugees and asylees from across the United States to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
Since 2011, 21 state delegates have recommitted to be part of the congress.
The Refugee Congress’s efforts to serve as a voice for refugees in the U.S. include:
Proclamation of the Refugee Congress. During the opening 2011 event, the Refugee Congress drafted a Proclamation. The proclamation offers recommendations on U.S. policies on refugee resettlement and provides for the formation of a Refugee Advisory Council to represent the unique refugee perspectives and experiences. The Refugee Congress’s advocacy resulted in the introduction of proclamation as a resolution (H.R. Resolution 609) in the U.S. House of Representatives on June 19, 2012. The resolution supports: (1) the ideals and values adopted by the Refugee Congress Delegates in its Proclamation, and (2) the objectives and principles of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
Read the text of the Proclamation.
Focus Group Project on Resettlement. In 2013, the members of the Refugee Congress began conducting a series of focus group studies to identify major issues of concern to refugee communities. The studies seeks input from refugees across the U.S. Their input will help identify themes that will shape the agenda for the next Refugee Congress and sharpen its capacity as an advocacy organization. Findings from this study will assist NGO’s and government organizations in addressing issues of concern to refugees.
Read more about the Focus Group Project in the Refugee Congress June 2013 newsletter.