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Interactive: Resettled in the Heart of America

As part of our special coverage for World Refugee Day, we mark the importance of resettlement by gathering first-hand accounts of refugees from Iraq, Syria, Congo, South Sudan and Myanmar on an interactive world map.

Written by Preethi Nallu and Sebastian Viskanic Published on Read time Approx. 1 minutes
A montage presents the images of the men and women who share their stories of resettlement as part of our World Refugee Day special – produced in collaboration with the Stronger Shines the Light Inside documentary project. Angie Smith

The United Nations defines resettlement as the transfer of refugees from an asylum country to another state that has agreed to admit them and ultimately grant them permanent settlement.

But resettlement in a third country, the only option for a stable life for millions of refugees on the move and others stranded in temporary camps, is one of three durable options that the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) provides. Voluntary repatriation and local integration are the prioritized options because of their feasibility.

Worldwide, only about 1 percent of refugees have the opportunity to be resettled, according to UNHCR. Meanwhile, recent reports show that more than 1 million people will need resettlement in 2017 alone.

On this 15th World Refugee Day, we present the first-hand accounts and portraits of the few fortunate men and women who were resettled in Boise, Idaho. Their stories reveal the treacherous and often life-threatening routes and numerous hostile environments they traversed – some for several years – before reaching safety through the U.S. resettlement program.

Sebastian Viskanic/Preethi Nallu

The U.S. boasts a strong historical reputation for targeted resettlement programs and a generous asylum regime. But recent years have witnessed an ebbing political will for taking in refugees, despite the accelerated flow of asylum seekers across the globe.

Many of these refugees hail from countries where the U.S. has been involved in conflicts, especially Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, but the rates of their resettlement have certainly not matched the need. While the Obama administration has vowed to raise the ceiling to 85,000, researchers point out that it is a “modest” number compared to the 800,000 who applied for asylum in Germany by the end of 2015.

Given the immense need for global resettlement at a time when the number of people displaced by violent conflict is the highest since the end of World War II, the U.N. refugee agency continues to call upon the developed countries that are best capable of absorbing refugees to step up to the plate.

The stories in this interactive have been provided by Stronger Shines the Light Inside – a photography project that tells the collective story of resettled refugees in Idaho.

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