Americans Don’t Know Much About Refugees

USA for UNHCR is marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of the UN Refugee Agency by releasing polling data which shows that Americans don’t really know much about refugees.

From USA for UNHCR:

“A poll of 1,010 American adults that finds the public is largely unaware of the scope of the international refugee crisis and where the needs are greatest. Among the poll’s results are these new findings:

– Only four in ten adults (42 percent) know that refugees are people who must leave their home countries because of war or conflict or due to fear of oppression. Many Americans (48 percent) also consider immigrants and stateless persons to be refugees.

– When it comes to the number of refugees now in the world, only nine percent of respondents provided the correct estimate of the refugee population (UNHCR estimated more than 43.3 million refugees and internally displaced people at the end of 2009). In contrast, 44 percent put the refugee population at between 5 million and 25 million people and another 20 percent estimated between 25 million and 35 million people.

– Americans are unaware of the composition of today’s refugee populations and where they are located. More than half of adults (56 percent) mistakenly believe the U.S. hosts the largest number of refugees when in fact developing countries now host 80 percent of the global refugee population.

– Out of more than 1,000 people polled, only two people correctly identified Pakistan as the country that now hosts the largest number of refugees worldwide.

– Most Americans don’t know how long refugees live in temporary situations before they can return to their home countries or resettle in a new one. Only six percent of those polled knew that the average displacement time for today’s refugees living in camps is 17 years. In contrast, the vast majority (65 percent) put the average displacement time at no more than eight years.

–  The public greatly overestimates the amount of funding UNHCR receives from the United Nations for its operations around the world. On average, Americans believe the UN provides a third of UNHCR’s funding with the greatest number of respondents saying UN funding is as high as 50 percent (39 percent). In reality, however, only three percent of UNHCR’s total funding comes from the United Nations with the rest coming from donor governments, ordinary people and businesses.”

In fairness, I would not have been one the 2/1000 Americans who correctly stated that Pakistan hosts more refugees than any other country. I would have guessed Tanzania, which has the largest refugee population in Africa.