U.S. Resettlement

Five Years Later

About the Project

SANCTUARY/SUSTENANCE was first released in 2013 as a short film tracing the refugee journey. In 2015, AWP commissioned a series of exhibitions in cities across the U.S. in order to take a closer look at families navigating resettlement, including following a refugee family’s first 30 days in Seattle after spending many years in a camp in Nepal. We asked photographer Erika Schultz to check in with the Biswa family to see how they continue to adjust to life in the U.S. This project, U.S. Resettlement, is a look into the journey of refugees in the United States, including the many obstacles that they face. 

The refugee crisis escalated dramatically amid the COVID-19 pandemic, drawing attention to the inadequate global response to meet refugees’ needs. On average, Refugees are displaced for a decade, forced from their homes as a result of racial, ethnic, and/or religious persecution. Although international organizations and “developed” countries have started to address the refugee crisis, “developing” countries still host over 90 percent of refugees in the world, illuminating a disproportionate relationship that fuels systems of inequity. Making up one of every 107 people––up from one of 159 in 2010––refugees are not isolated in their experience, but rather a rapidly growing community of people in need of global assistance. 

Regardless of where refugees resettle, they are almost always faced with barriers to jobs and education, which increased tenfold during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 65% of refugees were unemployed in 2018 alone, compared to 39.9% of immigrants. Refugees who do find employment fall into one of two categories: they attain the same profession they had in their previous country of residence, or have to work a lower paying job. This reinforces economic divides between refugees and the resettlement country’s citizens, exemplifying how aid for refugees cannot end upon resettlement. The psychological distress refugees experience as victims of persecution exacerbates the divides, creating a self-reinforcing cycle of poverty and cultural exclusion. Rather than remaining complacent, the global community must explore a larger range of solutions––job creation, expanding global infrastructure, access to healthcare––in order to create longer term, sustainable paths for refugees to rebuild their lives.

about the artist

Erika Schultz is an American visual journalist.

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A few people look at an exhibition of Congo Women in New York

New York installation of Congo/Women

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Projects like U.S. Resettlement are only possible with the financial support of our many donors, grant funders, and our community