Tweets to action and streaming images of the protests sweeping Northern Africa and Western Asia prove that the Arab Spring has forever altered life for those in the regions of unrest. However, the toll of the Arab Spring has only begun to be witnessed in the number of asylees to the United States from these areas. As campaigns of civil resistance spread from Tunisia to Egypt and Libya, just to name a few, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York has responded to a surge in callers to CLINIC’s National Asylee Information and Referral Line.
Since its inception in 2001, The National Asylee Information and Referral Line has referred over 34,000 asylees to local refugee service providers and this year, the hotline saw an unprecedented increase in the number of callers from Egypt. Some callers were present in the U.S. temporarily and turned to the U.S. government for protection, following the Egyptian revolution. Surprised by the demonstrations in Egypt, many were granted asylum due to a well-founded fear of persecution upon return to their home country.
The hotline, funded by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and maintained by CLINIC and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, offers assistance in 19 languages and is connecting Egyptian asylees with a network of over 500 social service agencies. In May and August of this year, more asylees of Egyptian origin called the hotline than did individuals of any other nationality. Calls from Egyptian asylees have continued to pour into the hotline throughout the summer and autumn months.
Egyptian asylees and other displaced persons often rely on referrals to voluntary resettlement agencies, gathered from the National Asylee Information and Referral Line, to smooth their transition to life in the United States. According to a Counselor at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York:
“All Egyptian callers were grateful for the benefits that ORR was providing for them. It’s not a matter of receiving one call, but, of hearing dozens of grateful voices! The transformation in the lives of these callers, who had been disoriented and hopeless just months and weeks before, illustrates just how much ORR programs are needed and appreciated.”
As rallies to maintain human rights and end government corruption ensue in much of the Arab World, CLINIC’s National Asylee Information and Referral Line remains dedicated to providing a source of trustworthy information about service eligibility and programs to asylees from all over the world.
*Tessa is the Communications Officer/Web Content Coordinator for CLINIC