Refugees in the heartland

Refugees in the heartland

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April 4-7 UI conference includes several events and WorldCanvass program
author Kao Kalia Yang standing in ront of a conifer Writer Kao Kalia Yang, who was born in a Thai refugee camp and raised in Minnesota after immigrating to the U.S. at the age of 6, will be a special guest at this year's Provost's Global Forum, "Refugees in the Heartland." The conference takes place April 4-7. Photo by Der Yang.
line art of united states with refugees in the heartland in bold blue letters across it

We’re all too familiar with news reports of refugee crises erupting on the borders of nations in conflict. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that one million Syrians have abandoned their homes since the outbreak of civil war and have sought safety in the neighboring countries of Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. Up to 7,000 new refugees arrive in these camps every day—78 percent of whom are women and children. Some may be able to return home after the conflict ends, but many will look for resettlement opportunities in new lands where they may have no family, no history, and no ties of any kind.

The Midwest is home to some of the largest refugee communities in the country, and Iowa has been instrumental in creating the modern refugee resettlement system. But who is a refugee, and what distinguishes refugees from immigrants? When and how is refugee status recognized by nations and governments? How do refugee crises arise and what can be done to aid refugees in resettlement?

These are just a few of the questions WorldCanvass guests will address on the Friday, April 5 program “Refugees in the Heartland.” The program takes place from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Senate Chamber of Old Capitol Museum and is free and open to the public.

This program is part of the University of Iowa Provost’s Global Forum, a four-day, multi-event conference taking place from Thursday, April 4 through Sunday, April 7, with many events open to the public. Registration is free but requested by March 28. For information on all conference programming, visit: international.uiowa.edu/uichr/refugees-heartland-conference.

WorldCanvass guests will discuss the international refugee picture, the refugee experience in the American Midwest (the “heartland”), and personal stories of life as a refugee. WorldCanvass participants will include representatives from the UNHCR as well as refugee-oriented nongovernmental organizations and members of refugee communities now living in the Midwest.

studio protrat of Alex Wk wearing a long multicolored dress
Alek Wek. Photo courtesy of UNHCR.

Special guests are supermodel and UN refugee agency supporter Alek Wek, of South Sudan, who was forced to flee warfare in her home country as a child of 14, and writer Kao Kalia Yang, who was born in a Thai refugee camp and raised in Minnesota after immigrating to the U.S. at the age of 6.

Other highlights of this conference include a cultural fair of immigrant and refugee communities in the Midwest at 5 p.m. Thursday, April 4, followed by a keynote address by Former Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, current president of the World Food Prize Foundation.

WorldCanvass is a production of UI International Programs. This conference is made possible through the support of the Stanley-UI Foundation Support Organization. A full list of sponsors and partners, as well as schedule and registration information, can be found at international.uiowa.edu/uichr/refugees-heartland-conference.

For special accommodations to attend this conference, contact Sarolta Graves in UI International Programs at 319-335-3862 or sarolta-graves@uiowa.edu.

Contacts

Amy Weismann, UI Center for Human Rights, 319-335-0483
Joan Nashelsky, UI Center for Human Rights, 319-384-2209

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