This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Refugees on the Receiving End

I cannot imagine that anyone in the world wants to be a refugee--to be displaced against your will, and probably permanently, from your home. The United Nations estimates that there are currently about 15 million refugees in the world, not counting internally displaced persons. The best hope they probably have is to someday make it to one of the richer countries of the world, where life might be better, although probably not easy. KPBS of San Diego aired a story this week about one girl's transition from Africa to San Diego, and how a project to provide second-hand bikes to refugees has been a positive part of that transition.
"I was born in Sudan but I’m from Uganda," Okello [age 15] explained. "I lived at Kakuma camp. I lived there for 10 years."
She lived at the refugee camp in the Horn of Africa alongside 110,000 other refugees who had fled wars in neighboring countries. "Kakuma" is said to mean “nowhere” in Swahili.

Conditions were harsh, Okello recalled.
"We didn’t have enough clean water. We had to walk a really long distance to get clean water, which wouldn’t even last us two days," Okello said.
Having a bicycle to get around wasn’t even a dream for her back then.

Okello’s story isn’t unique. Many of the 3,500 other refugees who relocate to San Diego County every year from around the world share a similar background. Most have suffered greatly before moving here. The average stay in a refugee camp is 17 years.
Okella and her family moved in 2008 from Kakuma Campa to City Heights -- San Diego’s hub for refugee resettlement.
"I’m very grateful," Okello said. "I have a bed, I have enough food to eat and I have a family who has time to spend with me."
In my book, I specifically address the issue of Iraqi refugees to San Diego County, who tend to cluster spatially in a different part of the county. The lives of refugees like Edith Okello from Africa, and the people who help them and work with them, will all be different in the future because of these kinds of adaptations and accommodations to geopolitical events--typically complicated by demographic change--in faraway places.

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