When people think about places in the United States that are impacted by refugees, Oklahoma probably doesn’t cross their minds.
Oklahoma first saw an influx of refugees during the Vietnam war when thousands of Vietnamese families came to the United States escaping violence. Since the 1970s, Vietnamese refugees have revamped part of Oklahoma City now known as the Asian District. The Red Cup, Super Cao Nguyen and Pho Lien Hoa are just a few examples that showcase thriving Vietnamese businesses that have impacted the Oklahoma City economy.
As violence spread in the Middle East, people continued to be pushed out of their homes. Cities became war zones and people were unable to survive, let alone thrive, in their home countries.
“Being a refugee, being told that you have no home, being told that you have no country and being homeless with no citizenship in any place is enough to drive somebody crazy,” Dr. Imam Imad Enchassi said.
More recently, the continued clashes between Myanmar’s national army and non-state groups in the country formerly called Burma have caused more Burmese refugees to come to the United States. Eighty percent of the refugees who have arrived in Oklahoma between 2003 and 2015 are Burmese.
Now, all eyes are on Syria as the civil war drives out thousands of people, leaving them without a place to call home. In the last six months, almost 200 refugees have come to Oklahoma hoping to create a new home. Red Dirt Refuge highlights a few of these stories.