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Refugee Resettlement Program

Worldwide Refugee Crisis

The 1951 Refugee Convention established the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which states that someone is a refugee "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country."

Currently, there are more than 20 million refugees worldwide. Less than 1% of all refugees are annually resettled in the US, Canada, Sweden, Australia, or another country through a formal refugee resettlement program.

It is the responsibility of the US Department of State, Bureau of Population, Migration & Refugees (PRM) to oversee America’s support of refugees overseas as well as the selection and transportation of refugees to the US, and their assignment to a local community for resettlement. Click here to learn more about the lengthy vetting process for refugees seeking admission to the US.

Local Resettlement Program

The International Institute of St. Louis, our only refugee sponsor in eastern and southwestern Missouri, resettles refugees as a subcontractor of the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI). Click here to view Institute sponsorships by year.

Between 1979 and 2016, the Institute resettled 23,508 refugees from around the world, not taking into account refugees who have out or in-migrated to St. Louis or those sponsored by other resettlement agencies which operated at different points. Secondary migrants, not included in these totals, are refugees who relocate to St. Louis after having been sponsored by host communities elsewhere in the US. In the 1990s, our region proved to be a big draw for Bosnian refugees.

We meet refugees at the airport and transport them to their new homes, usually a rental unit. Depending on the needs of the refugee family, initial welcoming services can include registration for English classes for adults and public school for children, job program registration, community orientation, and healthcare access.

The US Department of State, Bureau of Population, Migration & Refugees (PRM) provides a modest per capita resettlement grant to each sponsoring agency to help address the refugees’ housing, food and other basic needs for up to 90 days after arrival. Refugees are required by PRM to repay their travel loans beginning less than six months after arrival in the US.

Contact Information:

Ariel Burgess, MSW
314-773-9090, ext. 115

How You Can Help

Charitable Donations

Make a donation to the William K. Y. Tao Family Refugee Resettlement Fund to provide direct resettlement support to new refugee families. Donations of all sizes are essential for newcomers with initial or emergency needs.

Make a tax deductible Tao Fund donation or contact Elaine Dempsey, weekdays at 314-773-9090, ext. 169.

Household and Personal Item Wish List

While we purchase beds, tables and chairs, we rely on community donations to fill many of the other needs.

View our current Household and Personal Item Wish List or contact Debra Smith 314-773-9090, ext. 182.


Volunteer requests are at a high level currently. Many are presently filled. Check back periodically or discuss additional ways to help with the contact listed below.

To learn more about our rewarding volunteer opportunities or to fill out a volunteer application, please click here or contact Debra Smith 314-773-9090, ext. 182.