Photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance


All sub-Saharan Africa – 49 countries (not including Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Egypt)


USD $14 million

Resettlement Support Center

Refugee Processing

Each year the United States accepts approximately 70,000 refugees from around the globe. These refugees are given an opportunity to start a new life, away fromthe persecution and violence that caused them to flee their homeland. Since 1990, the Resettlement Support Center Africa (RSC Africa), based in Nairobi, Kenya,has helped to resettle more than 200,000 refugees to the United States as part of the United States Refugee Admissions Program.

RSC Africa began in 1990 as a one-room office with a few staff. Today, more than 230 employees spread over five floors of an office building in Nairobi, Kenya,assist thousands of refugees from across the continent. A team of almost 100 staff also travel throughout the region using Nairobi as their base, in an effort to meet and assist refugees where they are, be that in refugee camps or urban locations throughout Africa.

Administered by CWS as part of a cooperative agreement with the U.S. government, RSC Africa interviews refugees and prepares case files for adjudication by officers of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Citizenship and Immigration Services. RSC Africa is charged with processing refugee applicants to the USRAP from 49 different countries in sub-Saharan Africa. RSC Africa resettled 11,001 refugees to the United States in FY 2013 and more than 13,000 individuals in FY 2014.

Currently, the majority of refugees from Africa belong to populations from Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Many of these refugees have spent their entire lives in a camp and know of no other life. As a humanitarian agency, CWS is committed to giving these vulnerable populations throughout Africa a new opportunity to live a full life in the United States.


Many of the refugees who arrive in the U.S. each year began their resettlement journey at an interview with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. UNHCRis tasked with referring a select few each year to the United States Refugee Admissions Program from camps and urban locations across sub-Saharan Africa.Refugees are chosen based on a range of criteria that often considers how long a refugee has been residing in a camp or if an individual has medical or security concerns that make life as a refugee particularly difficult.

In an effort to increase referrals to the USRAP, the CWS-operated Resettlement Support Center Africa developed the Africa Regional Deployment Unit in fiscal year 2012. ARDU works with UNHCR and the U.S. Department of State to identify places around the continent that could benefit from additional hands ready to assist with writing referrals, registering refugees and profiling communities for possible inclusion in refugee resettlement. Also within ARDU are Best Interest Determination Specialists, who are responsible for working with minors who are referred for U.S. resettlement. They help complete the necessary assessments for children who will either enter foster care in the U.S. or are being referred for U.S. resettlement without their biological parents.

Today, ARDU continues to provide technical expertise and fast-acting deployments to UNHCR. The unit began in 2012 with only six staff, comprised of one Program Manager and five Resettlement Officers. Recognizing the early success of the Africa Regional Deployment Unit, the U.S. Department of State decided this year to offer funding to double the current size of the unit. Because of the increase in funding, in FY 2014 the unit has been able to provide more deployments to UNHCR. Already, ARDU staff have been deployed to UNHCR offices in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Cameroon,Chad and Liberia to conduct work in a variety of resettlement functions.


Since 2007, RSC Africa in partnership with the U.S. Department of State has provided cultural orientation services to refugees destined for resettlement in the U.S.Cultural Orientation staff inform refugees of the processes and systems that will impact their resettlement to the United States and seek to help refugees develop realistic expectations of the U.S. The RSC Africa team equips refugees with the skills and attitudes necessary to enable them to have a positive acculturation experience in the U.S.

All U.S. destined refugees above the age of 15 participate in a three- to five-day curriculum that covers a host of topics related to the transition that refugees will face. Through exercises, discussions, video and hands-on-models, refugees learn about housing, employment, education, travel, health care and their legal rights in the United States. They are also introduced to key concepts such as the importance of learning English and how to apply for jobs once in the United States.
Cultural Orientation is approached as a continuum and RSC Africa works to provide refugees with accurate information about the U.S. and resettlement at various points along their journey to the United States. Information is provided at RSC interview sites, in the refugee camps, at resource centers, transit centers and during formal cultural orientation classes.

In FY 2014 more than 8,300 refugees completed cultural orientation classes. A number of those refugees were also provided with supplemental ESL (English asa Second Language) classes as part of a pilot program in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya and the Biumba Refugee Camp in Rwanda. Like so many immigrants and refugees before them, those who attended were provided with the opportunity to take their first steps on the journey to self-sufficiency and integration into the fabric of the United States.