What challenges do Refugees and Migrants face?

Mohamed Malim

The life of a refugee is hard, they’re fleeing places of war, hunger, famine, persecution and have gone through a tough journey to find a safe haven for themselves in a completely different journey. 

Challenges for Refugees 

boy at school

They do so for the pursuit of a normal life for themselves and their families. Many cross dangerous terrains and weather conditions, put themselves and their loved ones at risk to cross international borders just to have a chance at a better life.

However, things aren’t as easy as one might imagine after they reach another country. They're still left with many problems and challenges that they have to face, often alone, scared, and traumatized. 

Challenges faced by refugees and migrants shape their new life in a completely foreign country.  Understanding the barriers that stand in the way of refugees and migrants is an essential step in paving the way for their well-being.

Learn how Epimonia helps refugees and migrants begin a new life!

Overcoming a Language Barrier 

Most refugees and migrants settle in countries that don’t speak their native tongue. If you take an example of a Syrian refugee migrating to the USA, it’s highly unlikely that they know English. Settling in the USA, where English is the primary language can be an uphill battle for refugees and migrants.

Daily communication, getting a job, filling documentation or buying food, all of these require knowledge of the English language. Similarly, refugees moving from Myanmar to Bangladesh, don’t speak their language. 

This makes daily tasks more difficult for refugees. Granted, one can learn a new language, but doing so is no piece of cake either. There’s the question of managing it along with surviving on a daily basis and taking care of your dependents. 

Related: What's the Difference Between a Refugee and an Immigrant?

Raising Children as a Refugee

Raising children is definitely not an easy task. Doing so as a refugee or a migrant has additional challenges.

Their kids are growing up in a completely different society than they did. This puts them on a back foot as refugee or immigrant parents find it challenging on how to navigate through different situations. 

children playing with chalk

The number of shared instances keeps decreasing and the parent-child dynamic keeps changing as time goes by.

If they’re being raised in an English-speaking country, the culture and mannerisms are completely alien to them, but they’re normal for the children as that is what they’ve seen their entire life. ]

In such cases, children receive no educational support from their refugee or migrant parents and have to rely completely on schools and teachers.

Any feedback or complaint regarding the children is more likely to be ignored if the parents don’t understand English. 

The systematic differences that exist in today’s society put refugee parents and children at a disadvantage, especially when it comes to bullying and mental health.

Looking for Work as a Refugee

Everyone needs a secure source of income to lead a happy life. As a refugee or migrant, finding that is often a struggle. This is applicable to both skilled and unskilled refugees. 

Most employers require those job seekers to have an experience that’s relevant within the same country. It doesn’t matter if they were highly successful in another country, they have to start from scratch.

For unskilled refugees, the struggle is even harder. They are often exploited and underpaid because of their desperation and lack of support. 

They have to learn the language of the land, find a job that helps them settle, more often than not they end up working in a labor-intensive field or one that is heavily unregulated, thus putting their lives at risk.

The language barrier often plays a huge role when it comes to securing work. Not only does it prohibit them from expressing their skills, but it also shuts doors to many jobs that an average native citizen could easily get, such as customer-oriented roles such as a retail employee or a fast-food worker. 

Support your local refugee by purchasing Epimonia's original Embraclet made from refugee life jackets!

Finding Transportation as a Refugee

There have been studies that have linked access to transportation with the ability to get out of poverty. IF one has access to transportation, especially public transportation, they are more likely to take a job that’s further away thus not limiting job opportunities by location. 

cars at a stoplight

In the case of refugees, access to driving license doesn’t come easy. A driver needs to be literate in order to pass the initial test in most countries.

For refugees and migrants, it is often difficult to commute by public transport. If they don’t speak the native language of the host country, figuring out how to go from point A to point B is exponentially difficult. 

Many refugees and migrant families tend to share one car between multiple family members. More often than not, it comes down to the women and children to find alternate modes of transport for their commute. For someone that doesn’t speak the native language, this can be a highly intimidating and risky process.

Related: 19 Ways to Help Refugees

Housing as a Refugee

More often than not safe housing is expensive. With most refugees and migrants stuck with low-paying jobs, this is a difficult scenario for them. This leaves room for greedy landlords to take advantage of their desperate situation. 

Many charge fees and raise rent amounts illegally all the time while threatening evacuation, in most cases, refugees and migrants comply because they’re either unaware of their rights or simply don’t have the means to fight it out legally.

Due to the cash-crunch, many large refugees and migrant families end up staying under the same roof with little or no personal space. This creates a stressful environment for all and makes it difficult to live peacefully on a daily basis.

Access To Health Services

If you take the example of refugees or migrants coming into the USA, while there is an infrastructure readily available for everyone, accessing it is often a challenge. 

three girls siting together

The language barrier and the inability to speak English and communicate with people pay a huge role.

Refugees are more likely to have PTSD and depression, especially refugee children. However, due to social taboo and the language barrier, they are less likely to go seek professional help. 

In the case of a law and order conflict, they are unable to present their side of the story successfully due to the communication barrier, which can lead to potentially life-threatening situations.

Even if refugees and migrants do find a way to get access to some of these services, the experience is usually negative in one way or another as there is no support system in place for effective communication.

Related: Biggest Causes of a Refugee Crisis

Cultural Barriers as a Refugee

It’s safe to assume that when refugees and migrants settle in another country, they are more often than not moving into a country that has a completely different culture than their native country.

crowd waits for subway

This has an intertwined effect on all other aspects of their lives. Cultural barriers affect how they interact with everyone else, intentionally and unintentionally. 

For the host country and its people, even deeds done with a good intention can come off as culturally insensitive or rude because of how they’re being perceived by refugees and migrants and vice versa. 

For example, the festivals and traditions of refugees and migrants are vastly different from any host country. Celebrating them and integrating them in the host country is a long process of cultural sensitivity and acceptance. 

Children of migrants face bullying in school because of their different appearance and traditions, right from food, clothing to mannerisms. Cultural barriers find their way into all aspects of a refugee or migrants’ life.

Related: How the US immigration system works


Refugees and migrants are fleeing a life of extreme difficulty and hardships, they settle into a new country with hopes and aspirations of leading a better life. 

These challenges often play spoilsport to such dreams and aspirations. Systemic recognition and action is the only way to ensure that refugees and migrants transition smoothly and they face fewer challenges while doing so.

If you want to help refugees and migrants make a smoother transition, visit Epimonia!

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