Majority of Michigan’s refugees resettle in Oakland County

In 2013, Michigan accepted the third highest number of refugees in the country, behind only California and Texas, according to the U.S. Department of the State. That year, 4,608 refugees entered Michigan; this represented 6.5 percent of all U.S. arrivals. The majority of refugees who relocated to the state made their home in Southeastern Michigan.

According to the U.S. Department of State, “a refugee is a person who has been forced from his or her home and crossed an international border for safety. He or she must have a well-founded fear of persecution in his or her native country, on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security the following individuals with the below immigrant statuses are eligible to enter and stay in the U.S. legally:

  • Refugee
  • Asylee
  • Entrant
  • Victim of Human Trafficking
  • Those with a special Immigrant Visa


In 2013, 3,221 refugees relocated to a municipality within the seven counties of Southeastern Michigan. Of these counties, Oakland County received the largest number of refugees at 2,056. Following Oakland County was Macomb County with 871 refugees. Livingston, Monroe, and St. Clair counties did not have any refugees relocate within their boundaries in 2013. In total, 68 percent of all refugees who resettled in Michigan in 2013 came to Oakland, Macomb or Wayne counties. These three counties, along with Kent and Ingham Counties, are where 92 percent of refugees resettled in Michigan in 2013.

The majority of refugees who relocated to Southeastern Michigan in 2013 came from Iraq. Iraqis made up 99.7 percent of the refugees relocating to Oakland County, 99.6 percent of those to Macomb County, and 97.5 percent of those to Wayne County. Washtenaw County had a lower percentage of Iraqi refugee arrivals at 80.5%; Somalians and “other” made up the remaining 20 percent. The refugee populations that relocated to Kent and Ingham counties in 2013 were predominantly made up of people from Burma and Bhutan.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, Iraqis are the predominant group seeking refugee status in other countries, such as the United States, because of the armed conflict in their home country. Since 2003, according to the U.S. Committee for Refugee and Immigrants, about 43,000 Iraqi refugees have resettled in Michigan.


According to the U.S. Department of State, there was a 61 percent increase from the number of arrivals to Wayne County in 2012 (84) to 2013 (212). During that same time-frame, Macomb County experienced a 35 percent increase and Oakland County experienced a 19 percent increase. Of the four counties in the region where refugees relocated to in 2012 and 2013, Washtenaw County was the only county that experienced a decrease; there were eight fewer refugee arrivals in 2013 compared to 2012.

Additionally, just as experienced in 2013, in 2012 the majority of the refugee arrivals in the region and the state were from Iraq. Complete data was not available for 2014, however, through September 2014, the data shows that Iraq continues to be the country from which the majority of refugees who resettle in Southeast Michigan originate.

For 2015 though the United Nations Refugee Agency has stated that those of Syrian, Palestinian, Iranian and Turkish descent will be the most likely to seek refugee status. In September of 2014 U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Mary Warf said there were thousands of Syrian refugees who were referred to the United State for processing by the United Nations (World Net Daily).

Complete data was not available for 2014, however data through September 2014 again shows that Oakland County received the highest number of refugees and the country in which majority of refugees come from to resettle in Michigan is Iraq.


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