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Refugee health information for the public

Learn about refugee arrivals and refugee health assessment in Massachusetts.

About refugees

Refugees are persons who are outside their country of nationality and who are unable or unwilling to return to that country due to persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution because of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a social group. Individuals apply for refugee admission to the United States and are screened and interviewed overseas by the U.S State Department and Department of Homeland Security.  The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the lead agency for domestic refugee programs. Through its various programs and grants, including the Refugee Health Assessment Program, ORR provides assistance to refugees and other eligible persons to help them achieve self-sufficiency and integration within the shortest time period after arriving in the U.S.

View an overview of the refugee resettlement process.

Refugee health assessment (overseas and domestic)

A medical examination is required for all refugees accepted to resettle in the U.S. As part of the approval process, refugees undergo a medical screening and receive immunizations. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) conducts most of these examinations for U.S.-bound refugees.

The overseas medical exam is also required for all persons applying from overseas to enter the U.S. as permanent residents. The goal of the overseas medical exam is to protect the public’s health and to identify individuals with conditions of public health significance such as communicable diseases, drug addiction and mental health issues associated with violence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) writes the technical instructions for the overseas medical exam.

After arrival in the U.S., refugees are eligible for domestic medical screening services.  The Massachusetts Department of Public Health operationalizes the screening as the Refugee Health Assessment Program. This domestic refugee health assessment is designed to reduce health-related barriers to successful resettle­ment, while protecting the health of Massachusetts resi­dents and the U.S. population.

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Refugee arrivals in Massachusetts

Information on refugee arrivals in Massachusetts by year is summarized in tables. These data include persons with refugee status and other persons eligible for refugee program services and benefits. Immigrants are not included. The numbers are static and do not account for migration in or out of Massachusetts.

See more arrivals by country and year.

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