Refugees: The Who, Why, and Where

Contributor: A. Castle. Lesson ID: 13989

Look more closely at two sets of recent refugees to explore who refugees are and why they become refugees, as well as how other countries receive these refugees when they have nowhere else to go.


History, Social Studies

Social Studies
learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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A refugee is someone who flees his or her home country because of danger or persecution and escapes to a nearby country.

  • That definition is easy enough to understand, but what does it really mean?

Watch a portion of this Refugee animation | CAFOD for a clearer picture:

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Keep reading to learn the stories behind one large group of present-day (2022) refugees.

Refugees are forced to leave their homes for many reasons.

Some are looking to avoid persecution for their beliefs. Others are searching for a life outside of poverty. The refugees discussed in this lesson left their country because of war.

Ukraine refugee concept

In February 2022, the Russian military invaded its neighboring country, Ukraine. (If you are interested in learning more about this specifically, check out our lesson found under the Additional Resources in the right-hand sidebar.)

In response, the president of Ukraine enacted martial law, which prevented all males aged 18 to 60 from leaving the country and conscripted them into military action. This applied to approximately 30% of Ukraine's estimated population of 43.2 million people.

(You can check out Population Pyramid's Ukraine - 2022 Population graphic.)

Those who were allowed to flee the country now faced the biggest choice of their lives. They could stay and fight with their husbands, fathers, and brothers (something many women decided to do). They could try to find shelter and hope to wait out the conflict safely. Or they could grab a few belongings and flee their homes.

In just three weeks, nearly three million of these people chose to flee their homes to avoid the military conflict.

Imagine grabbing what you can carry, bundling up against the cold, and leaving your home never knowing when -- or if -- you will return. Picture riding on a crowded bus or train or having to walk the many miles to cross from your home country into one nearby. Try to conceive randomly choosing a new temporary country in which to live as you wait to learn what will happen to your home and the people who stayed behind.

If we are being honest, we can't envision what that would be like. Only someone who has been a refugee can properly understand.

But we can and should try.

Watch Stories of separation and survival at the Ukraine border | WNT from ABC News on 4 March 2022:

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You saw the many volunteers helping Ukrainian refugees travel to new countries.

  • What happens when they get there?
  • Where do they live?
  • How do they find food?

Continue on to the Got It? section to explore these questions and more.

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